Wisconsin Eviction Process
November 15, 2023
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Eviction In Wisconsin
If you own and rent properties in the state of Wisconsin, you are responsible for complying with Wisconsin law on eviction. In this article, we break down each step of the legal process for eviction in Wisconsin.
Eviction Process in Wisconsin
- Landlord serves a five- or 14-day eviction notice.
- Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court.
- Court serves tenant a summons.
- Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment.
- Tenant gets a designated period (or up to ten days) to move out.
- Sheriff returns to forcibly remove the tenant.
In Wisconsin, tenants can be evicted for any of the following reasons:
- Failing to pay rent
- Violating the lease
- Committing waste on the premises
- Materially violating a tenant legal obligation
- Committing a repeat violation within one year
- Using the premises as a meeting place for a gang
- Using the premises for illegal drug activity
1. Landlord Serves a Five- or 14-Day Eviction Notice
If any of the above lease violations occur, the landlord must first serve a Wisconsin eviction notice and state that the tenant has the appropriate number of days to remedy or cure the violation. There are four possible eviction notices a landlord may send in Wisconsin for year-to-year tenants:
- Rent Demand Notice: 5 days to pay or quit. If rent is unpaid when due, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the amount of unpaid rent required to remedy the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate if it is not paid (not less than five days after receipt of the notice) (WI Stat. § 704.17(2)(a)). Note that the landlord’s acceptance of rent during a nonpayment action does not waive their right to pursue eviction (WI Stat. § 799.40(1m)).
- Lease Violation Notice: 5 days to cure or quit. If a tenant violates the lease, commits waste on the premises, or materially violates any tenant legal obligation in Wisconsin, the landlord may deliver this notice stating the breach and what is required to remedy it, as well as the date on which the lease will terminate if the tenant does not cure the breach (not less than five days after receipt of the notice) (WI Stat. § 704.17(2)(b)).
- Notice for Repeat Violation: 14 days to quit. If a tenant commits substantially the same violation as a previous one within one year (including nonpayment), the landlord should send this notice providing the tenant at least 14 days to vacate the property. The landlord is not required to provide a second opportunity to cure the violation (WI Stat. § 704.17(2)(a-b)).
- Unconditional Notice to Quit: 5 days to quit. If any of the following occur, the landlord can send a five-day quit notice with no opportunity to cure the breach (WI Stat. § 704.17(2)(c)):
- The landlord receives notice from a law enforcement agency that a tenant is using the rental unit as a meeting place for a criminal gang or as a place to sell, make, or distribute a controlled substance.
- The tenant commits acts (including verbal threats) that threaten imminent and serious physical harm to another tenant or tenant’s child.
For all evictions, the landlord may recover actual damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.
2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court
If the tenant has not cured the breach by the end of the notice period (or if the violation is uncurable and the notice period expires), the landlord can then file an action for possession (the eviction lawsuit) in the Wisconsin Small Claims Court of the county where the rental property is located. The landlord will need to fill out a Small Claims Summons and Complaint (SC-500) form (downloadable here). Note that for tenancies being terminated due to a foreclosure judgment and sale, the landlord must indicate so on the form.
The Small Claims Summons and Complaint form establishes basic information about both parties and the action being filed, including:
- The county
- The names and addresses of both parties
- The case number
- A description of the property (the address)
- The landlord’s interest in the property (ownership)
- The reasons for the landlord’s right of possession
- The time at which the landlord is entitled to possession
- An allegation that the tenant is unlawfully withholding possession
- A demand for possession
- The amount of monetary damages, if demanded
The summons portion of the form includes:
- A statement informing the tenant that they are being sued
- Whether or not the tenant is required to file a written answer with the court
- A warning that failure to file a required answer or appear at the hearing may result in a default judgment in the landlord’s favor
- The date, time, and place by which the tenant must appear or file an answer (initial hearings will be scheduled for at most 30 days after the return date as per WI Stat. § 799.206).
- The clerk’s signature with the date the summons was issued and mailed
The complaint portion of the form includes:
- What the landlord is demanding judgment for (e.g., money judgment, personal injury, return of property, eviction, eviction due to foreclosure, etc.)
- The amount of any monetary claims (note that landlords in Wisconsin may only claim damages for rents and profits accruing in the six years before the commencement of the action (WI Stat. § 843.13(1)).
- A brief statement of the dates and facts of the eviction case
- The landlord or agent’s signature, address, and contact information
The entire Small Claims Summons and Complaint should be filed with the clerk of court, stamped appropriately, and verified by the payment of a filing fee of $94.50.
3. Court Serves Tenant a Summons
After the landlord files a claim, Wisconsin law requires them to have the summons and complaint formally served to the tenant.
First, the landlord should make two copies for each tenant and a copy for themselves. Then, the landlord must have the documents served to the tenant by the sheriff or process server, for a small fee. Personal service to the tenant should be attempted first—if this fails, the server can make substitute service by posting a copy on a conspicuous place on the premises AND mailing a copy to the tenant (WI Stat. § 799.12). The fee to have the sheriff serve the summons is $12, plus $6 for each additional tenant (WI Stat § 814.70).
After service is complete, the landlord will need to file proof of service they received from the sheriff or process server with the clerk of court at or before the first court date. If the landlord posted or mailed the summons and complaint themselves, they must complete and file an Affidavit of Service (SC-5100V) (downloadable here).
The tenant is not required to file a written answer to the summons/complaint and may present any plead or defense orally at the trial, with one exception: if the title of the property is in question (e.g., in an adverse possession case), a written answer must be submitted (WI Stat. § 799.43).
4. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment
On the day of the initial eviction hearing, the landlord should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the judge, who will afterwards either issue a judgment or determine that an additional trial is needed.
If the judge issues a judgment in the landlord’s favor after either the initial or subsequent hearing, a judgment will be ordered for the landlord’s physical possession of the property. This judgment can either be for immediate possession or for possession on a specified date (WI Stat. § 843.14(1)).
The landlord has 30 days to get the writ executed before it expires (WI Stat. § 799.44(2)). However, there is one exception: if the tenant requests a stay of the issuance of the writ, the court may delay the writ from being issued up to 30 days for good cause or hardship. The tenant will be required to pay all rent and other charges due and unpaid and may also be required to give a bond in that amount (WI Stat. § 799.44(3)).
The tenant may also choose to file an appeal. If so, they must initiate the appeal within 15 days of the entry of the judgment for restitution (WI Stat. § 799.445).
5. Tenant Gets a Designated Period (or up to Ten Days) to Move Out
If the judgment is for a specified date, the tenant has until that date to move out. If there is no specified date, the landlord can return to the court to request a Writ of Restitution/Disposal of Personal Property form from the clerk of the court (or download a copy here). This writ gives the sheriff authorization to remove the tenant from the rental unit.
The landlord should take the writ to the sheriff’s office to request execution within 30 days (WI Stat. § 843.17) and pay small fees for the writ’s service ($8) and execution ($10 per hour per deputy) (WI Stat. § 814.70(8)). The sheriff must execute the writ within ten days of receiving it, meaning the tenant will have ten days or less to vacate (WI Stat. § 799.44(4)).
6. Sheriff Returns to Forcibly Remove the Tenant
After the landlord has requested service/execution of the judgment, and if the tenant still has not moved out, the sheriff will go to the rental unit to forcibly remove the tenant (if necessary) and restore possession of the property to the landlord.
After the eviction, either the landlord or the sheriff may remove and store or dispose of any personal property left behind by the tenant. If the landlord does not notify the sheriff that they plan to do so, the sheriff will remove or supervise removal of the belongings and can arrange for a mover or trucker to assist. After sending three days’ notice informing the tenant of the removal of their property and the location where it will be stored, the sheriff can dispose of any valueless items (e.g., trash) and store the rest at some place of safekeeping within the county, such as a warehouse. Any warehouse receipts will be in the tenant’s name, and the tenant will be responsible for all expenses incurred for storage and delivery (WI Stat § 799.45(3)).
Evicting a Squatter in Wisconsin
A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. In Wisconsin, squatters must meet one of the following criteria to invoke squatters rights in Wisconsin and claim right of possession:
- Occupied the property for 20 continuous years
- Occupied the property for 10 continuous years with color of title
- Occupied the property, paid all property taxes, and had color of title for 7 continuous years
Their possession must also be:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner
- Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property
- Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there.
- Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.
- Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession.
While relatively rare, if a squatter meets all these criteria, they have “color of title”: the right of legal ownership without having a written deed to the property. They can file an action for adverse possession in Wisconsin to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in Wisconsin, you should:
- Call local law enforcement.
- Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter.
- If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer.
- If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office.
- Send the squatter an eviction notice as per Wisconsin law.
- If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process.
- Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer.
Wisconsin Eviction Cost Estimates
This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of the eviction process in Wisconsin, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress.
|Action||Approximate Cost (Small Claims)|
|Filing fee||$94.50, plus $20 if case is filed electronically|
|Service of court summons||$12, plus $6 per additional tenant|
|Service of writ of possession||$8|
|Execution of writ of possession||$10 per hour, per deputy|
|Notice of appeal filing fee||$195|
|Average locksmith fees||$160|
|Storage fees for abandoned property||Varies|
|Tenant turnover costs||Varies|
Wisconsin Eviction Time Estimates
The chart below shows an estimate of the duration of each part of the Wisconsin eviction process timeline. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.
|Eviction notice period||5-14 days|
|Eviction hearing||Up to 30 days after the return date of summons|
|Maximum continuance||30 days|
|Appeal period||15 days|
|Issuance of writ of restitution||Immediate|
|Time to quit after writ is posted||10 days or less|
- Summons and Complaint (Small Claims)
- Affidavit of Service of SC-500, Summons and Complaint Eviction (Small Claims)
- Writ of Restitution/Disposal of Personal Property – Eviction (Small Claims)
- Pre-Judgment: Basic Steps for Handling Small Claims for Eviction Actions – This document explains each step of the Wisconsin eviction process for landlords in clear language and provides downloadable copies of each form the landlord will need.
- Wisconsin Court System Small Claims court forms – This page includes the names, numbers, and downloadable copies of the various forms required in Wisconsin Small Claims Court.
- Wisconsin Circuit Court Rules – The court rules for the circuit court of each county in Wisconsin (note: landlords must follow the local rules the court where their case is filed, or else it may be dismissed).
The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures and Wisconsin laws on eviction, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state.
Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information.