Disclosure: This content is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice please consult with an attorney.
Leasing out a residential unit is a great way to earn some passive income while retaining ownership and control of the property. But being a landlord can be tiresome – from managing repairs and coping with rent fluctuations to dealing with bad tenants. If you don’t have the time or energy to bargain with a tenant that is breaking a lease, an eviction might be your best solution.
Chapter 704 of Wisconsin’s Statutes describes the legal procedures for tenant eviction. The law protects the landlord from any eviction-related liabilities and the tenant from unlawful or unfair eviction. Here are the rules and guidelines on how to evict tenants in Wisconsin:
Evicting a tenant with cause
Landlords are allowed to evict tenants in Wisconsin before the end of their lease terms, provided there is enough cause. Failure to pay rent, non-compliance with the lease agreement, and other violations are the most common causes of early eviction.
Before evicting a tenant, you may allow them an opportunity to fix the problem after issuing a due notice. If the tenant does not correct the problem, obtaining an eviction order is something you can pursue. Let’s look at the eviction procedures for four common causes:
1. Failure to pay rent
If a month-to-month tenant fails to pay rent, you have two options. One, you can give the tenant a 5-day notice to either pay or vacate the rental premises. In this case, the tenant has the opportunity to pay the rent and continue the tenancy or leave at will within the 5-day time frame; then, you have the right to take the case to court. The second option is you issue them a 14-day notice to vacate the premises, whether or not the tenant pays rent in arrears.
If a tenant fails to pay a rent installment for a fixed-term tenancy (stretching to one year or less), you can issue them with a 5-day notice to either pay or vacate. If the tenant pays the arrears within five days but defaults again on a subsequent payment within a year of the 5-day notice, you can issue a 14-day eviction notice. After the second notice, the tenant has no choice but to leave the rental unit within 14 days or face an eviction lawsuit, unless you provide the tenant an opportunity to stay.
2. Lease agreement violations
You can issue a 14-day eviction notice to a month-to-month tenant following a lease violation. Lease violations include damages to the rental property, non-compliance with tenancy bylaws, negligence of the tenant’s duty, as well as many other violations that could occur in a non-standard rental agreement.
If a fixed-term tenant violates the lease agreement, you can give them a 5-day notice to either remedy the situation or vacate. If the tenant makes all the necessary changes or repairs, the lease can continue. If you have already issued the same tenant with a 5-day notice within one year, you could give the tenant a 14-day notice to vacate the premises for good without a chance for making amends.
3. Criminal activities
If criminal activity is occurring at the property you may be able to issue the tenant a 5-day eviction notice with no opportunity to resolve the situation or a 14-day eviction notice with no right to cure. Section 823.113 covers criminal gangs, drug and controlled substances, and general public nuisance activities.
4. Holdover tenant
You have already issued a tenant a 28-day notice of non-renewal (non-fixed tenancy) or chose to not renew the lease for a fixed tenancy agreement. However, the tenant is refusing to vacate the premises after the notice period has completed. In these cases, you can start the eviction process immediately.
Can a tenant contest an eviction?
Every tenant has a right to contest an eviction notice in a court of law. To evict a tenant in Wisconsin, you must have permission from the court. If the tenant does not honor an eviction notice, you can file an eviction lawsuit in your county’s small claims court. In court, the tenant can present an “answer” to defend the eviction order. After weighing the tenant’s answer and the landlord’s cause, the judge will make a legal ruling on the way forward.
Moving on from a tenant without cause
You cannot evict a tenant without cause. If you don’t have any legal cause to evict a tenant, you can wait for the lease to expire and deny a renewal. Alternatively, you can give the tenant a 28-day notice of non-renewal to vacate the premises before the lease period ends. The 28-day notice is only allowed for month-to-month and week-to-week tenancies. With fixed tenancy, you have to wait until the end of the lease period.
Cash for Keys
There is another highly effective, although undesirable, option to removing a tenant that is breaking a lease. “Cash for keys” is a technique some landlords utilize to avoid going through the eviction process with tenants and reclaim control of your rental. Despite the lease, you negotiate with the tenant to vacate your property in a specific timeframe and not cause any (further) damage to your rental property. After they have vacated the property and the two of you exchange an agreed-upon cash payment for their keys to the rental unit.
Bonus tips related to evicting a tenant
The key to all of this is to understand and follow the due legal process. Here are a few more things to consider before and during an eviction:
- Don’t force the tenant out through “self-help” measures such as shutting off utilities or changing locks.
- Don’t threaten the tenant.
- Hold up your end of the lease agreement throughout the lease period.
- Formulate a solid lease agreement.
- Serve every eviction notice through the proper means.
- If you don’t fully understand your legal responsibility, consult a lawyer before evicting a tenant.
Another option is to hire a competent and experienced property manager to complete the eviction process for you.
Avoid tenant troubles altogether
According to a news report, 1,351 eviction lawsuits were filed in Wisconsin courts in just the first two weeks of June 2020. Dealing with bad tenants through evictions is one of the dreaded realities of owning rental properties. Don’t forget other annoyances such as 3:00 AM phone calls, countless repairs and clogged toilets. But you can choose to do away with all the hassle and headache of managing tenancy by selling the property.
At Sell My House in Wisconsin, we understand and sympathize with your frustration. That’s why we provide a quick and easy way out of bad tenancy. Let us take care of the problem tenant for you. Selling a rental property in Wisconsin has never been simpler. Sell it to us “as is” at no extra fees, tedious paperwork, or repairs. On top of that, you can get your cash in as little as 15 days. Request a free cash offer on your property today.