Q:I’m being evicted, what are my rights?
A: In Wisconsin, evicting someone from a residence must follow the established legal procedure set under Wisconsin State Statutes 799.
As stated by the Wisconsin Tenants’ Rights and Responsibilities, tenants who pay partial rent, no rent, or late rent (even one day late) put themselves at risk of eviction, as do tenants who break the rules or terms of the rental agreement or cause damage.
Month-to-month tenants may be given a written five-day notice, a 14-day notice, or a 28-day notice to vacate the property.
A five-day notice gives the tenant the opportunity to pay up or vacate. The other notices request the tenant to just vacate. Providing reasons for the use of each notice could be perceived as legal advice, so I must leave it there. However, if a tenant disregards either notice, the landlord can then summon the tenant to court via a small claims/eviction summons. This summons can be served on the tenant in a variety of ways.
During that court hearing a commissioner will decide if the proper procedure was followed, if any money judgments are to be awarded and whether the tenant is to be evicted. The court commissioners are extremely well versed in this procedure and allow both sides a fair hearing. If the eviction and money judgment is granted, the landlord can obtain a writ of restitution.
At this point the writing is literally on the wall. The writ is a court order presented to the sheriff ordering the removal of the tenants and their property. The removal must occur within a specific time limit and in accordance with state law. Only the sheriff or his deputy is allowed to act on this. The writ is either presented personally to the tenant or affixed to the residence with instructions from the sheriff.
The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department provides the tenant 72 hours to get themselves and their belongings out. The following morning after 72 hours has passed, a sheriff’s deputy arrives with the landlord. A walk-through of the residence is conducted. If anyone remains in the residence, they are physically removed. Time to move property is not permitted. The tenant is out. The deputy then determines whether or not any personal property left behind by the tenant is of value. If so, the residence is secured and movers are contracted to remove and safely store that property. All of this is done at the expense of the landlord. The landlord can obtain a money judgment against the previous tenant for those costs, however most landlords say they rarely see the money or tenant again. The tenant can recover their belongings only after paying storage cost to the warehouse facility where their belongings were stored.
The Kenosha Sheriff’s Department receives an average of about 60 of these writs a month. They occur throughout the city, county, villages, and towns. Deputies make every attempt to be extra tolerant during these civil actions. Needless to say, they are not always civil, considering the emotional factors at play. There is always the potential for volatility. On rare occasions, a tenant can become resistant or even combative. Unfortunately when this happens these individuals end up being special guests of the sheriff in the county jail. He provides a wonderful safe and secure room (without a view), a bed, 3 meals a day, and an elite security system.
Having been both a tenant and a landlord I can offer this one bit of advice. (“Oh no, legal advice! Did he go there?”)
n Pay your rent on time.n Care for the property like it was your own.n Talk to your landlord when you’re having problems. This always seemed to work for me. For more information about landlords and tenants’ rights in Wisconsin, you can contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection at www.datcp.state.wi.us or email: DATCPHotline@Wisconsin.gov.