Eviction Notice Response - Tenant Resource Center



Eviction Notice Response

A lot of tenants call us when they've received a 5-day notice, or when they are worried they might. It's scary to hear their concern, and we try to help them by working out what they might be most successful doing, based on the law. (We always wish we could swoop in and pay it all, but our housing counselors don't do any of that, and our Housing Help Desk only serves Dane County.)

Advice #1: DON'T PANIC. This isn't an eviction in court, yet, and it's possible to work things out.

Advice #2: There is one thing that you can do to be much more successful in resolving this problem. And so many people don't think to do it.

You should write a letter! 

If you've been reading here for a while, this might not surprise you. But it is the right step to take, even in the midst of chaos and fear, because it is a paper trail that shows that you are trying to resolve the problem, and gives the landlord a sense of all the things you are doing in order to resolve it. And that is crucial. It can tip the balance between housing and homelessness.

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For 5-day Notice Due to Unpaid Rent:

Here is the letter.  It says:

  • I know that I owe $___ amount of money
  • I have until [this date] to pay that amount. (This is important because sometimes landlords don't count the days correctly in a 5-day notice, because it's pretty complicated. You can double check their math with this information.)
  • I am trying to find help from [these agencies]. (Not sure about the agencies in your area? Call 211 or go to their website. Also, the Housing Help Desk is good for those in Dane County.)
  • I am giving the landlord permission to answer questions from these agencies. (We are seeing some landlords are requiring a "release of information" on file before they answer questions, and this letter will serve that purpose. It'll help make sure that the process doesn't get slowed down).

The letter also gives the landlord some good information about steps that you're taking to pay off your rent, which means that they'll feel less likely to take you to court if you're a day late. This depends on the landlord, though, and the history you guys have.  Also, it puts the last day that you can pay up in writing, so that if you need to fight about it later, you'll have the paper trail you need to support your claim.

Eviction laws say: That if you get a 5-day notice for unpaid rent, then you need to pay the amount owed within that 5 days, or move out, or the landlord can take you to eviction court. If you try to pay after the 5 days are over, the landlord can accept that money and still evict you. The landlord him/herself cannot remove you or change the locks or shut off the utilities - the landlord has to go to court and have a judge tell them that they can take the rental unit back. (From Wis. Stat. 704.17(2)a and Wis. Stat. 799.40(1m)). A much more detailed explanation of the eviction process is on our Eviction page.

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For a 5-day Notice Due to Any Other Lease Problem:

Here is the letter. It says:

  • I know that I didn't follow the lease [in this way].
  • I have until [this date] to take reasonable steps to resolve the problem. (This is important because sometimes landlords don't count the days correctly in a 5-day notice, because it's pretty complicated. You can double check their math with this information.)
  • I am taking [these steps], which will be completed by [this date]. (When your landlord knows what you are doing, and then sees you doing that, they are more likely to take your actions seriously.)
  • I am trying to find help from [these agencies]. (Not sure about the agencies in your area? Call 211 or go to their website.)
  • I am giving the landlord permission to answer questions from these agencies. (We are seeing some landlords are requiring a "release of information" on file before they answer questions, and this letter will serve that purpose. It'll help make sure that the process doesn't get slowed down).

The letter also gives the landlord some good information about steps that you're taking to resolve whatever problems caused the breach, which means that they'll feel less likely to take you to court if you're a day late. This depends on the landlord, though, and the history you guys have.  Also, it puts the last day that you can pay up in writing, so that if you need to fight about it later, you'll have the paper trail you need to support your claim.

Eviction laws say: That if you get a 5-day notice for a "breach of lease" (a notice saying you weren't complying with your lease), then you need to take "reasonable steps to remedy the default" within those 5 days and continue on "with reasonable diligence." Or, if the breach of lease had a monetary component, then you must make a "reasonable offer to pay the landlord" the amount owed within that 5 days. If you cannot take action within the 5 days, and you don't move out, then the landlord can take you to eviction court. The landlord him/herself cannot remove you or change the locks or shut off the utilities - the landlord has to go to court and have a judge tell them that they can take the rental unit back. (From Wis. Stat. 704.17(2)b). A much more detailed explanation of the eviction process is on our Eviction page.

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But I disagree with the notice!

Then send this letter. It'll only work if you disagree with ALL PARTS of the notice. If any of the 5-day notice is correct, then the landlord can pursue those parts in court, and you should send one of the above letters.

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We've written a lot of other things about eviction! Here's a list:

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You might have noticed? This is only covers 5-day notices for unpaid rent or a breach. It does not cover a 5-day notice with NO right to cure (only in drug nuisance / gang/ Safe Housing Act situations).

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Hi! Did you know that we aren't attorneys here at the TRC? And this isn't legal advice, either. If what we've written doesn't sound right to you, consult with someone you trust. A list of housing attorneys is available here

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