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What Is An Eviction Eviction Notices Illegal Lease Provisions
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The Eviction Process: What You Need to Know

What is an Eviction?

An eviction is a legal process through which a landlord may take possession of the unit back from the tenant due to a breach of agreement on the tenant’s part. Common reasons for this, which will be addressed later include (but are not limited to) nonpayment of rent and breaches of the lease such as unauthorized guests, criminal activity, or waste violations. 

The eviction process begins when the landlord serves the tenant a written notice under Wis. Stat. 704.17. An eviction is not a court document. It is only for the landlord's files.  The notice should specify the tenant violated the lease, and the number of days the tenant has to “cure” the issue and remain in the unit (if that is an option) or move out, with the understanding that if neither of these happen, the landlord is within their rights to begin the court process. 

If a landlord wants to pursue a judgment of eviction through the courts, a judge will decide whether the tenant has to:

  • Move Out (eviction)
  • Get to Stay (dismissal) or
  • The case will be dismissed by mutual agreement (stipulation) to avoid a permanent court record.

NOTE: In Wisconsin, a tenant can only be forced to leave an apartment after a court date and only if the judge rules in the landlord's favor. Then, the order must be given to the sheriff, the only one allowed to remove the tenant. The landlord can only take action with this court order. 

Once an eviction is filed in small claims court, it takes 2-10 years to remove it from CCAP, a public website where all court records in Wisconsin can be easily accessed by anyone (for more information, click here). CCAP records related to housing might make it harder to get an apartment. Wis. Stat. 758.20(2)(a) & (b), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 46, Effective 4/18/2018.

Some leases have rules that conflict with the eviction laws in Wis. Stat. 704. Those rules are only enforceable if a lease lasts longer than a year. Wis. Stat. 704.17(5)(a) & (b), 2015 Wis. Act 176, Sec. 26 & 27, 2015 Wis. Act 176, Sec. 44, sub. 1

Types of Notices

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According to Wis. Stats. 704.17 & 704.21, all eviction notices must:

  • Be in writing
  • State the number of days the tenant has to take action (this is challenging. More information on counting days is here.)
  • State whether the tenant has the right to cure (fix) the problem.
  • State whether the tenant can fix the problem and can stay or if they have to leave and
  • State whether the rent is due (should include the amount) and which lease clause the landlord believes has been broken.

Note: The eviction notice the landlord can serve depends on your lease, the violation, and (sometimes) how many notices the tenant has gotten in the last 12 months.

Need help to figure out what kind of lease you have / what notices apply? Click here!

5-day Pay or Quit Notice with Right to Cure

Wis. Stat. 704.17(1g), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 44, Effective 4/18/18. 

Only given at a point when the rent is late or late fees are owed. The tenant does not need to leave within five days, and this notice can be cured (fixed)! By law, the landlord has to allow tenants at least five days to pay overdue rent and late fees (not counting the day it is served according to Wis. Stats. 704.17(1)(a) & (2)(a), & 990.001(4).

New laws clarify that if the notice lists the wrong amount of rent or late fees owed, the notice is still valid (the landlord does not have to start over in the process) unless:

  1. The landlord intentionally wrote the wrong amount (Wis. Stat. 704.17(4m)(a), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 45), or
  2. The tenant pays the amount they think is the correct amount (Wis. Stat. 704.17(4m)(b), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 45, Effective 4/18/18). 

If you make a payment plan, the tenant must get a written promise that they won't be evicted

Tenants must be allowed to avoid court if they pay before the notice expires. 

5-day Notice for Non-Rent Violation with Right to Cure

It is a warning that the tenant broke a clause or rule in the lease other than non-payment of rent or late fees. Wis. Stat. 704.17(1g), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 44, Effective 4/18/18. The landlord has to give them at least five days (not counting the day it is served) to fix the problem or make a "reasonable offer" to pay the landlord for damages to the unit. Wis. Stat. 704.17(2)(b) Within five days, tenants should write to the landlord and either deny any violation or explain what steps they took to fix it. 

14-day Notice with No Right to Cure

  • The order orders the tenant to move even if they fix the problem, and it must give them at least 14 days to move. This does not include the day it was served (Wis. Stat. 990.001(4)(a)). 
  • Tenants with rental agreements for a set term of one year or less can only be given this notice if they have already received a curable 5-day notice for the same violation type (rent or late fees, or anything other than rent/late fees) within the previous 12 months. 
  • Landlords can give a 14-day notice to week-to-week and month-to-month tenants when they are behind in rent or late fees without getting a 5-day notice first. Wis. Stats. 704.17(1)(a) & (b) & (2)(b), 704.17(1g), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 44, Effective 4/18/18.

30-day Pay or Quit Notice with Right to Cure

  • This is only for tenants with a lease longer than a year and is the only notice they can receive (other than a 5-day notice with no right to cure under the Safe Housing Act or for a drug nuisance). 
  • It gives them at least 30 days to pay late rent or take "reasonable steps" to stop violating the lease. Wis. Stat. 704.17(3)(a)

5-day Notice with No Right to Cure

  • This notice can only be given in three circumstances:
  1. A "Drug (or Gang) Nuisance" Property. If a law enforcement agency (police, sheriff, DEA, etc.) gives the landlord a notice that their property is a "drug nuisance" (manufacture, delivery, or sale of drugs is made by the tenant or in the tenant's unit) or a "gang nuisance." A tenant can challenge this termination (do it in writing to the landlord and keep a copy), and then the landlord must let the tenant stay or file in court and prove the "drug (or gang) nuisance" to a judge. Wis. Stats. 704.17(1)(c), (2)(c), & (3)(b)
  2. Under the Safe Housing Act. Victims of violence are protected from eviction. There must be certified documentation described in Wis. Stat. 704.16(3)(b) that the tenant poses an imminent threat of severe physical harm to another tenant (or their child/ren) in the same unit, multi-unit building, apartment complex, manufactured home, or mobile home in the same mobile home community. Wis. Stats. 704.16(3)(a) & (b), 710.15(5t), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 19 Effective 3/1/14. 
    • If there is no certified documentation, a landlord can still serve this notice for a non-rent violation if they can show that the offending tenant broke the law. 
  3. Suspected Criminal Activity or "Drug-Related" Criminal Activity. This notice can be served (without the tenant being ticketed, arrested, or convicted) if anyone in the tenant's household, or any of their guests or invitees, engages in the following:
  • Criminal activity that threatens 
  1. the health or safety of other tenants, of people residing in the "immediate vicinity" of the premises, or of the landlord, agent, or employee;
  2. the right to peaceful enjoyment of other tenants or people residing in the "immediate vicinity" of the premises or

NOTE: This process cannot be used against the person who was the victim of the crime. Wis. Stat. 704.17(3m)(c), 2015 Wis. Act 176, Sec. 25

In addition to being in writing and served according to Wis. Stat. 704.21, the 5-day no-cure notice for criminal or "drug-related" criminal activity must:

  • Require the tenant to vacate on or before a date at least five days after the giving of the notice,
  • State the reason for eviction,
  • State that the tenant has the right to contest the allegations in the notice before a court commissioner or judge if an eviction is filed,
  • Advise the tenant that they may seek the assistance of legal counsel, a volunteer legal clinic, or "a tenant resource center," and include:

Illegal Lease Rules about Eviction

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Leases that contain the following provisions are illegal. If the landlord wrote them into the lease, the tenant could move out without any consequences (like owing future rent).

Illegal, "Self-Help" Evictions

  • The landlord is trying to force a tenant out by changing the locks, throwing the tenant's stuff out, shutting off power, etc., without a court order.   
  • A tenant can sue the landlord for double damages (hotel costs, etc.), court costs, and reasonable attorney's fees. ATCP 134.09(7)

If you are illegally evicted, document what happens and any related costs. Call the sheriff's office for immediate help getting back into your apartment, Consumer Protection at (800) 422-7128 to file a complaint, and Legal Action of Wisconsin or a private attorney to sue for double damages. Threatening legal action can stop illegal evictions, and law enforcement may assist in getting back your property.

Tenant FAQ

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I've received an eviction notice; what do I do next?

Never ignore an eviction notice! (Unless it is an email hoax). Once tenants receive a 5-, 14-, or 30-day notice, they have three options:

  1. Fix the problem and remain in the apartment, if applicable. 
  • If the tenant got a notice with a right to cure, they have a right to stay if they pay the total amount due (or the amount they believe to be correct). Or if they take "reasonable steps" to fix another type of violation within the time limit (the day served does not count). Wis. Stats. 990.001(4), 704.17(4m)(b), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 45, Effective 4/18/18. The landlord cannot kick them out, go to court, or refuse a rent payment from the tenant during that time. Tenants should write a dated letter to the landlord telling them the problem is fixed and keep copies of everything, including payment records.

NOTE to TENANTS: If you pay by money order, make it payable to the landlord, keep a copy, and get a receipt (if possible). If you pay by cash, the landlord must give you a receipt. ATCP 134.03(2)(b) If they won't give you a receipt, bring a witness, document the amount paid with the date and time, and consider filing a complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Get the agreement in writing so they cannot evict you after taking your money.

If tenants receive a notice without a right to cure and still fix the problem, they will have to negotiate with the landlord to stay, document any attempts to fix it and get an agreement in writing.

With a 14-day notice, or after the 5-day notice with a right to cure expires, the landlord could refuse to take the rent and instead file for an eviction.

  1. Contest the violation and stay.

If a landlord wants to evict a tenant, the tenant has the right to a trial. If the eviction notice has no grounds, it may be dismissed, or the tenant may win a counter-claim. Judges sometimes allow tenants to reduce their rent for health and safety violations. Contact the Tenant Resource Center for more information or a housing attorney for legal advice.

WARNING: The landlord could win the eviction case, and the court could decide the tenant owes at least double the pro-rated rent for each day they stayed after the 5- or 14-day notice expired.

If the tenant contests the eviction and the case goes to court, the landlord must prove they committed the alleged crime by a "preponderance of the credible evidence." This is a very different burden of proof from that in criminal court, where these charges are usually dealt with. Wis. Stat. 704.17(3m)(b)1., 2015 Wis. Act 176, Sec. 25

  1. Move out before it goes to court.

You must still pay rent and re-rental costs until a new tenant moves in or until the lease ends. Give your landlord written notice before moving out. The landlord has to try to re-rent the unit. But, they may still file in court to evict you or for the money owed. Consider vacancy rates in your area and whether your apartment will rent easily before moving out.

Eviction Notice Response

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

Advice #2: Write a letter! It creates a paper trail that shows you are trying to resolve the problem and gives the landlord a sense of everything you do to resolve it. 


How Can I Start My Letter?

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. (With this information, you can double-check the landlord's math.)
  • 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 Coordinated Entry program, available through 608-257-0006 x7, is suitable for those in Dane County.)
  • I am giving the landlord permission to answer questions from these agencies. (Some landlords require a "release of information" on file before they will answer questions, and this letter will serve that purpose. It'll help ensure the process continues smoothly.)

Eviction laws say That if you get a 5-day notice for unpaid rent, you must pay the amount owed within that five days or move out, or the landlord can take you to eviction court. If you try to pay after five days, the landlord can accept that money and still evict you. The landlord cannot remove you, 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.


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. (Double-check the landlord's math with this information.)
  • I am taking [these steps], which will be completed by [this date].
  • I am trying to find help from [these agencies]. (To find out about agencies in your area, call 211 or visit their website.)
  • I am giving the landlord permission to answer questions from these agencies. 

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 five days and continue "with reasonable diligence." Or, if the breach of the lease had a monetary component, then you must make a "reasonable offer to pay the landlord" the amount owed within those five days. If you cannot act within five days and don't move out, the landlord can take you to eviction court. 

We encourage you to contact an attorney for a 5-day notice with NO right to cure (only in drug nuisance/gang/ Safe Housing Act situations)


What if I Disagree with the Notice?

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

What if I Don't Move Out?

  1. First, the landlord files for an eviction hearing in small claims court. They must pay a filing fee ($94.50), which you may have to pay if they win the case or as part of the settlement. 
  2. Next, you should receive the Summons and Complaint from a sheriff's deputy or a civil process server at least five days before the court date. The hearing before the trial is also known as the "joinder conference," "initial hearing," or "return date." 
    1. Under 2013 Wis. Act 76, your county court clerk could allow this service to be done by mail. If so, a copy must be sent to each defendant by certified mail. Wis. Stats. 799.12(2) & (3), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Secs. 31 & 32 Effective for evictions filed after 3/1/14.
  3. All adult tenants on the lease must be personally served with the notice of the court date. If the server cannot personally serve you, they must serve an adult in your household or a family member over 14 years old and inform them of the notice's contents.
    1. The summons and complaint may be published in the newspaper and mailed if additional action is required. Wis. Stat. 801.11 Notarization is no longer required. Wis. Stat. 799.06(3)(b), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 48, effective 4/18/18.

You must appear in court on that day, or you will be evicted. If the landlord promised to dismiss the case, the tenant should call the court clerk or go to court to ensure that the case file has noted this and that there will not be a hearing.

What Happens at Court?

2013 Wis. Act 76 requires the court to schedule the initial hearing ("joinder conference") within 25 days when the landlord files the Summons and Complaint. A complete trial has to be finished within 30 days of the initial hearing. Wis. Stats. 799.05(3)(b) & 799.206(3), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Secs. 29 & 34, Effective for evictions filed after 3/1/14.

A landlord's agent or employee can represent them in small claims court; that person doesn't need a lawyer. Wis. Stats. 799.06(2), 799.40(1), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Secs. 30 & 35, Effective for evictions filed after 3/1/14

The first hearing aims to determine whether there will be a settlement (like a written payment plan or move-out date) or a trial—there is no need to prove cases at this hearing.

  • If a tenant wants to fight the eviction, they should prepare a list of laws they think would apply since the court will only schedule a full trial with a judge if the tenant brings up "valid legal grounds." 
  • If the landlord is willing to settle, both people can sign an agreement called a "stipulated dismissal." As long as the tenant follows it, they will not be evicted. If they break the agreement, the landlord files an affidavit (sworn statement), and the court will order an eviction without another hearing. Wis. Stat. 799.45, 2013 Wis. Act 76, Secs. 40-57, Effective 3/1/14.
  • Suppose you disagree or face an unfavorable court ruling. In that case, you may request a new trial with a different judge on a different date by providing a valid reason for opposing the decision. Wis. Stat. 799.206(3), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 49, Effective 4/18/18. If accepted, you can also request that it be a jury trial.
  • If a tenant and landlord started regularly doing something contrary to their lease agreement, eviction is possible for not following the written lease. Wis. Stat. 799.40(1s), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 51, Effective 4/18/18.

Getting More Time for Court While Applying for Emergency Assistance

Low-income tenants can apply for Emergency Assistance (EA) grants to help pay back rent and avoid eviction. If the case has already gone to court, but no writ of restitution (order for eviction) has gone through, the tenant can be given a "stay" of up to 10 days, where the case is put on hold. Wis. Stat. 799.40(4)(a), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 52, Effective 4/18/18.

Click here for a list of Dane County Eviction Prevention Programs or a statewide list of WISCAP agencies.

What if I Lose the Case?

The judge will issue a written order called a "writ of restitution." This returns possession of the rental property to the landlord. Under 2013 Wis. Act 76, the court must issue the writ "immediately." Wis. Stats. 799.44(1) & (2), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Secs. 38 & 39, Effective for evictions filed after 3/1/14.

What Happens to the Tenant's Property?

  • For evictions filed on or after 3/1/14, if the landlord wrote in the lease that they wouldn't move and store property left behind, they can do anything they want with tenant property during the eviction without involving the sheriff (except to notify them that they're handling it themselves). 
  • If the lease mentions property left behind, the landlord must arrange to move and store it with the sheriff. Only the sheriff can decide what is thrown away. The landlord must tell the tenant where the property is stored within ten days and how much it costs to return it. The landlord is required to give 30 days' notice before they throw it out. 
    • In Milwaukee County, the landlord must hire bonded movers. In other counties, landlords can choose to purchase their insurance bond. Wis. Stats. 799.45(2) & (3)
  • It is illegal for a landlord to change this rule during a lease without the tenant's permission. Wis. Stat. 799.45(3m), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Secs. 40-57, Effective 3/1/14.


Finding Shelter or Alternative Housing

After an eviction, it may be challenging to find housing. If you are evicted, you may wish to contact:

These agencies may provide emergency rent, shelter, and other assistance. 

Owing Money For Future Rent & Other Damages

When a tenant is evicted, the landlord can hold a "rent and damages hearing" to determine the owed money. The tenant should ensure their address is updated and attend the hearing to dispute any unfair charges or counter-sue the landlord. The tenant may be responsible for rent until a new tenant moves in, but landlords cannot charge for re-renting time or fees. See mitigation for details. Wis. Stat. 704.29 For more information, contact the Tenant Resource Center. For legal advice, contact a housing attorney.

Re-Connecting Utilities After Eviction

A public utility company that disconnected service for non-payment (by the tenant) can no longer require the owner to provide proof of eviction or proof the tenant has moved out before re-connecting the service if the service is solely in the owner's name. Wis. Stat. 196.643(4), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 35, Effective 4/18/18.

Other Help in the Eviction Process

Check with your county's clerk of courts to learn the specific procedure. Click here for an essential Guide to Small Claims Court or more Small Claims Court Tips on our blog. Click here for an attorney referral list.

Important Phone Numbers

First Call for Help

211 or

(608) 246-4350 in Dane County

Consumer Protection

(800) 422-7128

Legal Action of Wisconsin

(608) 256-3258

Housing Mediation Service

(Dane County only)

(608) 257-2799

Dane County Small Claims Court (Forms)

(608) 266-4311

First Call for Help or 2-1-1 resources are available here.


  • Cure: To fix or take care of a lease violation.
  • Joinder conference: A pre-trial hearing in an eviction case where the landlord and tenant decide whether to settle or go to trial. It is also called the "return date" or "initial hearing."
  • Mitigate damages: The landlord's legal duty is to minimize lost rent and other re-rental costs by actively seeking a replacement tenant after an evicted tenant.
  • Rent and damages hearing: A hearing held after an eviction to determine how much money the evicted tenant owes the landlord for unpaid rent and other losses the landlord suffered.
  • Retaliation: When a landlord takes action against a tenant because the tenant was exercising or trying to exercise their rights as a tenant under the law. This is illegal.
  • Serve: To formally give a person court papers informing them they are being sued. This must be done by someone over 18 who is not a party to the lawsuit.
  • Settlement: An agreement between parties to end a lawsuit.
  • Small claims court: The court where all eviction cases are filed.
  • Stipulated dismissal: A settlement, such as a payment plan or move-out date, that dismisses the case if the defendant (tenant) fulfills its terms. Both parties must agree to the settlement's terms.
  • Stipulation: A court-ordered agreement that is agreed to by both parties.
  • Summons and complaint: These are the formal court papers that order a person to appear in court and inform them about the lawsuit.
  • Trial: The formal court proceeding in which the landlord and tenant(s) present evidence and witnesses to a judge or court commissioner, who then decides who should win the lawsuit.
  • Writ of restitution: A court order evicting the tenant and granting the landlord possession of the rental property.

How are non-renewal notices different?

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A non-renewal notice isn't an eviction notice. If you receive a notice saying your landlord isn't renewing your lease, there are a couple of things to consider:

  1. If you have a lease with a term where the beginning and end dates are written down, the tenant and the landlord must only give notice if your lease says otherwise. If your lease says that notice is required on a term lease, go here to learn more because it might not be enforceable.
  2. If you have a month-to-month tenancy (a lease with terms but no end date, where you pay monthly), then written notice IS required from both the landlord and the tenant. Wis. Stat. 704.19 explains these tenancies can be ended by giving the other party at least 28* days' written notice. Here's how those non-renewal notices work:
  • The notice must end on the last day of the rental period. 
  1. For example, if rent is paid on the first day of the month, the last day of the month is the last day of the rental period.
  • The notice has to be at least 28* days - it can't be shorter. However, it can be more extended notice and even be required (see the last bullet below).
  • If the notice specifies less than the correct number of days, it is still valid but postponed until the end of the next rental period, when the correct number of days (or more) have passed. 
  1. (If a tenant gives the landlord incorrect notice and moves out, then it's more like breaking their lease, with the mitigation requirements on the landlord. See our Ending Your Lease page for more info).
  • The notice has to be in writing, even if the original agreement wasn't.
  • If your lease has language requiring more than 28 days' notice, then that is enforceable! 
  1. Wis. Stat. 704.19(2)(a)1 requires 28 days' notice unless proof agrees with another method, such as an expired lease. 
  • If your lease expired a while ago, but you still pay monthly, you're a month-to-month tenant. More information on becoming a tenant through lapsed leases is here. To end the agreement, written notice IS required from the landlord and the tenant. 
  1. If you have a rental agreement where rent isn't paid regularly by month/week/day and may involve services (but not employment) or purchases of goods, you might be a tenant at will. 
  • If you are, then notice IS required to end whatever arrangements have been agreed upon by both the tenant and landlord. Steps are the same as month-to-month tenants (#2, above), except:
  • Notice can be given at any point if there are enough days in the notice.
  1. An example: The tenant pays the landlord by buying groceries here and there, and the landlord wants the arrangement to end and the tenant to leave. So, the landlord gives the tenant 28* days written notice, and once that notice is up, the tenancy is over.