File Summons and Complaint In Wisconsin, all eviction cases are filed in circuit court, small claims division. Unlike most other small claims, there is no dollar amount limit for damages in an eviction case. Serve Summons and Complaint In general, the plaintiff must attempt to make personal service of the summons and complaint on the tenant, although some counties do permit service by mail. If after reasonable attempts personal service is not possible, service may be made by publication and mailing. Return Date as to Service and Occupancy The first hearing in an eviction case focuses on whether the plaintiff gave the required termination notices and made proper service of the summons and complaint. If not, the case may be dismissed or adjourned.
Assuming the plaintiff gave the required notices and made proper service, judgment may be granted to the plaintiff in the form of a writ of restitution, which authorizes the county sheriff to physically evict the tenant. Sometimes the tenant voluntarily moves out between the initial filing of the lawsuit and the first court date. In that scenario, the court simply dismisses the plaintiff’s claim for occupancy of the premises, which is also known as the “first cause.”
If the tenant attends the hearing and raises valid legal grounds contesting the eviction, the matter will be scheduled for a contested hearing before a judge within 30 days, and the tenant may retain occupancy in the interim. There are limited grounds for a tenant to contest the eviction, though, such as improper notice or retaliation. Rent/Damages Hearing Once the right to occupancy is sorted out, the case may come back for a second hearing if the landlord claims the tenant owes money. The landlord would be required to file an itemization of damages before such hearing, and the tenant may be required to file a written answer contesting the amount claimed due. The tenant may also counterclaim against the landlord for an improper withholding from the security deposit, or for failure to provide a statement accounting for the amounts withheld. Such claims for rent or damages are known as “second and third causes.” Mediation Some counties require the parties to attempt to settle the second and third causes in mediation, before the court holds a hearing on them. Mediation is a type of dispute resolution in which a neutral third person tries to help the parties reach an agreement by focusing on the key issues in a case, exchanging information, and exploring options for settlement. The third party has no power to impose a decision if all of the parties do not agree to settle the case. Appeal Any order in an eviction case is subject to appeal if filed within 15 days after entry of the order. Due to how the issues in an eviction case are bifurcated (that is, heard at different times) as described above, oftentimes there are two separate orders and, therefore, two separate deadlines to keep in mind for purposes of appeal. Disclaimer This guide is not intended as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for consulting with an attorney to review the facts of your case. Consulting this guide does not form an attorney-client relationship. The information expressed in this guide is current as of the date the guide is posted, but is subject to change. Always check court rules to identify the local practice or custom where your case is filed.