Act 76, has amended sec. 799.45 Wis. Stats., and created new options for a landlord to dispose of a tenant’s abandoned personal property after the writ has been executed by the Sheriff and the rental unit has been returned to the landlord’s possession.
Under the old law, if the rental property was located in a county with a population greater than 500,000 people, a landlord was required to hire a moving company to remove any of the tenant’s property that was determined to be of value. Under the old law, if the rental property was located in a county of less than 500,00 people, a landlord could remove the tenant’s abandoned property of value himself but was required to post a bond before doing so, which could be very expensive.
With the passage of Wisconsin’s new Landlord-Tenant law, Act 76, a landlord can now remove any of the tenant’s abandoned property himself, regardless of the size of the county in which the rental property is located, once the Sheriff has executed the writ and the rental property has been returned to the possession of the landlord, and assuming the landlord has complied with the other requirements of sec. 705.05(5), Wis. Stats.
Many landlords — as well as the press reporting on the new law — misunderstood the new law and believed that a landlord was no longer required to involve the Sheriff in the eviction. That is not the case. Act 76 did not remove the requirement of involving the Sheriff. The Sheriff must still be hired to remove a tenant that has not voluntarily surrendered the rental unit and the Sheriff is still necessary to return the rental property to the possession of the landlord.
What Act 76 did was remove the requirement that a moving company be used in larger counties and remove the requirement that a landlord post a bond in smaller counties with regard to the removal and disposal of any belonging left by the tenant.
Under the new law a landlord now has three options to choose from when hiring the Sheriff to forcibly remove a tenant and return the rental unit to the possession of the landlord.
1. The landlord can choose to operate under the old law — and most of my clients are electing to do this — and still involve and pay for a moving company. The Sheriff will then remove any tenant still on the premises and return the rental property to the landlord. The moving company will then remove any tenant property of value left behind and take it to a storage facility. The Sheriff will remain at the rental property until the moving company has completed its work.
2. The landlord can choose to hire the Sheriff only. Under this scenario, the Sheriff will remove any tenant still on the premises and return the rental property to the landlord. The Sheriff will then leave. The landlord can then dispose of any tenant property left behind as set forth in sec. 705.05 (5), Wis. Stats. (assuming the landlord has the required language in his rental agreement allowing him to dispose of the abandoned property — see sec. 704.05(5)(bf) – and abides by the exceptions to the disposal rules — see sec. 704.05(5)(am) and (b)).
3. The landlord can opt to hire the Sheriff only but also elect to have the Sheriff stick around while the landlord disposes of the tenant’s property (assuming the landlord has the required language in his rental agreement allowing him to dispose of the abandoned property — see sec. 704.05(5)(bf) — and abides by the exceptions to the disposal rules — see sec. 704.05(5)(am) and (b)). This option allows the landlord a greater sense of security as the Sheriff will still be present should the tenant decide to visit. Please be aware however that under this option the Sheriff may have certain requirements that must be followed by the landlord, such as requiring the landlord to have a certain number of people assisting him with the removal of the tenant’s property, so that the Sheriff is not sitting around for hours waiting for a single landlord to remove and dispose of a tenant’s belongings.
Essentially those are the 3 options that a landlord now has to choose from if it becomes necessary to execute a writ of restitution with the Sheriff. While many counties are still working out the details, the feedback that I have received from the various counties in which I practice, has been that things have been going much more smoothly then the press and tenant advocates had prophesized.