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Beware of Clauses Requiring More than 28-Days’ Notice to Terminate Month-to-Month Tenancies

04/05/2023 12:00 PM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

By Tristan Pettit, Gary Koch & Jennifer Hayden, Petrie + Pettit

Clauses requiring tenants to provide a 60-Day Notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy are popular – we see them in a lot of rental agreements. Recently, though, we have seen the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (“DATCP”) take issue with provisions in rental agreements in month-to-month tenancies that require tenants to give anything more than a 28-Day Notice to terminate the tenancy.

These DATCP challenges can end one of two ways: (1) the landlord can fight the Department, or, more likely, (2) the landlord concedes and removes the clause from its rental agreements, potentially paying a fine for the pleasure of doing so.

We have not yet had a client want to fight DATCP on this issue, but we believe that there may be statutory grounds to do so.

DATCP’s argument is found in Wisconsin Administrative Code ATCP § 134.06(3)(a) (2), prohibiting withholding from the security deposit for any charges other than for “Unpaid rent for which the tenant is legally responsible, subject to s. 704.29, Stats.” (Emphasis added). DATCP believes that any notice period in excess of 28 days is illegal.

Wis. Stats. § 704.19 discusses what notices are necessary to terminate periodic tenancies (such as month-to-month tenancies). Wis. Stat. § 704.19(3) provides that “At least 28 days’ notice must be given” to terminate a month-to-month tenancy (emphasis added). 

It seems straightforward that “at least” does not mean “exactly”.

Elsewhere in the same statute, we find that a month-to-month tenancy can be terminated “only by giving to the other party written notice complying with this section, unless any of the following conditions is met: (1) [t]he parties have agreed expressly upon anther method of termination and the parties’ agreement is established by clear and convincing proof.” (Emphasis added).

Again, it seems straightforward that a clause in the rental agreement calling for a 60-Day Notice to terminate the month-to-month tenancy would be clear and convincing proof that the parties have expressly agreed upon another method of termination.

Nevertheless, DATCP takes the position that landlords can ONLY require a 28-Day Notice to terminate the tenant’s month-to-month tenancy.

Do DATCP’s arguments win? That remains to be seen. It might be a serious undertaking to find out the answer, but the Landlord-Tenant team at Petrie + Pettit is ready to take on that challenge for you!

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  • 04/11/2023 5:43 PM | Tristan Pettit
    The AASEW is working with our lobbyist and politicians in Madison as well as tenant advocates to see if everyone will agree that a 60 day notice in a month-to-month tenancy is in everyone's best interests and the law should change to reflect that. If this kind of stuff interests you then join the AASEW's Legislative Committee.
    Link  •  Reply
  • 04/28/2023 9:26 AM | Carrie Maas
    Where is this coming from? I have heard nothing about this in the many court cases I have. Who do we call to express our concerns?
    Link  •  Reply
Rental Property Association of Wisconsin, Inc. (Formerly AASEW)
P.O. Box 4125
Milwaukee, WI 53204-7905
Phone: 414-276-7378

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