Wisconsin Home Foreclosure Laws
Learn about key features, procedures, and protections of Wisconsin foreclosure law.
If there’s a possibility that you could lose your home to a foreclosure in Wisconsin, you should educate yourself about Wisconsin’s foreclosure laws. Foreclosures in Wisconsin go through the court system so you will receive a foreclosure summons and complaint. If you are in the military or had a certain type of high-cost loan, you might be entitled to special protections during the process. You should also find out if you could be on the hook for a deficiency judgment after the foreclosure and whether you can reinstate the mortgage before the sale or redeem your home afterwards.
Below you’ll find a summary of some of the key aspects of Wisconsin foreclosure law along with citations to the statutes so you can read the law yourself.
How to Find Wisconsin’s Foreclosure Laws
The citations to Wisconsin’s foreclosure statutes are: Wisconsin Statutes Sections 846.01 through 846.25.
You can find the Wisconsin Statutes on the Wisconsin legislature’s website at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/rsb/stats.html. If you need help locating the statutes, see Finding Your State’s Foreclosure Laws.
Key Features of Wisconsin’s Foreclosure Laws
We’ve summarized important parts of Wisconsin’s foreclosure laws below. You can find more detailed articles on various aspects of Wisconsin foreclosure law in Nolo’s Wisconsin Foreclosure Law Center.
Most Common Type of Foreclosure Procedure in Wisconsin
Wisconsin foreclosures are judicial, which means they go through the state court system. (Learn more about judicial foreclosures.)
Notice of the Foreclosure
In Wisconsin, the lender files a lawsuit in court in order to foreclose on your home. The lender will give you notice of the lawsuit by serving you a summons and complaint. (Learn more about the difference between a foreclosure summons and complaint.) You generally have 20 days to file an answer with the court.
If the lender gets a judgment against you, the court will order the sale. A notice of the sale must be published in a newspaper, advertised in a public place, and posted on the county website (if there is one) for three weeks prior to the date of the foreclosure sale. Wis. Stat. § 815.31.
Special Foreclosure Protections in Wisconsin
Wisconsin law provides special protections to some military service members and to borrowers who take out a type of loan that is called a “high-cost home loan.” (A high-cost home loan is a particular type of mortgage loan that has certain characteristics and the annual percentage rate or points and fees exceed certain amounts.)
Protection against foreclosure for certain military service members. Wisconsin law provides protections to members of the national guard or state defense force who are ordered into state active duty for 30 days or more. Wis. Stat. § 321.62(1)(b).
Among other protections, the lender cannot foreclose during or within 90 days after the service member's period of state active duty, unless a court:
- ordered the foreclosure before the beginning of the service member's period of state active duty, and
- approves the foreclosure after it occurs. Wis. Stat. § 321.62(12).
This protection applies to mortgages taken out prior to active duty. (Keep in mind there is also a federal law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides protections to military service members who are facing foreclosure.)
Protections regarding high-cost home loans. Wisconsin law prohibits, among other things, the following things when it comes to high-cost home loans:
- balloon payments (except under certain circumstances)
- increasing the interest rate after a default
- accelerating the loan (demanding payment of the outstanding balance) at will, and
- negative amortization. Wis. Stat. § 428.203.
You Can Reinstate the Mortgage Before the Foreclosure Sale in Wisconsin
“Reinstating” is when you catch up on the defaulted mortgage's missed payments (plus fees and costs) in order to stop a foreclosure. (Learn more about reinstatement to avoid foreclosure.)
Under Wisconsin law, you have the right to reinstate before judgment. The court will then dismiss the foreclosure. You can also reinstate after judgment, which will stay (postpone) the case. If you miss another payment, the foreclosure will proceed. Wis. Stat. § 846.05.
Right of Redemption After Foreclosure in Wisconsin
In some states, you can redeem (repurchase) your home within a certain period of time after the foreclosure. However, in Wisconsin, the redemption period takes place before the sale. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 846.13. Depending on the circumstances, the redemption period will be:
- five weeks (abandoned homes)
- six months (if the lender waives the deficiency), or
- one year.
Once the redemption period expires, the sale takes place. There is no right of redemption after the sale. (To get details on redemption rights in Wisconsin, see Nolo’s article If I lose my home to foreclosure in Wisconsin, can I get it back?)
Wisconsin’s Deficiency Laws
When the total mortgage debt exceeds the foreclosure sale price, the difference is called a “deficiency.” Some states allow the lender to seek a personal judgment (called a “deficiency judgment”) against the borrower for this amount, while other states prohibit deficiency judgments with what are called anti-deficiency laws.
Deficiency judgments are allowed in Wisconsin if the lender requests one in the complaint. Wis. Stat. § 846.04. The foreclosing lender will often waive the deficiency, though, in order to shorten the redemption period to six months. Wis. Stat. § 846.101. (For a summary of the deficiency law in Wisconsin, see Wisconsin Laws on Post-Foreclosure Deficiency Judgments.)
Notice to Leave After the Foreclosure Sale
You can stay in the home throughout the redemption period up until the court confirms the sale. If you don’t leave at that time, you'll be evicted. The order confirming the sale may also include a writ of assistance, which is an order from the court directing the sheriff to remove you from the home.