What counts as written notice?

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If a tenant in a month to month lease wants to terminate their lease in Wisconsin they need to provide “written” notice to the landlord at least 28 days before their next rent payment is due...

I just purchased a property and when I first visited a tenant they verbally they were thinking about moving out. The seller didn’t indicate they were aware.

If the tenant texted or emailed the previous owner, does that count as “written” notice or does it have to be in writing in the form of a letter?

What does the law consider “written”?

Note: The lease does not have any provisions indicating electronic notice is allowed.

Emails are typically sufficient for written notice.  I assume emails were not excluded as written notice.  Doubtful the tenant gave notice though if they said they were “thinking about it”...you should have just told them on the spot they need to give written notice.

@Jason Bilbrey if they are moving, that's probably a good thing! I represent a lot of investors buying small multi family, sometimes it's their first investment or a hous-hack, where they move in and rent out the otherv half for income. Keeping the existing tenant comes with two problems: they have never interviewed with you and they have seniority over you at the property. 

Human nature will make them respect you less for those reasons. Sometimes the tenants are much older then the buyer, which makes it even worse. You will commonly hear things like: oh, we never had to do this, the old owner was always okay with rent late or smoking or blabla, we have never done that before - and generally give you the feeling that you are out of line with whatever you want from them. Sometimes this is more pronounced in with lower grade tenants in the city, but I see it also on the Milwaukee East Side.

Here is the good news: cycling tenants out is standard operating procedure for value-add apartment investors. It usually takes a year or two, to cycle all tenenats out, upgrade the units and the exterior, increase the rents and NOI (net operating income). In the appartment complex world fair market value is always a multiple of NOI, so if you take a property from just over break even to a strong NOI, you will see a massive increase in value and you can then either refi your downpayment back out (like a BRRR) or sell (like a flip).

For you that means, in most cases it will work to your advantage to cycle a tenant out, upgrade the place (from simple and just paint and maybe a new ceiling fan - to all new kitchen&bath, whatever your strategy is). That gives you the opportunity to do three things: 

- if the tenant has an old lease which is not fair market rent, now you can adjust

- an upgraded unit will command even more rent

- an upgraded unit will also attract a better tenant (like dating, if he is a 4 and she is a 10...)

- the new tenant will interview with YOU and know YOU as the owner, YOU have seniority

Sometimes tenants will just tell you they have plans for moving and they never do, so I am not so sure how serious you have to take it. If you want to keep them, I strongly suggest you sign a new lease with them (from Wisconsin Legal Blanks, order their small landlord package) - you can try to raise the rent, oftent he existing old contract is not very good for you, and it will make them respect you more.

Remember, you don't react to your tenants, they react to you and your strategy - are driving the bus, not your tenants!

Originally posted by @Dave Carpenter :

Marcus, I never considered the seniority piece about existing tenants. It’s a great point and something to consider when buying occupied properties!

 Hi Dave, yes of course some tenants are better than others, but it is human nature to be skeptical towards people who are new, and sometimes that shows up as an attitude. 

I read an article by a psychology professor, who was analyzing behaviors of people in a train compartment, when someone has a compartment for themselves at first and they spread out and then an hour later someone else joins them. The "intruder" will be treated with some level of negative attitude, often hidden under a layer of politeness and social norms. Interestingly enough, after an hour they will bond, and make a united from against the third person, which is now "new" and the "intruder".