Some eviction filings continue in Milwaukee despite moratorium

This week, protesters gathered outside S2 Real Estate in Milwaukee to object to the company’s eviction filings amid the pandemic.

Despite a federal moratorium on evictions in effect through March 31, S2 Real Estate has filed for 82 evictions since September. It has approximately 550 tenants in the Milwaukee area.

"What we're most concerned with is stopping evictions in their tracks right now," said Robert Penner of the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union (MATU), which organized the protest.

MATU wants S2 Real Estate to immediately halt evictions, forgive back-rent that has accrued during the pandemic, and enact a self-imposed moratorium on filing for eviction.

Other landlords have halted eviction filings. Berrada Properties, which owns thousands of Milwaukee rental units, tells Contact 6 it is "limiting the number of evictions filed." Online court records show Berrada Properties has filed for just two evictions since September.

"The people that need the most help right now are the people who are one court case away from being thrown out of their homes," said Penner.

To qualify for the federal eviction moratorium, tenants must present a CDC form to their landlord, declaring that they have tried to obtain assistance, have lost substantial income, and are trying to make partial payments.

"There's no automatic protection. That's a necessary step," said Legal Action of Wisconsin attorney, Raphael Ramos, of the declaration form.

Raphael Ramos

Ramos said it is best when tenants and landlords work together. However, he said an eviction can still be pursued when a form is not submitted or for criminal behavior.

Tenants who have experienced a sudden loss in income can apply for rental assistance with a number of local agencies.

"They were given money by the CARES Act, but also by the new stimulus act that was just passed," said Ramos.

$38.5 million was allocated to Milwaukee for rental assistance in 2020, and was administered by Community Advocates, The Social Development Commission, Impact 211, and Hope House.

Community Advocates tells Contact 6, the new stimulus will allow it to issue another $10 million.

After all, rent is not waived under the moratorium.

"Rental payments are still owed," said Ramos.

S2 Real Estate filed for 12 evictions in January. Its manager said in several of those cases, tenants did not make the effort to obtain rental assistance.

"They're not trying at all. We're here to help and they don't want to do any work themselves," said Sam Stair of S2 Real Estate.

Sam Stair

Stair said they will help tenants apply for funding. He credits rental assistance with helping his company survive the pandemic.

"The people that do apply for the programs are really helping us out," said Stair.

As for all of the evictions Stair has filed, he told Contact 6 that S2 Real Estate still has taxes and mortgages it must pay. That said, Stair said he now plans to start pursuing formal mediation, instead, in hopes of avoiding court and helping more tenants get funding.

"We're just trying to maintain what we have. I'm starting to see more landlords actually selling properties. Some are of desperate," said Stair.

After all, there is no knowing how long the federal moratorium on evictions, or the financial toll of the pandemic, will last.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android

Stair said many of his eviction cases end in payment plans or tenants applying for assistance. He said since September, he has taken 11 writs to the sheriff’s office for eviction.

Community Advocates is launching its program to administer new stimulus funding within the next couple of weeks.

More info from Community Advocates

Community Advocates has distributed $10 million to over 4800 tenants in Milwaukee County since March 2020. 

In total, there was $38.5 million allocated to Milwaukee for rent assistance in 2020 that was administered by Community Advocates, SDC, IMPACT 211 and Hope House. The breakdown is listed below.

Community Advocates started 2020 with a budget of a little over $200,000 allocated for rent assistance pre-pandemic and ended the year with over $13 million in direct aid between federal CARES, HUD and private dollars.

Community Advocates entered 2021 with about $3 million dollars remaining between CARES Act carryover, HUD and local private dollars. The new stimulus will bring additional Emergency Rental Assistance to Milwaukee which will be much needed. Community Advocates will again partner with Milwaukee County to administer approximately $10 million and we anticipate launching that program in the next couple of weeks. The City of Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin also have allocations of Emergency Rental Assistance. 

Applicants can apply for the Community Advocates rent assistance program anytime, and we respond on a first come first serve basis, however, if support documentation is missing/needed that can cause a delay. Below outlines the eligibility criteria. 

The Community Advocates Rent Assistance program assists individuals and families who have experienced a loss or reduction in income and are unable to pay their rent or utilities as a result. Financial assistance may include rent, past due rent, utility assistance, security deposit, and first month’s rent. The online application typically takes between 30-45 minutes to finish and can be completed from a computer or mobile device. It is safe, secure, and confidential. Your information and privacy are protected at all times. Here is the link to the online application.

Our Rent Support Team is here to assist you with any questions as you complete your application. You can reach us by calling 414-270-4646 or emailing info@renthelpmke.org . 

If you are not able to complete this application online, our rent assistance application can also be picked-up/drop-off at the Community Advocates downtown office building, located at 728 James Lovell Street, Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Rent Assistance Eligibility Criteria

You are eligible for this program if you: 

  • Experienced a loss/ reduction of income in the last 60 days or due to COVID-19.  
  • Are at risk of homelessness or housing instability as a result of not being able to pay your rent or utilities. 
  • Have an annual income of 80% or less of Milwaukee County annual median income. 

Tenants meet the income guidelines if their annual household income is less than the amount listed below for their household size. 

Household Size/Annual income

  1. Less than<$46,9502                              
  2. Less than<$53,6503                              
  3. Less than<$60,3504                             
  4. Less than<$67,0505                              
  5. Less than<$72,4506                              
  6. Less than<$77,8007                              
  7. Less than<$83,1508                              
  8. Less than<$88,550  

Email from Berrada attorney, Joe A. Goldberger

Berrada Properties Management, Inc. ("BPM") has taken a pro-active approach to dealing with the housing issues, magnified by the pandemic.  Among the steps taken has been establishing open communications with community groups, including Community Advocates and Legal Aid, to explore the role the BPM can play working collaboratively to keep tenants in their homes.   Among those steps is limiting the number of evictions filed and, to be clear, this decision was made prior to the CDC mandate and, subsequent to the expiration of the original restrictions on eviction.   The decision as to how BPM proceeds depends on how the pandemic unfolds and, how quickly the economy is reopened and recovers.   Please note that while BPM continues to work with tenants, apartment owners cannot be expected to address the non-payment of rent without significant government assistance.   BPM, like any other business, provides a service in exchange for payment.   We are concerned that without governmental assistance, tenants will owe back rent in amounts that can’t be repaid.  The cascading impact is that foreclosures on rental properties will increase, tax arrearages will grow, and improvements to and maintenance of properties will slow.   BPM recognizes the stress the pandemic has caused its tenants and remains committed to Milwaukee and the tenants it serves.

Milwaukee to ease gathering limits in COVID-19 public health order

The Milwaukee Health Department is changing the current public health order as the COVID-19 gating criteria show improvement.

Summerfest moves to September, allows more time to vaccinate public

Summerfest will move from its original June 2021 dates to give health professionals more time to vaccinate the general public. Summerfest 2021 will be held September 2 – 4, 9 – 11 and 16 – 18. 

DHS: 1,095 new positive cases of COVID-19 in WI; 40 new deaths

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin rose by 1,095 Tuesday, Feb. 2, officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported, for a total of 544,260.