Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Some landlords just couldn’t wait to file to evict their tenants.
Nearly 50 eviction actions, including three in Milwaukee County, were filed in Wisconsin courts on Tuesday even though the statewide ban on evictions and foreclosure actions was still in effect and did not expire until the end of Tuesday.
Many landlords stood in line waiting for the Milwaukee County Clerk of Courts office to open and accept filings at noon Tuesday, said Anna Hodges, chief deputy to Clerk of Courts John Barrett.
Those people were told the moratorium was still in effect, Hodges said. If they insisted on filing, though, staff employees would accept their documents and the accompanying $98 fee.
Barrett said his staff employees were telling landlords who insisted on filing Tuesday that they could do so. But, he warned, it is unknown whether the courts would accept the early filings.
“We would argue they’re invalid,” said Peter Koneazny, litigation director for the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee.
Courthouse staff also told the landlords it was unknown whether the courts would refund filing fees if the cases were dismissed, Barrett said.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers ordered a 60-day moratorium on evictions and foreclosures on March 27. Last week, the governor announced the establishment of a $25 million rent-assistance program to help people who would otherwise be faced with eviction.
Typically, landlords file about 14,000 eviction suits in Milwaukee County each year, largely because of tenants’ inability to pay rent.
Heiner Giese, of the Apartment Association for Southeastern Wisconsin, said he does not expect an onslaught of eviction suits once the moratorium really ends.
“What I’m hearing from our membership, it looks like most renters are paying their rent,” Giese said.
Landlords who are quick to file eviction suits may also run into trouble if they did not give a tenant proper notice.
Before filing an eviction suit, landlords must give their tenants notice either five, 14 or 28 days in advance — depending on the terms of their lease. Landlords, however, were banned from issuing those notices during the moratorium.
Hodges said she talked to some landlords who appeared to have filed notices during the moratorium but insisted on filing their eviction suits.
It will be up to the judges to decide if those notices were properly served.
Raphael Ramos, head the Eviction Defense Project, said he expects many landlords to begin filing notices this week. Afterward, he said, they will either work out arrangements with tenants or file eviction actions.
The onslaught of filings will likely begin next week, Ramos said, for evictions filed before March 27 that were frozen when the moratorium began, combined with new evictions actions that would have been filed earlier if not for the governor’s ban.
“That’s when the giant slug of evictions will start hitting the courts at or around the same time,” Ramos said
Contact Cary Spivak at (414) 223-5467 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cspivak or Facebook at facebook.com/cary.spivak.