Landlords jump the gun and file eviction actions before governor's moratorium expires.


Byline: USA Today Network

Cary Spivak

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...

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