Year End Report on Issues Facing the AASEW

2023-01-09 12:00 PM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

By Heiner Giese, AASEW Legal Counsel

We continued as a partner with Milwaukee’s Rental Housing Resource Center. There are few places in the country where housing providers, social welfare agencies and tenant advocates work together.

Owners were very happy to see the CDC federal eviction moratorium end in August 2021. Since then, and throughout 2022, the “eviction tsunami” predicted by national tenant advocates and biased academic researchers never materialized.

One of our frustrations was that the courts never enforced the CDC’s requirement that tenants had to use “best efforts” to make at least partial rent payments.

Of course the millions of dollars from the two Emergency Rental Assistance (ERAP) bills helped greatly to (1) keep eviction filings down and (2) helped resolve very many filed cases when landlords or their attorneys agreed to multiple months of adjournments while waiting for an application to be approved and then agreed to a dismissal and sealing of the case.

The often multiple months of waiting for Community Advocates and especially SDC to cut a check were frustrating.

It is good news that some funds remain for the next several months. Places like New York State and Texas ran out of funds a while ago already.

We had Tim Syth and now Meagan Winn coordinating efforts from the court system side. Chief Judge Mary Triggiano was very involved and responsive in listening to our concerns about how eviction cases were being handled by the court commissioners.

The Right to Counsel (RTC) program has been operational since September 2021. This has been a success for tenants in getting more time to move out or in negotiating a stipulation with the landlord to “pay and stay” and then get the case dismissed.

I personally had a case in April 2022 where the Legal Aid attorney negotiated a deal to have the tenant pay the current month and then catch up on arrears at $100 per month for the next nine months.

But I have watched dozens of cases on Zoom since April and often the RTC attorney would say the case was contested, get it kicked over to the judge a month later and then if the tenant lost or moved out the landlord lost an extra month’s rent compared to the days before RTC.

Very helpful to the tenant; extra cost to the owner. A money judgment against the tenant would then be larger. Also, if RTC got a case dismissed on a technicality instead of settling it, the landlord would re-file and there would then be two cases on CCAP under the tenant’s name. 

Biggest improvement needed for 2023: The ERAP money will run out by spring. Then it won’t make sense for landlords to agree to an adjournment in a nonpayment case.

Already, some owners are requiring double security deposits because they have learned that an eviction will take an extra month due to the presence of RTC.

If the City, County and charities like United Way have come up with $4.5M to pay for RTC, we need to find funding for that extra month’s rent which the owner will lose while negotiating with RTC.

Also, there needs to be legal help funding for the unrepresented mom-and-pop landlord who is unfamiliar with the eviction process. There needs to be funding to push cases into mediation before resorting to a filing in court.

Owners are concerned that a change in HUD policy as of October 1 may be interpreted by defense counsel to require that the CARES Act 30 days notice requirement for nonpayment cases will apply to rapid rehousing programs run by agencies like Hope House.

This will deter owners from participating in such worthwhile programs which help the neediest tenants.

Sealing of eviction cases is a current and future issue. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will likely hold a hearing in early Spring on Legal Action of Wisconsin’s petition to seal non-money judgment evictions after only one year.

We have filed a response opposing this.

There is a research study put out by a think tank on How to Seal Eviction Records | Upturn . This is supposed to be a guide for legislation but it is useless because of preposterous conclusions such as “eviction filings are merely unproven allegations and have no legitimate value in rental decisions.” The executive summary for the study contains numerous other untrue assertions:

  • Eviction records should not be used to make housing decisions. Eviction records are products of an unjust, racist, anti-tenant housing system.
  • The vast majority of evictions do not end with a judgment in favor of the landlord, and even those that do are products of a court process that is heavily weighted against tenants.
  • Because eviction records are products of housing injustice and discrimination, we don’t believe there are any eviction records that can be fairly used to make housing decisions.

Amazingly, the study concludes that evictions should simply not be allowed: “we reject any premise that evictions should be permissible under a just housing system.”

The academic researchers who put out such bogus conclusions ignore the reality that well over 90% of evictions are filed for nonpayment of rent. Their biases make them ignore and distort the facts.

Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc.
PO Box 4125
Milwaukee, WI 53204-7905
Phone: 414-276-7378

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