'Caught us completely by surprise:' Impact of surge of eviction filings felt by tenants, court officials
Berrada Properties Management, Inc. filed around 800 eviction cases in a matter of weeks, pushing the caseload above pre-pandemic levels.
"It caught us completely by surprise," Milwaukee County Acting Clerk of Circuit Court Anna Hodges told CBS 58.
Hodges said the court expected eviction filings to ramp up this year after moratoriums at the state and federal levels expired. But the volume of filings by Berrada overwhelmed the system.
"The calendar for these cases are capped at a set number each day," Hodges said. "And with the number of filings that were coming in daily, it completely blew those numbers out of the water."
Eviction cases must be scheduled within 30 days. Hodges said her office had to triage the scheduling for the cases involving Berrada as well as keeping in mind filings from other landlords in the county. The hope now is the volume will return back to normal after the first week of March.
The situation is also causing uncertainty for the future of tenants facing eviction.
Kevin Raymond lives with his wife and son at an apartment owned by Berrada.
"It was kind of hard with both of us being unemployed, then we lost the car," Raymond said.
After Raymond and his wife became unemployed during the pandemic, they worked with Berrada and agencies like Community Advocates to obtain rental assistance. But in January, the household received a notice saying they were more than $5,000 behind rent. Weeks later, they received an eviction notice and their case was filed as part of the surge by Berrada.
"If they would have -- had let us know earlier, before they even sent the eviction notice out, we would've been working much harder on keeping up," Raymond said.
While his family is making efforts to coordinate with Berrada and other agencies, Raymond remains concerned about navigating what is ahead.
"All we can do is pray about it and just come up with some of the money."
If you or someone you know is facing eviction, here are resources that can help:
- Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee: https://lasmilwaukee.com/
- Community Advocates: https://communityadvocates.net/
- Eviction Free MKE: https://www.evictionfreemke.org/
- Social Development Commission: https://www.cr-sdc.org/
- WI Emergency Rental Assistance Program: https://doa.wi.gov/Pages/WERA.aspx
A full statement from Berrada's attorney is below:
“Berrada Properties Management, Inc. has gone to great lengths to work with tenants who want to pay their rent and can’t – including creating an eviction diversion program – but unfortunately some tenants have not sought the help available and left us no choice. BPM is exercising its legal right to evict non-paying tenants, many who incurred significant balances of unpaid rent totaling as much as $17,000. The current amount of past-due rent, notwithstanding rent relief payments received by BPM through the course of the pandemic, exceeds $5 million. A recent letter to our community partners working with BPM and our tenants to prevent evictions showcased all that has been done during the pandemic to keep people in their homes. This letter also highlighted the need for BPM to follow through with the eviction process for those severely in arrears. BPM is allowing tenants who owe significant amounts up to two additional weeks beyond what the law requires to move out. We are also allowing them to leave, provided the premises are left in acceptable condition, with no money judgment and no strings attached, if they choose. We are also not objecting to any requests to seal evictions for those who have been filed against. BPM is faced with difficult choices. The backlog of evictions grew during a time when BPM first voluntarily, then by government order and even after its expiration, refrained from filing evictions. In all of 2021, less than 200 eviction actions were filed. The decision was made to process a large number of evictions, with the expectation that once tenants who have no hope of satisfying significant past due rent obligations have been evicted, the number of evictions filed out of necessity, will immediately and significantly drop. It is unfair to expect BPM, as a private business, to be deprived of the use of its property by allowing non-paying tenants to remain in residence. Those rents are needed to satisfy mortgage, tax, utility, and maintenance obligations that did not stop during the pandemic and continue to be due. BPM, like every other business owner, is entitled to be paid for the service it provides and these evictions are necessary to restore that. BPM will continue to provide safe, attractive professionally managed quality homes at affordable prices to its tenants. The rents paid by tenants will continue to allow BPM to improve neglected housing stock in areas of Milwaukee which suffer from a lack of capital investment.” Joe Goldberger, Attorney, BPM