The federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire. The moratorium, passed in late March as part of the federal CARES act, temporarily blocked evictions on federally-subsidized properties.
Lolita Phillips is a Community Partner with the Madison-based Tenant Resource Center and Ina’ Streets, a group that helps tenants navigate the eviction process.
She says that ending the federal moratorium now, before the full economic impact of the pandemic has run its course, could seriously impact Madison’s at-risk populations.
“I just hope that some more funding comes about, so people can continue to get help. COVID is not changing, things are escalating. So people are afraid, they’re not going back to work. They can’t go back to work, so that means they can’t get their bills paid,” she says. “I’m hearing people crying on the phone. I wasn’t hearing that at first, I was seeing stuff on the news, but now that people are calling my phone, it’s more personal.”
Under the Dane County ban, landlords could still file for eviction, but the process would be on hold until the courts resumed.
Since the end of the statewide evictions moratorium in May, Eviction Courts have resumed operations online. Heidi Wegleitner, a tenant rights attorney with Legal Action of Wisconsin, says that navigating the new evictions court system has been a challenge.
“It’s been a very confusing landscape for sure; with shifting information, laws and dates and protections. While the [state’s] moratorium was in place, things were relatively stable,” she says.
Wegleitner also adds that, in spite of the federal moratorium, many landlords have continued serving eviction notices to tenants. She says that the federal moratorium, in theory, protects a third to one quarter of tenants from eviction.
“So even though there’s this federal law that protects tenants, you wouldn’t really notice because they’re still filing in Dane County at a rate equivalent or higher to where we would’ve been a year ago,” she says.
In addition to federal and state-level programs, Dane County has also contributed ten million dollars towards eviction prevention. The county has partnered with the Tenant Resource Center to distribute the funds.
According to Robin Sereno, President of the Tenant Resource Center, in the one month since the program was announced, they’ve already run through a significant portion of the funding.
In an average year, the county will see about 2300 eviction filings. This year, the Tenant Resource Center predicts that number will spike to between six to twelve thousand cases.
“That program opened June 15th for applications,” Sereno says. “At this point, we’ve put out nearly five million dollars in rental assistance out into the community and have a fairly large chunk of the rest of the ten million dollars accounted for.”
In late May, shortly before the end of the state’s moratorium, Governor Evers announced that the state would be providing an additional $25 million to assist with fighting evictions throughout the state through the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program.
Despite the state and county’s aid, Sereno says that the Tenant Resource Center is bracing for a spike in eviction rates when the federal moratorium ends this weekend.
“People with Section 8 vouchers, in subsidized housing that are the lowest income, the first to be laid off and the last to be called back; we fully anticipate a large spike in evictions of those folks.”