Jan. 20, 2021 – In response to COVID-19, state and federal governments imposed eviction moratoriums to protect tenants for failure to pay rent. The State Bar caught up with two landlord-tenant lawyers to discuss where those moratoriums stand today.
Both Tristan Pettit and U.W. Clinical Law Professor Mitch, in addition to their representation of landlord-tenant clients, are co-authors of the recently released Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Manual, published by State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE.™
In the following video interviews, Pettit and Prof. Mitch discuss continuing eviction moratoriums from the landlord and tenant perspectives, and discuss the new book, which covers key areas of residential landlord tenant law, including:
- Screening and qualifying prospective tenants
- Use of rental documents
- Property owners’ and tenants’ responsibility for maintaining a rental unit
- Termination of a tenancy
- Attempting to collect on a judgment after a tenancy has ended
Eviction Moratoriums with Tristan Pettit (Landlord Perspective)
Tristan Pettit of Petrie + Pettit S.C., Milwaukee, concentrates his practice in the area of landlord-tenant law, representing landlords and property management companies.
He notes that a state eviction moratorium has expired but a federal moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been extended.
The CDC has extended the nationwide eviction moratorium until at least March 31, 2021.
“Essentially, it prohibits certain kinds of evictions from being filed. So if a landlord has been served with a declaration by the tenant attesting to meeting several conditions, then they cannot bring a failure to pay rent eviction,” Pettit said.
He noted that landlords can still bring eviction actions for non-rent breaches of lease agreements. ‘It’s a learning lesson. Things are changing day by day, and every county is treating things a little differently,” Pettit noted.
Pettit says landlords can encourage tenants to apply for various rental assistance programs to help them pay rent and help tenants facilitate that. He said there are assistance programs, at least in the Milwaukee area that can help.
“The problem is if the tenants are not cooperative,” he said. “There’s not a lot you can do. You have to wait it out. Obviously that’s a problem for landlords because their bills continue to become due and they don’t have a moratorium.”
Pettit said the most recent stimulus bill included $25 billion allocated for rental housing and that money should start being distributed today (Jan. 20, 2021).
“Once that’s available, that should be very helpful for landlords,” said Pettit, noting that landlords themselves can fill out the applications on behalf of the tenant.
Eviction Moratoriums with U.W. Clinical Law Professor Mitch (Tenant Perspective)
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U.W. Law Clinical Law Professor Mitch, directs the of the law school’s clinical programs and serves and director and supervising attorney for the Neighborhood Law Clinic, which represents tenants on housing issues.
Since the CDC-imposed eviction moratorium for non-payment of rent, Prof. Mitch says evictions have significantly decreased from the normal level.
“But we are seeing a lot of folks being evicted for what’s called a non-renewal,” Mitch said. “This is someone whose lease term is up. At the end of the lease, a lot of lessor’s are not renewing the lease and that is leading people into distress.”
Mitch also noted a number of assistance programs including the new funding allotment through extension of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
‘Those payments can go directly to rental owners as long as they are working with renters. Unfortunately we have heard from some renters who have indicated that their property owners don’t want to work with them to access those funds,” Mitch said.
Prof. Mitch whenever the eviction moratorium is lifted, expects that an influx of eviction actions will be filed if tenants cannot pay accrued rent. He encourages landlords and tenants to work together to access funds that are available for rental assistance.
“They should lobby for more rental assistance. Lessors and lessees are like businesses and customers. The business cannot exist if customers aren’t paying,” he said.
“Rather than seeing it as an adversarial situation, lessors and lessees need to work together to sustain the rental housing market.”
More on the Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Manual
Practice tools. The Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Manual is chock-full of sample forms, including numerous Wisconsin Legal Blank forms authored by attorney Tristan Pettit, and many Wisconsin court forms and guides. The chapters also contain many helpful practice tips. Especially for attorneys who address landlord-tenant issues on an infrequent basis, this book is the ideal easy reference to keep on hand.
Real-world experience. The Manual provides both landlord and tenant perspectives so that you know how best to move forward. To the extent possible, the Manual provides practical knowledge and discussion of the differences among counties in applying state landlord-tenant law and local ordinances.
Accessible to all audiences. Attorneys and non-attorneys alike can benefit from this book. Written in plain English, the book will inform non-attorneys of their rights and responsibilities and spell out a course of action for addressing the issue at hand. From college students to property management employees, the book can help answer questions such as:
- What do you do if your landlord refuses to make a repair?
- What must a landlord do when a tenant leaves property behind in the rental unit?
- What are lawful reasons for keeping a tenant’s deposit after they vacate a property?
- When must you have an attorney represent your interests in court?
Also included is a glossary that explains basic landlord-tenant terms.
Whether you’re handling your first eviction case, devote a large part of your legal practice to landlord-tenant law, regularly work with tenants, or are a tenant with questions about your rights and responsibilities, you’ll benefit from the Wisconsin Landlord & Tenant Manual’s comprehensive overview of the residential rental process.