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  • Inside Track
    September 15, 2021

    Q&A: Eviction Mediation Resources for Tenants and Landlords

    Christopher Cody Shattuck

    Sept. 15, 2021 – In late August, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a nationwide eviction moratorium that was put in place by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The decision will likely spark an increase in eviction actions across the country in the coming months. But there are resources for tenants facing evictions, as well as mediation services that allow tenants and landlords to resolve disputes together.

    In this video, Amy Koltz, executive director of Mediate Wisconsin – which specializes in housing mediation – talks about the eviction moratorium, how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision impacts Wisconsinites moving forward, and the resources available.

    Below is an abridged transcript of the interview, conducted by Christopher Shattuck, the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Law Practice Assistance Manager (Practice 411™).

    Where are we with the eviction moratorium?

    Just briefly for some background, since the start of the pandemic there have been various federal and state moratoria limiting either the filing of an eviction like with the state moratorium in 2020 or limiting the entry of a judgment of eviction under certain circumstances.

    The federal CDC moratorium required a tenant to provide a declaration to their landlord attesting that certain circumstances applied to their situation and impacted their ability to pay full rent, but also indicating they were taking measurements to try and obtain federal assistance that was available to cover any shortfall.

    The original CDC moratorium had many extensions that ultimately ended July

    31st of this year. However, on Aug. 3, the CDC issued a new version of the moratorium limited to counties with a substantial or high rate of COVID transmission, which covered individuals from Aug. 3.

    It was anticipated to end Oct. 3. But ultimately, the Supreme Court decided the CDC had exceeded its authority and that ban ended on Aug. 26.

    Are you seeing an uptick in eviction filings since the decision?

    Our organization doesn't directly monitor eviction filings but we are on bi-weekly calls with Milwaukee County Circuit Court personnel and other stakeholders interested in eviction diversion.

    Anecdotally we've heard there's been an uptick but not the huge wave of evictions some have been projecting and that probably has something to do with the fact that there are several resources that are available for tenants

    What resources available to help renters?

    First and foremost, renters should be aware that there continue to be state and local funds available that have come through the federal government but that are available for rental assistance.

    In Wisconsin, the various cap agencies have funds to help people with past due rent and in some circumstances be able to pay some forward going rent currently with the funds that are available.

    If someone has a covered related income loss they could qualify for 12 to 15 months of rental assistance – again either past due or future – so the funds are still there and we really encourage people to seek those out.

    Additionally, there is legal help through civil legal aid services like Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Legal Action Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare, as well as other organizations like the Milwaukee Justice Center and the Wisconsin Free Legal Answer site.

    Resources along those lines to help people, particularly tenants, understand their legal rights and possibly get represented in an eviction hearing.

    Additionally, there are mediation services available as well. We currently offer mediation to help landlords and tenants avoid preventable evictions in Milwaukee

    County, but we are also adding services and surrounding counties as well.

    Tell us about your organization and how mediation is a good solution for landlords?

    In terms of how mediation can benefit landlords – and we see it in tenants as well – oftentimes conflicts or disputes arise just generally speaking when there are unmet expectations or failure to communicate effectively.

    Oftentimes, we see when people aren't able to make their rent or if there are repair issues or – the list can go on – that can cause people to have either some fear, apprehension, or shame or anger and frustration.

    They can't engage effectively and trying to find solutions through mediation is really what we. We open lines of communication help connect individuals with available  resources and just work more effectively to finding a solution that that works for both the landlords and tenants.

    We've had a high level of buy-in and use of mediation in Milwaukee County by

    landlords and, in particular, the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin really promotes the use of mediation as a first step when there are problems.

    It’s about really trying to keep eviction through the court process as a last resort rather than an initial step to try and engage with that tenant. If they engage in mediation from the outset, options and opportunity for settlement are much greater.

    We come in as neutrals. In our role as mediators, we don't judge. We're not here to

    Advocate. We really are here to give folks a forum, so to speak, and an opportunity to engage effectively and be heard, understanding that there are always two perspectives that landlords and tenants need each other.

    In any circumstance, what we're looking for is can this partnership continue or does it need to end. And if it needs to end, how can we do so in a way that least damaging to both parties.

    If people are interested in mediation, we do have a request form for landlords and a request form for tenants on our website at Mediate Wisconsin. That's the easiest way to apply.

    Can folks request foreclosure mediation services?

    We do offer foreclosure mediation and have been doing so since 2009. But we expanded our operations into a statewide network called the Wisconsin

    Foreclosure Mediation Network in about 2012 and through that we collaborated with some more local organizations to provide mediation services.

    That foreclosure mediation is really available throughout the state of Wisconsin. In some counties, there is a local rule or order requiring the mortgage company to notify defendants in a foreclosure action that mediation services are available

    But in some counties, that isn't a requirement. Either way, people can reach out to seek mediation help for foreclosure through our website at Mediate Wisconsin.

    Is there a need for volunteer mediators and how can folks sign up to do that?

    We do use volunteer attorney mediators. If someone is interested in

    learning more about that, they can reach out to our office and the email address that's best to use is

    Related: The Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Manual

    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.

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