Milwaukee -- A Harvard professor's study showed domestic violence victims faced evictions under the city's nuisance ordinance in the past. That ordinance changed a few years ago so people can't be evicted based on domestic violence. But if the Milwaukee Police Department finds three or more nuisance calls at a certain residence, it can demand the landlord take action to fix the problem.
"The problem is domestic violence calls," Carmen Pitre said. "9-11 calls don't come across as domestic violence always."
Pitre from Sojourner Family Peace Center thinks a city code is another unnecessary layer domestic violence victims face.
"Victims don't always want to talk about what's happening because they're afraid, they're ashamed, or for safety reasons."
That's where the city nuisance ordinance becomes an issue for victims.
"These crimes happen in private," Pitre said. "There's a lot of isolation that goes into it and usually when someone comes forward, the violence increases."
Leaving a victim in a situation of violence, with the potential to lose their home. It also creates problems for landlords.
If there's multiple calls, a landlord must put together a plan to stop the problem. But if they aren't aware it's a domestic violence situation, they're stuck trying to appease police, other tenants, and the victim.
"The landlord is stuck between a rock and a hard place," Attorney Tristan Pettit said.
Pettit represents landlords for cases like this.
He says the landlord is obligated to protect other building tenants too.
"They are stuck trying to appease the police who are asking them to kind of do something that's not in their wheelhouse," Pettit said. "But yet they also know this law is telling me I shouldn't be evicting people for domestic violence and two, the courts may not go along with this."
That's why Pitre says victims can work with a landlord to move past these incidents.
"Sometimes that includes staying, talking to the landlord, helping them understand what's happening," Pitre said.
The Harvard professor who studied this in Milwaukee said he'd like to see a follow-up to see if there's data to backup the code change because domestic violence can mean multiple things.