Surge of eviction filings by Berrada Properties overwhelms court system
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee County Court system is being overwhelmed by a recent surge of eviction filings, largely because of one landlord.
Berrada Properties Management, Inc. has submitted more than 800 eviction filings in the last few weeks, bringing the number of cases in front of eviction courts above pre-pandemic levels for a typical month.
"By filing all of these at once they really have just overloaded the system," Nick Toman of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee told CBS 58. "And it's going to be difficult for the courts and for the individuals and for the agencies who are trying to help and make the best of this to handle it."
With federal and state eviction moratoriums expired, agencies like Legal Aid Society and Community Advocates expected the number of eviction cases to rise. But they were surprised by the hundreds of filings submitted by Berrada in a short amount of time.
Berrada Properties is headed by Youseff Berrada. Last Year, CBS 58 reported how the state Department of Justice filed a civil enforcement action against Berrada alleging Berrada and his company were responsible for a number of landlord-tenant infractions, including alleged illegal provisions made to standard rental agreements, failure to make repairs, and forcing tenants to pay legal fees among other issues. Berrada denied wrongdoing.
Joe Goldberger, an attorney for Berrada's company, sent CBS 58 a statement reading, in part, "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."
The statement continued, "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."
For agencies like Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, there is now a race to help address the issue before it becomes worse. That includes helping with legal representation and resources like rental assistance.
"People need to contact Eviction Free MKE or Legal Aid as quickly as possible if they're facing eviction so that we can help get them connected with those resources and figure out what defenses they may have as soon as possible, because we're facing a huge influx in people seeking our help as well," Toman said.
If you or someone you know is facing eviction, here are resources that can help:
The 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