Tenants, homeowners facing eviction during pandemic could possibly get an extension under federal law

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- An emergency order by Governor Tony Evers banning evictions and foreclosures for most properties will end on May 26, but legal experts say there may be a way for renters and homeowners to extend that if they’re facing hardship during the pandemic.

Lawyers tell CBS 58 tenants can possibly avoid being evicted until the end of July or even into August because of the federal CARES Act that essentially kicks in once the governor’s moratorium ends.

“We are anticipating an influx after that deadline passes,” said Joe Riepenhoff, a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee.

The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee says the federal ban on evictions goes until July 25 or maybe even August 23, but tenants will have to prove they’re covered starting the end of May.

“If an individual receives a notice or summons for an eviction, they can see then if their property qualifies for the federal protection,” says Riepenhoff.

Properties that qualify include public housing, voucher programs, tax incentive programs or private mortgages backed by the federal government, and can all be found using a database.

If a landlord still takes you to small claims court, Reipenhoff says respond immediately.

“You want to raise that issue to the commissioner right away that this property is covered by the CARES Act, this is a federally backed property and I don’t think I should be able to be evicted at least until that grace period has ended,” adds Riepenhoff.

Meanwhile, the Apartment Association of Southeast Wisconsin says for landlords it’s been a scary time, and when tenants don’t communicate, it makes it difficult.

“If I feel you’re being open in an attempt to communicate to me and being honest with me I’ll work with you, if you disappear on me it’s like walking down a dark alley, you don’t know what’s out there and you don’t know what the tenant’s feeling,” said Ron Hegwood, President of the Apartment Association of Southeast Wisconsin.

Hegwood is encouraging landlords and tenants to use mediating services, and ask tenants to reach out to 2-1-1 for help. Still, communication is important, because after the federal moratorium ends, Riepenhoff says standard eviction laws apply.

“We’re trying to get the people to talk to tenants and tenants to talk to people on a professional level and not an argumentative level, which we think will work well,” adds Hegwood.

“Keep communications lines open with your landlord, try to talk through things, and try to come to an agreement,” said Riepenhoff. “You do have an obligation to pay your rent even during these moratoriums so it’s best to talk to them first.”

Reipenhoff says for properties not covered by the federal moratorium, it’s a good idea to get an analysis by an attorney.

The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee has an intake form for this issue here.

To check if your property is protected from evictions by the federal government, click here.

For more databases that can be used to search separately to see if a private mortgage would qualify for the protection click here and here.

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