Some evictions filed in La Crosse as federal moratorium ends

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Landlords filed four eviction cases in La Crosse County on Monday after the federal eviction moratorium because of the pandemic was lifted Saturday.

Being evicted can have a lasting effect, said Kevin Kohler, an attorney at nonprofit law firm Legal Action of Wisconsin. But there are solutions for those facing rent nonpayment.

“Going forward, it can affect your credit rating if there’s an eviction, it can affect your ability to find housing,” Kohler said.

In his work at the firm, Kohler assists some clients with housing-related problems.

“I think right now I’ve got over 20 (eviction) cases, and they’re not solely for nonpayment of rent,” Kohler said.

While the moratorium was in place, eviction cases still went on for other reasons, such as noise complaints and unauthorized guests.

Some landlords still filed rent-related evictions, but they had to wait for the cases to go to court. Kohler said that at least half of those 20 cases were rent-related and could not go through during the moratorium.

When renters can’t afford to pay, landlords are also unable to pay for what they need to house their tenants.

“We still have to continue to pay our mortgage payments, our taxes, our insurance bill, our maintenance, our water bill, our sewer bill, our account for vacancy and bigger capital expenditure,” said real estate agent Austin Siewert. “All of those things don’t stop.”

Siewert added that landlords want to help renters remain in their units, calling communication one of the most important parts of a landlord-tenant relationship.

Both Siewert and Kohler suggested that those who are struggling to pay rent should set up payment plans with landlords, while Siewert suggested tenants work with the landlord to find a more affordable property,

“We’re all real people and we all want to help each other,” Siewert said. “We don’t want to have to evict anybody.”

Though the moratorium has ended, assistance is still available. Couleecap is one of 16 community action agencies in Wisconsin helping deliver emergency rental assistance for low-income families.

Kohler said that eligible tenants also may not realize that they can receive up to 12 months of emergency rental assistance.

“I don’t think it does anybody any good to have a high number of potentially homeless families,” Kohler said.