MILWAUKEE - A 60-day ban on evictions and foreclosures in Wisconsin is set to expire. Starting Wednesday, May 27, landlords can officially serve tenants with a notice of eviction for not paying their rent.
"We only have capacity to handle so many cases," said Judge Pedro Colon. "All indications are that there's going to be a very large number of cases."
Colon's courtroom has moved from the Milwaukee County Courthouse to Zoom. The video conferencing platform is where he will hear eviction cases after Emergency Order 15 -- a temporary ban on evictions and foreclosures -- expires.
Starting May 27, landlords can once again serve tenants with eviction notices for failure to pay rent.
"I think there is going to be a tsunami of evictions filed, which is going to jam up the courts pretty good for a while," said Nick Toman, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee.
The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee says that calls for free legal advice about rent have tripled in recent weeks.
"People who know they're not good on rent or struggling to get caught up," Toman said.
In Milwaukee County, evictions hearings will resume on Thursday, May 28 -- starting with the 300 cases that were filed before the moratorium went into effect. However, Colon says new cases may not be heard in Milwaukee County until late June or early July.
"The shortest notice of eviction is five days. If you put that in the mail, that's seven days," said Colon. "Then you have five days for the person to comply."
Depending on the volume of cases filed, court hearing may be delayed, too.
"You do not have to wait until you get a five-day eviction notice to get help. You know, if you're struggling and you need temporary rent assistance, the sooner the better," Deb Heffner with Community Advocates said.
Tenants can call Community Advocates in Milwaukee for financial help. Many, around 100 calls a day according to Heffner, already are.
Even with the ban expiring, some tenants cannot be evicted. The federal CARES Act protects people in public housing through July.
"We recommend people get in touch with us at Legal Aid so that we can look into the details of their rent unit," said Toman.
Colon says 80-90% of his cases involve the working poor -- people who are more likely to be affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic -- which is why he recommends mediation whenever possible.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office executes writs of eviction in Milwaukee County. Colon says he will review about 30 writes he stayed when the moratorium went into effect to see if they're affected by the CARES Act, which was passed after the state's ban.