What the CDC’s Eviction Moratorium Means for Wisconsin Landlords and Tenants

What the CDC’s Eviction Moratorium Means for Wisconsin Landlords and Tenants


On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control published an order putting a moratorium on evictions. This will have far reaching implications for landlords and tenants, and many people in Wisconsin are wondering what this means for them.


Let’s start at the beginning: what is the moratorium? In short, the moratorium prohibits landlords from evicting tenants through December 31, 2020.  However, this protection is not absolute. Landlords can evict tenants depending on the circumstances and landlords and tenants need to know when those exceptions apply.


The eviction moratorium applies to most, if not all, Wisconsin landlords. The moratorium prohibits landlords, owners of residential property, or anyone with the power to evict from evicting a tenant in most cases. This means that the moratorium applies to both people and companies, even if they do not own the property themselves (like property managers). The moratorium applies to you unless you live in an area that has an eviction moratorium with even more stringent restrictions. You will want to check with a local attorney to see whether this applies to you.


However, the eviction moratorium does not apply in all cases. It only applies to leases; therefore, people with mortgages are not protected by the moratorium from foreclosure. Furthermore, it only applies to residential leases. Business owners who rent their space and are unable to pay rent can still be evicted.


If you are in a situation where the eviction moratorium does apply (for example, the tenant is late on rent) the landlord is not allowed to remove the tenant or cause the tenant to be removed from the apartment. This is very broad language and means that everything from giving the tenant the initial 5- or 14-Day Notice to having a sheriff serve the Writ of Eviction is prohibited. It also applies to tenants in stipulated agreements.  If a tenant violated a stipulation agreement and the underlying eviction case was due to non-payment of rent, the tenant would likely not be evicted until January 1, 2021.


Finally, the eviction moratorium allows landlords to evict tenants for specific enumerated reasons. These include: (1) engaging in criminal activity while on the premises; (2) threatening the health or safety of other residents; (3) damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property; (4) violating any applicable, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or (5) violating any other contractual obligation, other than the timely payment of rent or similar housing-related payment (including non-payment or late payment of fees, penalties or interest. If one of these exceptions apply, landlords can still evict the tenant using the normal eviction procedure.


Tenants have certain responsibilities under the eviction moratorium. Tenants must sign a declaration prepared by the CDC. The declaration states that the tenant meets several requirements including that they have done their best to obtain government assistance for rent or housing; make less than $100,000 per year, are making partial payments, and will either need to move into a homeless shelter or will need to live with someone else if they are evicted. The declaration is signed under penalty of perjury. This means that the tenant commits a felony if they sign the form and any of the requirements are not met. It is the tenant’s responsibility to sign the declaration and return it to their landlord. The moratorium does not require landlords to tell the tenant about the moratorium, tell them about the declaration, or provide the tenant with the declaration.


In addition to signing the declaration, tenants must continue to pay rent. The eviction moratorium prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent or late fees; it does not prohibit landlords from charging rent or late fees. The past-due rent and any applicable fees or penalties will be due January 1, 2021. At that time, if the tenant is unable to pay their back rent in full, landlords can then begin an eviction.


Landlords should think carefully before violating the moratorium because there are severe penalties for violations. If an individual violates the order, they can be fined up to $100,000, sentenced to a year in jail, or both. If the violation results in death, the fine can be increased up to $250,000. If a company violates the moratorium, it can be fined up to $200,000 per event and up to $500,000 per event if the event results in death. This means that if you are a landlord who owns your properties in your own name, and you violate the moratorium, you face a fine up to $250,000 and a year in jail. If you are a landlord and operate an LLC who owns your properties, and violate the order, you risk being fined $500,000 per occurrence.


Many landlords and tenants have questions about how the eviction moratorium will affect them. Tenants may wonder whether the eviction moratorium will allow them to remain in their homes even if they fall behind on rent and landlords want to know their rights. Talking with an attorney can help shed light on this process. If you are a landlord or tenant looking for answers, calling an experienced attorney at Hale Skemp can be an excellent first step.


The information contained on this website is intended as an overview on subjects related to the practice of law. Each individual case is different, and laws do change, so please be aware that the circumstances and outcomes described may not apply to all cases and should not be interpreted as legal counsel. Please seek the advice of an attorney before making any decision related to legal issues.