Wisconsin's Temporary Ban on Evictions and Foreclosures Due to COVID-19

On March 27, 2020, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued a “Temporary Ban on Evictions and Foreclosures.” This Order bans most residential and commercial evictions and foreclosures through May 26, 2020. To see the full Order click here.

What can landlords do and not do during the ban?

All Wisconsin landlords are prohibited from doing the following through May 26, 2020:

  • serve any notice to terminate a tenancy for failure to pay rent;
  • commence an eviction proceeding for failure to pay rent; and
  • deliver a writ of restitution to a sheriff

However, while this Order is in place, there are two ways in which landlords are allowed to commence an eviction action. A landlord may:

  • evict a tenant or terminate a lease on the basis that the tenant is an imminent threat of serious physical harm to another person; and
  • sue a tenant for upaid rent, likely through commencing an action in small claims court.

While not in the Order, the lawyers at Murphy Desmond suggest the following with regard to landlords dealing with nonpayment of rent during this time:

  • Landlords should review leases and note when they end;
  • Get in touch with your tenants to better understand their situation;
  • Help create a payment plan with your tenants during this time to ensure they meet the full obligation of the lease.

What should tenants know?

This Order does not release tenants from their financial obligations. Many Americans will be receiving a payment from the U.S. Government under the CARES Act. The Act is a $2 trillion economic stimulus to help relieve individuals, businesses, and state and local governments of financial setbacks due to COVID-19. In theory, this money could help some tenants with the ability to pay their rent.

For tenants unable to meet their rent obligation currently, it is recommended they work with landlords on a payment plan or other means to pay the full rent at a later date.

Remember, many landlords need to make mortgage payments on the property. If they become unable to make those payments, they may also lose the property. Additionally, do not rely on the fact that landlords cannot commence eviction actions or terminate leases due to failure to make rent. Eventually, landlords will be able to start filing these claims again and courts will begin processing them, as well.

For tenants who have lost their jobs and are enrolled in federal assistance programs like Section 8, it recommended that you report in writing to your program or landlord that you’ve lost income so that rent can be adjusted.

What does this Order mean for mortgagees?

Under this Order, mortgagees may not:

  • commence a civil action to foreclose upon real estate;
  • require or schedule a sheriff’s sale of the mortgaged premises.

The Order also bans sheriffs from acting on any Order of foreclosure and executing any writ of assistance related to a foreclosure.

Under this Order, mortgagees may:

  • still foreclose against abandoned property under Wisconsin Statute § 846.102;
  • still continue with the litigation process (as long as they are following the restrictions mentioned) if a mortgagee commenced a civil action to foreclose upon real estate before this Order became effective.

How does the Order affect borrowers with a mortgage?

Gov. Evers has temporarily banned the commencement of foreclosure actions against borrowers until at least May 27, 2020. However, individuals are not relieved of their obligations to make mortgage payments.

The attorneys at Murphy Desmond urge individuals to reach out to their lenders if they are unable to pay their mortgage during COVID-19. Many financial institutions, such as Bank of America, are allowing borrowers to defer loan payments through an application process.

Communication and collaboration between mortgagees and mortgagors will be important in the months to come. Working together to reach agreements will help build and grow relationships.

Real estate lawyers helping with landlord/tenant and borrower/lender matters

For questions about Gov. Evers’ Order or other real estate matters during COVID-19, please email Murphy Desmond lawyers at email@murphydesmond.com or call 608.257.7181. We are here to help.

Revised April 6, 2020