Milwaukee family of 4 evicted despite national COVID-19 eviction moratorium

MILWAUKEE (WISN) - A Milwaukee family of four with one on the way was evicted from their home by their landlord, despite the national eviction moratorium. Now, they are struggling to find another place to live amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Terrence and Jamie Holmes say they were giving their 1-year-old a bath Tuesday when deputies with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department knocked on their door.

“They showed me some paper, but they never put it in my hand… [They] said, 'Y’all got 30 minutes to get out, you know what I mean? It’s not our problem that you don’t have any place to go,” Terrence Holmes said.

The Holmeses, who have two kids and one on the way, say their landlord won’t accept any rent, and they are struggling to find a new place to live.

“It’s scary. We have nowhere to go, so now, we’re at risk [for coronavirus]. I’m six-and-a-half months pregnant, and I have a 1-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter,” Jamie Holmes said.

Though the Wisconsin hold on evictions has expired, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instituted a national eviction moratorium on Sept. 4 that lasts through the end of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“You know what, I’m telling you in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the sheriff’s department, they list that there is no restrictions,” said the Holmeses' landlord by phone. “If there was a restriction, I could not have done it.”

Evictions for failure to pay rent are legal if the tenants do not sign a declaration, citing the CDC moratorium, which the Holmeses didn’t know about. The matter has reportedly been back and forth in the courts since April.

“Judges are very careful about not giving legal advice. This is also a dilemma. Judges are there to judge. They’re not supposed to give legal advice, but a judge is also obligated to make sure that everyone understands what they’re doing,” attorney Joseph Seifert said.

The Holmeses say they plan on issuing a declaration now to try to get back into their home.

The CDC moratorium is only applicable if there are no serious breaches in the lease other than failure to pay the full rent. If a landlord can prove to a judge the tenant breached the lease, such as with drug activity or property damage, the moratorium no longer applies, and the tenant can be evicted.

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