By Peter Gorski
In Wisconsin, eviction filings are open records. The CCAP database (public court records) is open for scrutiny. This allows landlords to screen out housing applicants based on their history. An unfortunate consequence is that a cursory search will turn up any eviction filing, even if the tenant is not evicted. A filing can be completely frivolous, but unless the tenant knows how to navigate byzantine court procedures, they will have a 2-year record following them.
On the other hand, the open record nature of these filings also allows the public to monitor landlords, and see their eviction rates.
This article is based off of public data from the CCAP system. Cases were pulled using the ‘small claims – eviction’ class code (31004), selecting only those in La Crosse County and filtering dates beginning with January 1st, 2020 and going to December 31st 2020. Due to the limits of the CCAP search function, records must be pulled in 30-day intervals and opened individually to pull the plaintiff, defendant, and case outcome.
In pulling this data, there were a handful of select cases excluded. A few cases had information redacted or sealed, and were left out of the dataset. In addition, I excluded cases in which plaintiff and defendant shared an address in an effort to exclude issues within personal relationships and family.
Data Overview and Landlord Patterns
In 2020, 266 eviction cases were filed with 159 judgements for eviction. This gives us an eviction rate just shy of 60%. While eviction filings are the lowest seen since the 2010 mark of 373, 2020 also marks a high point in eviction rate at 59%, beating 2016’s rate of 58%.
Below is a table with the landlords with the highest number of cases and evictions for the year. Of the 266 cases documented, 112 landlords filed a single case. Just 6 landlords had 5 or more filings, and even at this top end of filers there is a clear front runner in River City Rentals LLC. River City is responsible for over 20% of filings, and responsible for just shy of 17% of evictions.
It is worth noting that many landlords are screening out tenants due to past eviction records, criminal records, credit checks, and other background checking services.
|Landlord||Evictions Filed (2020)||Judgements for Eviction (2020)|
|River City Rentals LLC||54||27|
|Property Logic LLC||10||2|
|Housing Authority for the City of La Crosse||9||5|
|Reliant Real Estate Services||8||7|
|Goehner Investments, LLC||7||4|
|Droullard, Andrew L||5||5|
CDC Eviction Moratorium Impact
The CDC imposed a moratorium on evictions starting on September 4, 2020. In simplified terms, this meant that landlords were not allowed to evict tenants if they were behind on rent and lost income due to the pandemic. Looking at the rate of filings and evictions, and assuming a normal distribution of filings throughout the year, we can see that the moratorium seems to have lowered both filings and evictions. The moratorium period of 9/4-12/31 accounts for 32.6% of the year, but only contained 27.4% of filings, and 26.4% of eviction rulings. Projecting out the eviction rate before the moratorium, we would expect 291 filings and 174 evictions. That leaves us with an estimated 25 filings and 15 evictions stopped by the moratorium.
It is worth noting that the moratorium received criticism from housing advocates as indirect and difficult to use. The moratorium was not automatically applied to cases, but instead relied on tenant enforcement. Tenants had to make a declaration to landlords to activate the protection. In addition, tenants had to declare that they had explored all avenues for assistance, and that they would pay all rent owed back upon expiration of the moratorium. That moratorium expired Sunday, August 1st but was quickly replaced by a new CDC moratorium through early Due to the nature of the moratoriums, it is executed as a private interaction between tenant and landlord. No NGO or government department is tracking the moratorium use, and so the number of households at risk due to an eventual expiration is all guesswork. We do have data showing millions of households behind on rent, with over 1,400 in La Crosse county. Regardless of the timing, whenever the moratoriums are permanently ended, every household will owe months or years of back rent. Without extensive rent relief programs and preemptive outreach to disburse funds before any moratorium expiration, an eviction wave is very likely.
Peter Gorski is a housing advocate working with Coulee Tenants United. You can find more info about them on their Facebook Page