This year started with a surge in eviction filings that caused a ripple effect impacting the court system, tenants and potential relocation attempts.
This was not the first time many Milwaukeeans have experienced eviction or had bad experiences with landlords and property owners.
But there are ways to check out landlords before renting, local housing experts say.
According to MKE Evict, there have been more than 2,500 eviction filings this year alone.
It offers tips on how tenants can check the backgrounds of landlords and property owners when looking for a new residence.
There are caveats, however.
“It’s important to note that even if you take all of these steps, it may not paint the full picture of who the person or company is,” said Raphael Ramos, Legal Action of Wisconsin’s Eviction Defense Project director.
Legal Action advocates for low-income residents facing evictions and other legal difficulties.
1. Start with a Google search
Robert Penner, an organizer of the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union, said a good way to start is by doing a quick Google search.
“Reading a few Google reviews can help you get a feel for the company you plan to rent from,” he said.
The Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union organizes to challenge evictions, makes tenants aware of their rights and sometimes takes on negligent landlords.
2. Do a property search
If you aren’t planning to rent from a large property owner, Penner said a property search is one way to go.
“You can check the property data on the City of Milwaukee website,” he said. “If you click the city assessor’s link, that’ll tell you about any code violations the home may have.”
Penner said the site will also give you the property owner’s name so that you can do a background check on them as well.
A property data search will tell you when code violations occurred and if they were addressed, as well as street and parking information for the area, schools in the area, the nearest fire and police stations and where you can vote.
3. Use public court records
Noting another avenue of inquiry, Penner said, “You can use CCAP to find information on evictions and other court records on the property owner.”
Anyone can access CCAP to find public court records through the site.
4. Find out how often landlord evicts
Ramos said you can check how often a landlord or property owner evicts by using the MKE Evict site.
The site has data on evictions from 2016 to now and can tell you how often an eviction has occurred and the outcome of the eviction.
“Fewer evictions are usually better,” he said.
Penner said to make this practice easy you should bookmark these tools on your phone or computer.
“I know it can be time-consuming,” Penner said. “But spending that hour or so doing a little research can be helpful.”
More resources for tenants
Ramos said tenant training programs through the Department of Neighborhood Services are helpful tools to use when renting.
The Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union connects tenants to resources and helps tenants educate and advocate for themselves
Rental Housing Resource Center is streamlining housing services for people in need of education, assistance or legal help.