Dec 30

Matt Desmond author of EVICTED often claims “the rent eats first.”

However, the truth is municipal governments are first at the table for that rent check, with their ever-increasing property taxes, sewer and water bills, those extras that are attached to the water bills as well as all the special assessments added to the tax bills.

Municipal governments also are the ones who will be paid even if you don’t and even ahead of the mortgage holder.

If rents increased year over year the same 9-286% as the city taxes, there would be rioting in the streets. There are a lot of news articles where there has been outrage at modest rent increases because that is not what one expects in an economic downturn.

However, owners will have to raise rents substantially to cover these tax increases. Add to that the reduction in rent collected many owners are experiencing this year and 8-20% rent increases will be required just to maintain the financial position of last year.

When costs exceeds the property’s income, the property will eventually fail. If this happens on a widespread basis, all tenants will be harmed and face much higher rents in the future.

Dec 22

“I  don’t think a landlord should be expected to shoulder the burden of taking care of a property for several months or a year,” when a tenant stops paying rent, said Dawn Anastasi, a landlord who owns 18 properties on the northwest side of Milwaukee. “It’s not the tenant’s fault, but it’s not the landlord’s fault either.”

Even with the rent assistance, landlords will be left holding the bag for much of the unpaid rent, predicted Tim Ballering, treasurer of the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin.

“The unpaid rent will never be paid, let’s be honest about that,” Ballering said, noting that even when a tenant is evicted the landlord seldom collects the past due rent. 

As a result, Ballering, who is also a landlord, predicted a spike in the number of local landlords who sell their properties to large absentee rental companies.

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Ballering asked. “That depends on your views. Do you think that the small American farmer being driven out by large corporate farmers is a good thing?”

Heiner Giese, attorney for the association, said the $25 billion in rent assistance will be helpful though he agreed it would likely only last a couple of months.

Giese noted that the federal bill will allow landlords to file for rent assistance, unlike other rent assistance programs that require the tenant to apply

Giese, who is also a landlord, said he has seen cases where tenants signed the required CDC declaration that protected them from eviction but then did not apply for any rent assistance.

“They would just say he’s going to evict me anyway, so screw it,” Giese said.

Dec 20

How do landlords think unemployed people will pay rent?:

…an average of 8% of renters don’t pay rent in normal times. During the coronavirus crisis to date, that share has gone up to 15 to 20% of renters not paying.

“But generally, I think we need a better approach instead of just pitting owners versus tenants,” he says. Both the tenants and landlords need some larger, holistic fix from the government that acknowledges that there just isn’t as much money flowing through the system as there should be.

Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, Moody’s Analytics warns. Last month, 9 million renters said they were behind on rent, according to a Census Bureau survey.   

The over $70 Billion in unpaid rent, as reported by Moody’s will cripple many housing providers and will cause a housing crisis that will impact both tenants and municipalities for years, if not decades.  In May of 2020 Milwaukee property values finally recovered from the 2008 Great Recession. 

Less than 2.5% of rent judgments are paid in Milwaukee County five years after the eviction.  And eviction judgments represent only a small fraction of the unpaid rent.  In surveying owners, we see on a high end 42% of their lost rent is included in eviction judgments, with most owners reporting less than 10%.  Some owners never pursue money judgments. So the million dollars a month in eviction judgments represent somewhere between $28.5 million to $100 million a year in money that should go into housing but does not.  I peg the number at least to be $48 Million a year in lost rent in one county.  This is just insane. 

The right answer is for the government to step up to the plate and create a portable housing voucher to cover a portion, to all, of the rent /housing costs for people below a certain income, similar to food stamps.

Instead, the government pits tenants against landlords in a zero-sum game where one must lose for the other to win. In the end, this makes housing more expensive or limits choices.

This has been a problem long before COVID. In 1991 I was interviewed by the New York Times on evictions. I asked the reporter, “On $574 a month, how do you buy tennis shoes for the kids, clean shirts for school, and still pay your rent?” Nothing has changed much since then. $574 was the AFDC (now W2) payment amount. Twenty years later in an NYT interview, my comment was basically the same:

“On $673 a month, how do you buy tennis shoes for the kids, clean shirts for school and still pay your rent?” Mr. Ballering said.” 

Some suggest canceling mortgages and rents, thinking that this equivalent and will prevent the economic failure of housing.  Sadly, it will not.

The average mortgage payment is 36-39% of gross income. The average owner earns 7-9% of gross income for their investment of capital, financial risks, and physical efforts.  If you stop mortgage and rent payments, as well as prevent owners from being paid for their investment and efforts, there is still 52-57% of gross rent that is needed to cover other operating costs such as sewer, water, property taxes, maintenance, insurance, etc.

In Milwaukee, for most properties, the City takes a far bigger cut of the rent in property taxes, and sewer/water bills, than the owner gets to keep.

If you read the Brookings report, you will see this plus the “local economic multiplier” effect of wages and other monies expended by owners.

The Census Bureau reported in 2018 that, on average, every unit generates almost $1,200 in wages. Those wages, the property tax money, etc, circulate throughout the community many times over.

Here’s what scholars believe will happen if there is a moratorium without rental assistance; It goes into the economic impact on housing and the cost borne by other current and future tenants. It is an informative read.

Dec 19

I am hearing from more and more owners who are not paying their mortgages, utilities, and even fire insurance because they can’t, due to uncollected rent.  Maintenance was the first casualty.  

If you are facing similar problems and would be willing to share with your elected officials and or the media, please email me. Tim[at]

If landlords are struggling, tenants will also be affected as home maintenance slides.

“I’m seeing landlords who can’t pay for trash removal,” Gray said. “We’re getting ‘no heat’ calls. They aren’t paying real estate taxes. They aren’t paying their mortgage.”

For the typical landlord in trouble, which he said is someone who bought their property in the last five years and is leveraged to the hilt, there are no reserves. “Despite tenant protection laws, these landlords don’t have the cash reserves, nor the equity in their building to get loans,” he said. “With the moratoriums, they’re taking hit after hit.”

Some landlords, he said, are being paid less and seeing the wear and tear on their property increase as grown children or friends double up after losing their own housing. Routine maintenance that was supposed to take place this year has in some cases been delayed or canceled because landlords just don’t have the money, said Gray.

“They can legislate the need to do timely repairs,” he said. “But for many landlords, there is no money.”

Dec 08

Before the COVID crisis, I was unaware that pre-filing eviction mediation was an option and only vaguely aware that mediation was an option during an eviction case. Many of our evictions resulted in stipulated dismissals, as do 46% of the evictions in Milwaukee County.

We learned of Mediate Milwaukee simultaneously through the Apartment Association’s collaborative work with Community Advocates, Legal Aid, and Legal Action; as well as my staff researching information for our tenant resource page at

Near the end of the moratorium, my company tried Mediate Milwaukee with two tenants that were three or more months behind in rent.

The resulting agreements were similar to what we would have accepted in a stipulated dismissal, with the added benefit of someone knowledgeable being there to help the tenant navigate funding options and assistance applications.

Based on our initial positive results, Affordable Rental Associates implemented a new internal policy. Before filing an eviction for non-payment, we refer the tenants to Mediate Milwaukee. Mediation first is now a standard business practice and will continue beyond the COVID crisis and moratoriums.

Pre-filing mediation benefits everyone. 

  • Tenants avoid having an eviction on their record, often with similar or more extended payment agreements than they would receive in a stipulated dismissal. 
  • Landlords benefit as they avoid the cost of eviction, and tenants who work with Mediate can better navigate funding options that allow them to stay in the unit, avoiding vacancies and rerenting costs to owners. 
  • The Court benefits by a reduction in caseload, many of which are ultimately settled by stipulation.
  • We all benefit from the reduction in conflict. It was pleasantly surprising that some previously rude tenants became polite to my staff during mediation.
  • Plus, tenants and owners who enter into mediation will avoid the need to debate in Court whether a CDC declaration is factual.
  • Where needed, we have utilized Mediate Milwaukee to re-engage with tenants when issues arise with compliance with an agreement, often stabilizing the situation.

If mediation is explored early in the delinquency, there is little to no downside for the property owner. There are also, albeit lesser, benefits to both parties with post-filing mediation. Nonetheless, it can often result in a continued tenancy or at least a more agreeable move-out. While court-connected mediation will continue to be of value to all parties, the real opportunity for change is to promote pre-filing mediation as the first option to eviction for the Milwaukee rental owner community. It could cause a paradigm shift for the benefit of all. 

The Apartment Association of Southeastern WI, which I’ve been a board member of for over three decades, has become a strong proponent of mediation benefits. We had a general membership meeting on October 1st to encourage owners to try mediation as an alternative to eviction.

There have also been many recent articles on the use of mediation for eviction prevention in other communities. One that I found interesting was

Dec 08

We are trying to get a handle on what percentage of uncollected rent is not reflected in eviction judgments.  Any data you share will be aggregated and will not identify you when we share our findings.

This information should be only for your Milwaukee County rentals.

  • How much rent went uncollected?
  • How much of the uncollected rent was included in eviction judgments? Do not include damages or money judgments that were not part of an eviction.
  • OPTIONAL:  How many units do you own or manage in Milwaukee County?

You can email me directly

There is an average of about a million dollars a month in Milwaukee County eviction judgments.  Our initial survey shows this represents somewhere between a quarter and a tenth of the total unpaid rent, which in turn means your tenants who are paying as they should are paying an extra $49 to $123 per month to cover those tenants that do not pay.  

Five years after the eviction has concluded only 2.5% of eviction judgments are paid.

Tim Ballering

Dec 06

A member wrote on the free Apartment Association listserv wrote:

I have a single family in Milwaukee county that the tenants are late almost every month. Usually I work with them but they haven’t been answering my calls. Can I give a 5 day notice to pay or vacate?
I’m not really sure what’s legal with the eviction moratorium.

CARES ACT: If the property has a federally backed mortgage or you are receiving Section 8, you are probably prohibited from serving a notice until at least 1/1/21. You would need to serve a 30 day notice for any money due in 2020.

CDC Moratorium: Judge Conley, who is in charge of evictions in Milwaukee County, has recently ruled that the moratorium does not prohibit serving a notice or filing an eviction even if you received the CDC Declaration.

If your property is not covered CARES or CDC you can serve notices and file evictions.

But … Have you considered attempting meditation?

We tried pre filing mediation before the WI moratorium ended. In our experience it delivered results similar to what you would get in a stipulated dismissal, but with far less confrontation and the added benefit of the mediator helping the tenant apply for assistance. We had a number of cases that would have resulted in displacement, but were positively resolve because of mediation.

In fact this has worked so well that we implemented a policy that we attempt mediation for all non payment situation prior to filing. Our company policy of pre filing mediation will remain in effect even after the COVID crises ends, because it works.

Mediate Milwaukee 414-939-8800 or emailing

Dec 05

Sign the petition at:

Dec 04

My father, William “Bill” Ballering passed away this morning.

Bill came into my life when I was ten when he married my mom and adopted my sister and me. He and mom only lasted a few years, but Bill and I remained close to the end.

Although I was not his responsibility, Bill taught me the values of work ethic, doing the right thing, ignoring the noise, and focusing on what had to be done. I am what I am today because of him.

When I bought my first home, a sad little house that needed a gut rehab, Bill was there every weekend helping remodel it. That is where I learned skills that became the foundation of my career.

Bill had an extreme work ethic. He was in his early 80s when I called him one day. He said he had some kid mowing his yard in the middle of the conversation, and he was angry at himself because he should be doing it. Last winter, at 85 years old, he shoveled three-foot deep of frozen snow for forty feet because the plow guy could not make it.

Bill was stoic long before stoicism became popular again. He was healthy as an ox until late September when he had a stroke. I spoke to him the day after he was admitted to the hospital. He said the stroke was nothing, only to hear from the nurse that he had lost the use of his right arm and could not walk. I asked him again, and he said, ‘Nah, don’t worry, it is really minor’ While being treated, they found cancer. A week after being at a rehab facility, he was rushed to the hospital with COVID. His O2 level was 70%. Halloween morning he told me he was dying. It was the first negative thing I recall him saying in the 55 years I’ve known him, He recovered from the COVID, but cancer quickly metastasized.

Thirty years ago, Bill found his soulmate in Emmy. He loved her immensely. When Emmy was no longer safe at home due to Alzheimer’s, Bill went to see her at the nursing home every day, some days more than once. In the beginning, he would often take her for a drive or out for ice cream. Later, when she no longer recognized him, he still went to see her every day. When Emmy passed, Bill visited her grave daily.

The grandkids and great-grandkids loved him. He looked so much like Santa Claus.

The world was blessed to have had him. Don’t feel sorry for me, I was the lucky one to have had him in my life.

This is my favorite picture.

Dec 01

News on Milwaukee’s Rental Housing Resource Center collaboration to help renters and housing providers. This was project was envisioned and started a couple of years ago. It became more relevant with the COVID economic crisis that has impacted the ability for folks to pay rent and avoid eviction.

The partners are a very diverse group: Community Advocates, Legal Aid, Legal Action, IMPACT, Mediate Milwaukee, Hope House, the City of Milwaukee, County of Milwaukee, and the Apartment Association.

The inclusion of the housing industry makes Milwaukee rather unique from other communities. Here we realize that housing and renters are two sides of a single coin. Both need the other to succeed so that they can succeed.

Here is yesterday’s news:

  • Milwaukee renters and landlords will have a central spot to get assistance with rent, part of an effort to reduce evictions.
  • Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center Hopes To Reduce Evictions
  • Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center to launch Dec 1. 1
  • Keeping the roof over your head: collaborative website helping those facing pandemic induced eviction

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