Milwaukee landlord, Youssef “Joe” Berrada, accused of violating landlord-tenant law by unlawfully evicting tenants, says the lofty number of evictions since the end of the moratorium were a “last resort” effort.
Berrada, known as “the boulder guy” because he notably places big boulders surrounding his properties, is being sued by the state’s Department of Justice for fraudulent representation, unfair billing fees and allegedly causing pest infestations by “conducting renovation projects in a negligent manner,” according to the law suit.
He also allegedly filed around 850 evictions in a matter of two weeks earlier this month. He dismissed that sentiment as inaccurate. According to Berrada, some of those eviction filings were apart of a two-year backlog. The rest were forced to eject their habitat due to “unresponsiveness.” He said tenants currently owe him about $5 million cumulatively.
“We have a lot people unresponsive, meaning, we have tried sending [certified] letters, emails, text messages, knocking on their door…no response,” Berrada said. “And even if they give some type of effort, its very little effort.”
Berrada, who moved to Milwaukee at age 16 as a foreign exchange student at South Milwaukee High School, owns close to 8,000 properties in Milwaukee, Racine, St. Francis and West Allis. He said he stopped charging late fees at those properties because he “understands COVID” and the struggle that many of his tenants are facing.
“This is the very, very last resort,” Berrada said. “We had to do it. We could not continue to do business like that…It’s people that owe us, 10, 12, $15,000 with no response…We had to cut the ties.”
Berrada likened the situation of paying rent to paying other bills, like a phone bill, saying if that phone bill is not paid, then the phone service will be discontinued. When going through the eviction process, in which he says he “hates,” he said he doesn’t want to deal with the Milwaukee court system, he just “wants his unit back.”
“All we want is our unit back.” Berrada said. “I’m not going to suffocate the court…just give us our unit back so we can lend it to someone else who’s willing to pay rent.”