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RACINE COUNTY — After tenants are evicted from their residence, they are often unable to bring all of their possessions with them. The following details what happens to their things and the process they have to follow if they want them back.

1. Being evicted

The Racine County Sheriff’s Office delivers a court order to the residence; the writ demands that the resident vacate the property by a specific date and time, with a minimum five days’ notice.

There are usually about eight evictions per week in Racine County, and about half of them involve a moving company. That’s where Milwaukee-based Eagle Movers comes in.

Eagle Movers handles evictions in Racine, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Sheboygan and Winnebago counties. Eagle gets called in by landlords to empty the residences of evicted tenants when they leave possessions behind.

2. The moving costs of an eviction

If the tenant refuses to leave a residence after eviction and is unable to successfully fight it in court — or, if they vacate the premises but leave belongings behind — at least two sheriff’s deputies and Eagle Movers will empty the house or apartment at the specified eviction date — always a Thursday.

If this occurs, the initial monetary cost of eviction falls on the landlord.

For starters, it will cost the landlord $160 minimum per hour of work for the five-member crew from Eagle Movers, with a minimum of two hours pay, if anything at all is removed from the premises.

On top of that, it costs $92.32 for two deputies per hour; $3.50 per carton packed; $25/hour per extra crew member; $10 for every stove, fridge, piano, deep freezer, flight of stairs or hide-a-bed; $15 per waterbed; and $30 if fumigation is necessary. A $400 deposit is also required.

So, if the crew has to move just five boxes, it’ll still cost the landlord at least $337.50. This all comes after paying the Sheriff’s Office $60 for the initial writ.

However, since March 1, 2014, in Wisconsin landlords aren’t required to remove an evicted person’s belongings from the residence. If the tenant refuses to vacate, or if they leave any property behind, landlords are allowed to take ownership of their former tenant’s belongings.

According to the Madison-based Tenant Resource Center: “If the landlord wrote in the lease that they won’t move and store property left behind, the landlord can do anything they want with property in an eviction, without involving the sheriff, but they must notify the sheriff that they’re doing it themselves.”

“The unlucky ones are the ones where the landlords get all their stuff,” Tom Brittain, owner of Eagle Movers, said. “That’s a tough spot for the tenant.”

This isn’t common in Racine; Brittain isn’t sure if it ever happens here, but it is an option for evictors.

3. Stored belongings

If the tenant is there when Eagle Movers collects their possessions, they’ll be given information about where their belongings will be stored and a phone number to call to get it back. If they aren’t present, a letter from the sheriff’s office will be mailed within three days.

For storage, Eagle Movers has its own warehouse in Milwaukee and rents space at several other locations across southeastern Wisconsin, including in Racine County.

To retrieve their belongings, evicted tenants have to pay Eagle Movers 30 cents per cubic foot per month of storage, then find a way to transport it to their new residence or some other storage location. If Eagle is storing an entire house or apartment’s worth of possessions, the price of recovery can get hefty.

“Hopefully you’ll give us a call,” Brittain said. “Tenants think of us as an adversary … We’re more like a lifeboat for them.”

4. To auction

Sixty percent of the time, Brittain said, people who were evicted never pick up their possessions. Within 90 days, he’ll send a certified letter to the former tenants’ forwarding address or last-known address — if they have one — warning the evicted person that if they don’t pick up their belongings by a certain date, they’ll be sold at auction.

Anything that Eagle Movers doesn’t manage to sell usually ends up in a landfill or dump.

“One of the biggest problems is: People just don’t contact us,” Brittain said.

“Tenants think of us as an adversary … We’re more like a lifeboat for them.” Tom Brittain, owner of Eagle Movers

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Adam Rogan (SCHS '14, Drake U. '17) has been covering homelessness, arts & culture and just about everything else for the JT since March 2018. He enjoys mid-afternoon naps, loud music played quietly and social media followers @Could_Be_Rogan

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