Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Controversial Landlord Backs Lena Taylor for Judge

More than half of money for her municipal judge campaign came from Youssef Berrada.

By - Apr 3rd, 2023 02:10 pm
Lena Taylor speaking at a press conference. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Lena Taylor speaking at a press conference. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

State Sen. Lena Taylor, who is running for the open position of Milwaukee Municipal Court judge, has gotten heavy support from a controversial landlord, Youssef Berrada

Her latest campaign statement shows she raised about $12,325, of which $1,289 was money she loaned her campaign. Of the $11,036 she raised from others, $6,000 or 54% came from Berrada. 

While Berrada lives in Mequon, he owns many properties in the city of Milwaukee. Berrada and his firm, Berrada Properties Management, Inc., own more than 170 limited liability companies, which in turn own more than 8,000 rental units; most of them in Milwaukee and Racine counties. Many are in the city of Milwaukee and could potentially be assessed fees for building violations by the Milwaukee Municipal Court.

Those fees can add up to huge amounts for landlords. The “notorious” landlord Will Sherard owed more than $64,000 in court fines to the Milwaukee Municipal Court, which he successfully evaded for years, as Cary Spivak reported: “Sherard repeatedly received municipal court approval to make nominal payments — often as little as $100 per fine — every two to three months,”

However, according to Berrada’s attorney Stephen E. Kravit, neither Berrada nor his company “have ever been before Milwaukee Municipal Court on any tenant matter or any building code violation.” Kravit denied that Berrada was seeking any favors from Taylor in return for his donation.

Taylor’s opponent Molly Gena, managing attorney for Legal Action of Wisconsin, charged that Berrada’s donation to Taylor was made to seek favoritism from the next Municipal Court judge. “It does not surprise me that Berrada, a prolific evictor, apparently does not want a leading attorney with Legal Action of Wisconsin on the bench. Legal Action has defended hundreds of tenants against his eviction filings in Milwaukee, and I have supported our ceaseless efforts to protect the rights of tenants who are often exploited because of a lack of safe, affordable housing choices. As a Municipal Court judge, I will continue to protect tenants and Milwaukee homeowners’ property values by appropriately enforcing building codes.”

Kravit called this a false and misleading statement, “since Milwaukee Municipal Court does not hear eviction cases” and since Berrada’s company “has had no municipal court proceedings on building code violations.”

Urban Milwaukee sought comments from Lena Taylor and from her campaign manager Michelle Bryant and had not heard from either of them.

In November 2021 Berrada was charged by the Wisconsin Department of Justice with 15 violations of state law for how he operated his properties, as Urban Milwaukee reported, which ranged from illegal lease agreements to unfair billing practices, fraudulent representations, confiscating personal property, illegal eviction practices and illegally withholding security deposits.

The lawsuit charged that Berrada is personally involved in the day-to-day operations and minutiae of his massive real estate holdings and has “personally located… and secured the financing” for the thousands of properties he has acquired, and personally signs eviction complaints, handles tenant complaints and oversees renovation projects.

“Berrada has become infamous in Milwaukee for the number and frequency of evictions filed by his company,” the story noted.

“Renters are regularly charged between $218 and $295 by Berrada for ‘court fees,’ according to the complaint. These fees are sometimes charged to a tenant before an eviction has even been filed, and for more than the actual cost of processing the eviction.

“These ‘court fees related to eviction, based upon the criminal complaint, are just one layer in a stew of penalties that keep a tenant indebted to Berrada, who then extracts even more money from the tenant on top of the monthly rent.

“Berrada uses late fees, sometimes illegally imposed on new tenants, according to the DOJ, in a manner interwoven with the company’s hair trigger evictions and its withholding of security deposits.”

The vacant seat that Taylor and Gena are running for in the election Tuesday was created by the resignation of longtime judge Derek Mosley.

Correction and retraction: Urban Milwaukee failed to contact Youssef Berrada for comment on this story and compared him to landlord Will Sherard without giving Berrada a chance to explain himself. We apologize for these oversights in the original story. The story also referred to Berrada as a “slumlord,” a characterization we retract. “Youssef Berrada is not, objectively, a slumlord,” his attorney Stephen Kravit says, adding that Berrada Properties Management “has a record of maintaining its properties and spending millions to rehabilitate and renovate its properties.”

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2 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Controversial Landlord Backs Lena Taylor for Judge”

  1. Swblackwood says:

    2 things: calling Berrada infamous in quotes gives the impression that he may simply be famous. That is false: he is certainly infamous.
    Publishing this information on the very eve of the election seems almost pointless as many votes have already been cast.

  2. Mingus says:

    If Lena Taylor wins this election, could the Municipal Court become a disaster like the City Attorney’s Office?

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