Florida’s ban on evictions has expired. What now for tenants who are months behind on rent?

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Ron Hurtibise

Published October 4, 2020


Gov. Ron DeSantis has finally allowed his moratorium on residential evictions to expire, six months after it took effect on April 2.

In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently imposed a nationwide order that forbids eviction of tenants who submit a declaration to their landlords and attest that the COVID-19 crisis has left them unable to pay their rent.

Allowing the statewide ban to expire, DeSantis said, will “avoid any confusion over whether the CDC’s evictions order should apply.”

DeSantis has extended the order five times since it was originally set to expire in mid-May.

The CDC issued its own moratorium on removing renters from their homes on Sept. 4, reasoning that evictions would increase the spread of COVID-19. Like the state ban, the CDC’s ban also prohibits removal of homeowners in foreclosure cases.
Yet, tenants rights advocates in Florida asked DeSantis to extend the moratorium as a precaution, noting that the CDC’s moratorium faces several federal court challenges. If any of the challenges succeeds in invalidating the CDC’s ban, defendants in eviction and foreclosure cases in Florida would be left unprotected and subject to immediate removal without a statewide ban remaining in place, they said.

Ida Eskamani, spokeswoman for the Florida Housing Justice Alliance, said DeSantis' decision to allow the statewide ban to expire was disappointing. “So many families are struggling,” she said. “Their unemployment has run out. Other protections are falling away. These folks have unpaid bills and no place to turn to.”

None of the moratoriums have absolved tenants from paying all past-due rents that they owe. No matter how long the CDC’s ban remains in place, tenants will either have to come up with a way to pay in full, or leave with the unpaid rent and eviction on their credit report. Those negative marks will make it difficult to find another landlord willing to rent to them.

Tenants advocates and property owners associations have been seeking $100 billion in federal money that could be sent directly to landlords on tenants' behalf. Most analysts believe that prospects are slim that Congress and the president will agree on any additional relief spending for victims of the COVID-19 crisis with elections just over a month away.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 evictions cases are pending in South Florida courthouses as landlords await a green light to serve final writs of possession to force past-due tenants out of their units. Some property owners have voiced concerns that the ban was being abused by tenants who had money to at least pay some of what they owed, but opted not to, knowing they couldn’t be thrown out.