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Evictions and Foreclosures

Evictions and Foreclosures in Florida During COVID-19

Over the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic altered the way millions of people interact with each other as governments across the globe instituted stay-at-home orders designed to protect their citizens and assist healthcare workers in “flattening the curve.” Such actions, however, have had far-reaching economic consequences, sending unemployment numbers skyrocketing while placing people in the precarious position of being unable to pay their monthly housing bills. With rents and mortgages once again coming due, tenants and homeowners in Florida are asking whether or not the state will provide them protection should they be at risk from either eviction or foreclosure during COVID-19.

There is some good news for Florida residents, as Gov. Ron DeSantis did issue a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for 45 days beginning in early April. He published the measure with the intent of helping people in financial distress remain sheltered in place during the current economic downturn. DeSantis’ declaration does come with several stipulations that may put struggling renters and homeowners at a disadvantage. With the eviction moratorium ending in mid-May, many people are left wondering what, if any, option they may have.

What Are My Rights as a Tenant in Florida During COVID-19?

All Florida tenants have fundamental rights that a landlord must adhere to and cannot be evicted illegally under state law. For example, a landlord cannot perform a self-eviction by locking a tenant out of their apartment. The law requires them to post appropriate notices, followed by the filing of an eviction lawsuit and a court order. In extreme circumstances where a tenant refuses to vacate the premises, the landlord must request a sheriff’s eviction. If an eviction is done any other way, it is illegal in Florida.

On April 2, 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis bolstered these protections by putting into effect a moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures for renters and homeowners. The order was put into effect for 45 days from the date it was issued in hopes of helping Floridians to stay at home and “flatten the curve” during the coronavirus pandemic, but it did come with several stipulations:

● The moratorium will be lifted on May 17, 2020.
● The order does not eliminate the need to pay rent.
● The order does not prevent future evictions or foreclosures.

Furthermore, as recent articles in the Tampa Bay Times and Spectrum News 13 showed, the order does not cover all housing situations. People whose leases are ending during this time, or who stay in extended-stay motels, for example, may not be protected from eviction.

Do I Have Any Other Options to Protect My Home?

In addition to Gov. DeSantis’ statewide order, some local counties have also enacted their own protections to help tenants and homeowners during the coronavirus crisis. Duval, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns have all extended their stays past the May 17 deadline set by the state, while others have wholly suspended all eviction activity. Tenants can check to see if their county has enacted additional protection here.

Moreover, the federal government has also enacted several evictions protections to help renters as part of the recently passed stimulus bill that went through Congress earlier this year. The federal CARES Act, which went into effect on March 27, 2020, prevents certain landlords from filing new eviction cases if a tenant cannot pay their rent, a specific moratorium lasting until July
24, 2020. Like Florida’s state law, the federal law does not waive the need to pay rent, but it does give those who are facing hardships temporary relief. Landlords that fall under the federal CARES Act include those who oversee federal programs such as:

● Public Housing
● Section 8 Housing
● HUD-subsidized family or senior housing
● USDA-subsidized rural housing
● Low Income Housing Tax Credit

Additionally, if the landlord has a federally subsidized mortgage, such as an FHA loan, VA loan, USDA loan, or one from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the federal CARES Act rules apply as well.

I Was Served an Eviction Notice, What Do I Do?

Finding an eviction notice on your door can be overwhelming at any time, but it can be especially stressful during the uncertainty of COVID-19. However, you do have options. First, the Federal Housing Finance Agency or FHFA created a tool to help renters determine if they have protections. They recently announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac developed online multifamily property lookup tools that let renters know if their property falls under the no-eviction rules.

As noted above, tenants living on a property backed by a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage cannot be evicted by their landlord as per the federal CARES Act. If renters believe their landlord has served them an illegal eviction notice, they can use these online tools to determine their next steps. The lookup tools are here:

● Fannie Mae’s Multifamily Loan Lookup Tool
● Freddie Mac’s Multifamily Loan Lookup Tool

Under the law, these landlords can also apply for forbearance on their loans. Tenants who need assistance can call for help. The Fannie Mae Helpline is (877) 542-9723, and the Freddie Mac Helpline is (800) 404-3097.

Renters and homeowners are encouraged to contact an attorney for assistance, especially if they have already tried to speak with their landlords. At Nation Lawyers, our team of attorneys has years of experience fighting for tenants’ rights and helping homeowners avoid foreclosure.

We are available online or by phone to speak with you and to help you do whatever it takes to protect your home. These are uncertain times for all of us, and we understand that you need someone in your corner.

If you are worried about being evicted from your apartment or that your home will be foreclosed upon, call us today at (954)280-2000 or send us an email here. We are here to help.

 

 

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Evictions and Foreclosures

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