ORLANDO, Fla. — In renewing stimulus aid and unemployment benefits, Congress also extended the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Eviction Moratorium program for another month. Not all renters, however, will be covered.
What You Need To Know
- The recently passed COVID-19 relief bill extends the CDC Eviction Moratorium through the end of January
- Not everyone qualifies for the protections, though, and they do not kick in automatically
- The Eviction Moratorium does not absolve the tenant from their financial responsibilities under the lease
When President Donald Trump signed the recent $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill into law, he also extended the CDC Eviction Moratorium through January 31, 2021.
Advocates caution however that not everyone qualifies for eviction protection, nor is it automatic. The concern also continues to be that when the protections are eventually lifted there will be a surge of evictions and removals.
“We’ve seen an overwhelming demand for assistance.”
Jay Mobley is the senior housing attorney for Legal Aid of Orange County.
“We’ve had tremendous need this year,” Mobley said.
Mobley estimates his office is operating at 500% of what they were last year.
“Folks are not all back to work, unemployment is in limbo right now, hopefully they’ll get that, but I don’t see this going away for many months," he said.
Spectrum News conducted a snapshot survey of eviction filings in 20 Central Florida counties. Clerks of Courts, Court Administrations, and Sheriff’s Offices from 10 counties responded.
The data shows in just half of Central Florida, nearly 20,000 eviction petitions were filed in courts this year.
They are fewer cases compared to the year before, most likely due to eviction protections that have continued to be in place throughout much of 2020.
Eviction filings in Orange County alone in January and February surpassed the same months in 2019 and 2018, but dropped off in March at the start of the pandemic crisis and eviction moratoriums.
“I don’t see the need going away for the next two to three months at least,” Mobley said.
The concern is that at some point the moratoriums will expire.
HOW THE EVICTION PROCESS WORKS
“Florida is a judicial eviction state, meaning they (landlords) have to take you (tenants) to court and serve you with an eviction action,” Mobley said.
According to the Orange County Clerk of Court, a landlord cannot evict a tenant without first obtaining an order from the court.
To legally evict a tenant, a landlord must:
1. Send all required notices
2. File an eviction lawsuit with the Clerk of Courts
3. Obtain a court order signed by a judge entering judgement for possession of the premises
4. Obtain a Writ of Possession from the Clerk of Courts
5. Request the Sheriff’s Office assist with serving a Writ of Possession, if the tenant refuses to voluntarily vacate the premises.
Mobley cautions, while a landlord cannot move a tenant out without court action, the CDC eviction protections are not automatic.
“Once you’re served, you’re on the clock and you have five days to write an answer to the judge explaining why you think you shouldn’t be evicted,” Mobley said. “You also have to post all of the rent money, if it’s a non-payment eviction, into the court registry. Obviously many folks are not able to do that and what happens is they would be defaulted, meaning they never go before a judge, they are automatically evicted and normally a 24 Hour Writ of Possession for the sheriff to come out to remove you would be issued.”
Mobley said the CDC Eviction Protection Declaration form, if you’re eligible, would simply not block the eviction itself, but would block the actual physical removal from a property.
In addition to having to sign the declaration and file it with the court within five days of being given eviction notice, Mobley cautions that not everyone qualifies, nor does it release you from financial responsibility.
“You are still required to pay rent and follow all the other terms of your lease and rules of the place where you live,” the CDC Eviction Protection Declaration states. “You may also still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment.”
SHORT TERM ASSISTANCE
The State of Florida dedicated millions of dollars in their share of COVID-19 federal dollars to provide counties and cities with funding to provide rental assistance.
With state and federal dollars, Orange County alone is dedicating $13.3 million for rental assistance and eviction diversion programs. More than $8.3 million has already been paid out as a part of this effort.
Orange County data shows it’s provided more than 3,000 applicants with an average assistance totaling $3,144 to cover an average of 3 months of owed rent.
It’s important to note each county’s rental assistance program varies great only when it is offered and the amount that is offered.
CITY OF ORLANDO: https://www.orlando.gov/COVID-19/Assistance-for-Residents