Of the many societal dislocations caused directly or indirectly by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one of the still-invisible outcomes is the inability of residential tenants to pay rent due to job loss or payroll cuts. (This series of articles has covered – several times – the state and federal support programs designed to support individuals, families, and businesses. 1) This piece focuses on Florida’s response to the looming residential eviction situation. 2
People need places to live. When they cannot, or choose not to, own residences, they lease apartments, townhouses, condominiums, or houses. When they do not have incomes, they cannot pay rent to their landlords. (Becoming subject to eviction.) When they do not pay rent, the landlords cannot pay the mortgages to their lenders. (Becoming subject to foreclosure.) When the lenders do not receive mortgage payments, they cannot pay their investors. (Becoming subject to lawsuits or, at the extreme, bankruptcy.) A metaphoric dominoes tumble.
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has issued a series of Executive Orders putting in-place, and then extending several times, moratoria on eviction lawsuits. 3 In theory, these executive actions please tenants and disturb landlords and mortgage lenders.
On July 29, 2020, Governor DeSantis further extended the residential eviction moratorium until September 1, 2020, but on a limited basis. 4 As further extended, the updated residential eviction moratorium states:
- I hereby suspend and toll any statute providing for final action at the conclusion of an eviction proceeding under Florida law solely when the proceeding arises from non-payment of rent by a residential tenant adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency.
- For purposes of this section, adversely affected by the COVlD-19 emergency means loss of employment, diminished wages or business income, or other monetary loss realized during the Florida State of Emergency directly impacting the ability of a residential tenant to make rent payments.
The take-away is that the extended residential eviction moratorium is limited to COVID-related non-payments of rent, which the Executive Order then specifies in paragraph B.
That sole reason for non-payment of rent is then tied in paragraph A to the suspension and tolling of “final action at the conclusion of an eviction proceeding”. This issue which arises is, then, the meaning of “final action”. Will that mean an eviction order? A direction to a County Sheriff to post a Writ of Possession? Or something else?
The real-world result? That residential eviction orders are now starting to be issued for non-payments which are unrelated to COVID-19. 5
This series will continue to follow evictions developments because the ‘case is not yet closed’. 6
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1 See https://www.boginmunns.com/?s=pandemic
2 It will not address commercial leases or evictions.
3 See, e.g., https://www.boginmunns.com/blog/florida-businesses-residents-three-important-foreclosure-eviction-updates/,
4 See https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/orders/2020/EO_20-180.pdf
5 See https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2020/08/06/desantis-s-amended-executive-order-speeds-up-foreclosures–evictions
6 See https://www.mynews13.com/fl/orlando/news/2020/07/30/desantis-extends-eviction-moratorium-until-september-5
– For more information, call Philip N. Kabler of the Gainesville, FL office of Bogin, Munns & Munns at 352.332.7688, where he practices in the areas of business, banking, real estate, and equine law. He has taught business and real estate law courses at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business Administration and Levin College of Law and is the President-Elect of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association.
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NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. You should consult with a duly licensed attorney regarding your Florida legal matter, as every situation is unique. Please know that merely reading this article, subscribing to this blog, or otherwise contacting Bogin, Munns & Munns does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our firm. Should you seek legal representation from Bogin, Munns & Munns, any such representation must first be agreed to by the firm and confirmed in a written agreement.