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DeSantis extends order suspending foreclosures and evictions

Senior Editor Top Stories

Gov. DeSantisGov. Ron DeSantis has extended – and revised – a COVID-19 pandemic-related emergency order that suspends mortgage foreclosures and evictions.

The order was issued before midnight July 29, a few days before the August 1 expiration of the last extension. The revised order expires September 1.

The revisions make it clear that the suspension applies only to renters and mortgage holders adversely impacted by the health crisis, and that the suspension does not forgive unpaid mortgage or rent.

“Nothing in this executive order shall be construed as relieving an individual from his or her obligation to make mortgage payments or rent payments,” the order states. “All payments, including tolled payments, are due when an individual is no longer adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency.”

The order defines adversely affected as “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 order comes as advocates are warning about a pending national “tsunami” of homelessness, and as cash-strapped landlords are expressing a growing frustration with their inability to access the courts.

Armando Alfonso, a Doral attorney who represents about 80 South Florida landlords, says most people don’t realize that many landlords are small-time investors who depend on rental payments to make ends meet.

He welcomed the revised language, saying that at least it gives landlords more leeway, such as the ability to evict tenants for issues other than non-payment.

“For example, if somebody is causing damage to your house, or one of your tenants is posing danger to somebody, I don’t see how this order would impede you from issuing a seven-day notice, and following up with an eviction thereafter,” he said.

Researchers with Princeton University’s Eviction Lab estimate that with the July 25 expiration of the CARES Act moratorium — which only applied to federally backed housing — and the pending expiration of a handful of statewide moratoria, some 28 million Americans are facing homelessness.

Public interest lawyers and business litigators alike acknowledge that emergency orders are only delaying the inevitable consequence of a health crisis that has paralyzed the economy and left hundreds of thousands of Floridians unemployed.

Landlords and tenants say abuses have occurred on both sides, with some tenants illegally withholding rent payments, and some landlords taking matters in their own hands and illegally changing locks or shutting off utilities.

Many of his clients have worked out payment arrangements with tenants, Alfonso said, but few landlords expect to collect back rent when the order is eventually lifted.

“You might be able to get a garnishment, but good luck collecting,” Alfonso said. “They are going to be stuck holding the bill.”

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