With the State of Florida enacting a mandatory stay home order in effect as of 12:01 AM, Friday morning, we have been speaking with many landlords and tenants regarding what rights they have during this trying time. The coronavirus outbreak has brought many business issues to light.
On one hand, many businesses have shut down during this time, leaving many tenants without the income source they survive on.
These tenants want to know whether they are at risk of being kicked on the street. On the other hand, landlords are still required to pay any mortgages and other expenses that they owe on the house. Many landlords cannot afford to keep their rental houses without the income they generate. What has the State of Florida said?
Attempts to Stop Coronvirus Evictions
While many politicians would like to halt evictions and have urged the Governor to impose a statewide moratorium on evictions, as of today the State of Florida has not officially issued any such order. Currently, each county is at the discretion to enter their own orders restricting court access and filings.
For example, Seminole, Brevard, and Osceola counties have suspended evictions until April 15. Orange County has suspended evictions through April 17. Without a statewide order, you need to be aware of what orders have been passed in the county you reside in.
Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court has issued the following Administrative Order, “given the exigencies of the public health emergency, the requirement in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.580(a) for the clerk to issue a writ of possession “forthwith” shall be suspended through the close of business on Friday, April 17, 2020, or as provided by subsequent order.” https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/content/download/632431/7186205/AOSC20-17.pdf.
What this means is that the State of Florida is not currently requiring counties to follow the eviction process under the Florida Statutes. However, this order only suspends the requirementfor a Clerk of Court to issue the Writ of Possession, it does not suspend or prohibit a county’s ability to enter such a writ.
Without a State ordered mandate, each county is left to decide what is best for their residents. If you are a tenant, should you be worried about being evicted if you are unable to pay the rent during the COVID-19 scare? Likely not, but until the State of Florida puts forth a statewide mandate, it is dependent on the county you live in and there is not a set answer at this time.
What To Do About Rent During The Coronavirus Pandemic
Even though your landlord may not be able to evict you at this time, that does not necessarily mean you will not be liable for the rent payment during this period. It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out from a landlord-tenant perspective because a situation like this has never occurred during our lifetimes. Most likely the tenant will be responsible for the missed rent because the relationship is governed by the lease between the parties.
One question that is raised is whether the landlord will be able to file for eviction immediately after the virus threat is over, or whether the tenant will have a period of leniency in which to make payments to the landlord for the back rent. Without a steady source of income, many tenants will not be able to make a lump-sum payment of past due rent, and many tenants may not be able to climb out of the hole at all.
With the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of the virus spreading if tenants are thrown onto the street, the State of Florida will likely enter an order shortly that sets clear precedence for how the landlord/tenant relationship will be handled during this time.
The potential pitfalls created by this virus will hopefully be addressed by an Order put forth from the State of Florida. As always, we will remain apprised to the situation in order to be your source for navigating any changes that happen.