Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Florida homeowners are falling behind on their mortgages and many tenants are falling behind on their rents. In response, the federal government and Florida are taking steps to protect homeowners and renters. One of the key responses is providing foreclosure and eviction protections during the COVID crisis. These new laws, regulations, and orders are delaying the time when mortgage companies and landlords can proceed to remove people in default. For most Vero Beach and Sebastian Florida residents, the rules are just delaying the time when the funds are due.
How can a skilled Florida real estate lawyer help?
During the pandemics, there are still some steps that mortgage holders, loan companies, and landlords can use. Generally, these creditors must take more steps and meet specific requirements. An experienced Vero Beach Florida and Sebastian Florida lawyer guides creditors and debtors on how these new laws, orders, and regulations work.
Basic eviction protections during the pandemic
Landlords must comply with the following foreclosure and eviction rules to evict someone in Sebastian or Vero Beach Florida during COVID-19
- They must obtain a court order
- There is no self-help remedy that landlord can use to evict a tenant
- Landlords must send out the necessary notices, file a court lawsuit, and obtain a court order. The landlord should request that the sheriff intervene if the tenant fails to move voluntarily.
What Florida eviction protections are in place?
On August 31, 2020, Florida Governor DeSantis put his pen to an Executive Order which provides a moratorium (a suspension of eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent) which are due to COVID-19 until October 1, 2020. The rent is still due. The order just means that the landlord can’t proceed with the eviction proceeding for a month. The landlord can start the eviction lawsuit. The Order means that any “final action” on the eviction lawsuit is on hold until October 21, 2020.
Anyone who receives an eviction lawsuit must:
- File a timely response.
- Must inform the court that the nonpayment is due to a COVID-19 financial loss.
The person who receives the notice may also need to file a Motion which asks the court to reduce the posting of any amount with the court to zero.
Do local courts have their own regulations regarding evictions due to COVID-19?
You can check your county’s procedures on evictions due to COVID -19 by looking at this site - https://florida.evictionprotection.org/#check-your-county
What federal regulations and eviction protections are there during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The federal government’s CARES Act ( The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Ac) does prohibit some landlords from charging fees or penalties ( due to late payments) between 3/27 and 6/25, 2020. After 6/25, 200, the landlord needs to give the tenant at least 30 days' notice before starting eviction proceedings.
- The CARES Act still means the tenant must account for the rent is due – eventually.
- The law applies to any landlord who has a federal HUD, FHA, VA, USDA, or Fannie or Freddie mortgage. The Act also applies to landlords who are part of a federal housing program that has HUD or LIHTC funds.
- A landlord can still file an eviction lawsuit for non-rental issues such as causing damage to the property
A high percentage of mortgages have federal backing. Thus, a high percentage of homeowners may be eligible for the narrow protections that the CARES Act provides.
Additional CARES Act protections – for landlords
The CARES Act also helps Sebastian and Vero Beach landlords who have federal mortgage loans backing their property with mortgage payment help. As many tenants fail to pay their rent, many landlords also need assistance. The CARES Act does require mortgage forbearance by the mortgage servicers for up to 180 days – provided the landlord makes a formal hardship request - if they meet certain conditions. During the forbearance period, the mortgage servicer cannot charge additional interest payments, penalties, or fees. Other requirements may apply. Other non-CARES Ac assistance may be available.
Landlords cannot evict someone for nonpayment of rent or fees – if the landlord owns a multi-family mortgage that has federal backing – if and when the mortgage is in foreclosure. When the forbearance period, for the foreclosure, ends – the landlord must give a tenant a 30-day notice demanding rent – before starting an eviction proceeding.
How do I know if a landlord must comply with the CARES Act?
There are two ways:
- The first is to speak with a Sebastian or Vero Beach Florida real estate lawyer
- The second is to examine various online resources such as https://nlihc.org/federal-moratoriums.
What other federal eviction procedures are in place?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a moratorium on some evictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – through 12/31/2020. The order applies to the nonpayment of rent. Tenants must pay the arrears by 12/31/2020. Tenants must sign an authorized Declaration and meet five qualifying criteria:
- Make their best efforts to apply for whatever government rental or housing assistance is available
- Have income below certain preset limits
- Be unable to pay the rent because of a substantial income loss – such as a layoff or large medical bills
- Make their best efforts to pay the landlord something on account
- Be in danger of becoming homeless if they are evicted
What happens if a tenant is unable to pay the rent when the eviction protections end?
If the landlord sends the proper notice, then the landlord can start eviction proceedings. Tenants who still cannot pay their rent, including arrearages, should try to make some payment arrangements with their landlord. Arrangements to extend payment dates should be clear and placed in writing.
Tenants can also speak with a skilled Vero Beach or Sebastian eviction lawyer and or social service agencies.
Payment plans should include:
- What happens if a payment is not made
- A promise by the landlord not to take legal action if the payments are made
- The amounts and due dates for the payments
Exceptions to the Executive Order of Governor DeSantis
According to Jacksonville News 4, the order by Governor DeSantis extending payment due dates until October 1, 2020, does have exceptions.
The order does not apply to foreclosure proceedings that are “unrelated to the non-payment of a mortgage.” Someone is adversely affected by COVID-19 only if their loss is due to employment, diminished wages or business income, or other monetary loss realized during the Florida state of emergency directly impacting the ability of a single-family mortgagor to make mortgage payments.’
There is similar language for evictions.
The moratorium on evictions applies to residential renters. It does not apply to commercial renters.
Prior orders by the Governor applied to any reason for the non-payment. Now tenants, for whom the moratorium applies, must show that the non-payment relates to COVID-19. The original order on April 2, 2020, gave a 45-day suspension of evictions and foreclosure timeline. Subsequent orders did extend that timeline.
What Florida organizations are providing assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are various county and civic organizations, in and around Vero Beach and Sebastian that may help with foreclosure and eviction assistance. Some of these nonprofits and other entities may help provide rental assistance. Others should be able to answer some questions you have. The best recourse is to speak with an experienced Florida real estate attorney.
Examples of the organizations that may help include:
- Various county rental assistance programs
- City and state programs
- Organizations such as the United Way and the Salvation Army
- Florida health agencies
For help understanding the federal and state rules on foreclosure and eviction during the pandemic, call the experienced Florida real estate lawyers at Lulich Attorneys & Consultants today. You can reach us at 772-589-5500 in Sebastian, at 772-7747-7771 in Vero Beach. You can also use our online contact form to schedule an appointment.