Evictions in Florida Can Start September 1: Here are Renters' Rights

Victoria Pappas
 | 
The rental market in Florida is hot. As of 2018, Florida has 2.7 million rental units.

The number of homeowners in major cities such as Miami, Tampa, and Orlando has decreased, meaning that more people are renting rather than buying homes. 

But making rent isn't easy these days. As of July 2020, the unemployment rate in Florida was 11.3%, which is 1.10% higher than the national unemployment rate

This means that 1,125,000 people in Florida are out of work.

About 800,000 renters in the state are at risk of being evicted in the coming weeks. 

Although the CARES Act put a ban on evictions for those struggling to pay rent during the pandemic, this ban ended on July 24th. In many places, if the state or city hasn't put another moratorium in place, landlords  can send out 30 day notices for tenants to vacate properties. 

If you live in Florida and are unable to pay your rent or afraid of being evicted, you are not alone. 

Here are your Florida-specific answers to some of the most frequent questions we receive  from tenants concerned about paying rent.

Can my landlord evict me if I don’t pay my rent if I’ve lost my job because of COVID-19? 

Simply put, not yet. Florida governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order stating that landlords cannot take “final action” for certain non-payment evictions. These certain non-payment evictions pertain to those who have not paid because they were adversely affected by COVID-19. 

For the purposes of the order, “adversely affected by COVID-19” 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.” 

So, if you cannot pay rent because you lost your job due to COVID-19, you are protected from landlords taking a final-action of eviction against you until September 1, 2020. 

What happens September 1? 

After this order expires, landlords can start to take final-action against tenants for non-payment. It is not clear what final-action means. 

If your landlord files an eviction against you, you must answer it. You should explain how you have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and provide as much documented proof as possible to show why and how you have not been able to pay rent. 

Click here for tips on how to answer your eviction notice during COVID-19. 

What is the eviction process? 

Typically, you will first get a notice on your door, asking to pay rent within the next couple of days. If you don't pay the rent back in the specified amount of time, a landlord can file a complaint in court. Tenants will then have 5 days to respond and pay in order to get a hearing. Responding to these notices the right way is crucial. 

Jamos “Jay” Mobley, senior housing attorney for Orange County’s Legal Aid Society, says that it’s possible those negatively impacted by the pandemic won’t have to pay the court this amount. 

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has provided a tool to help tenants respond to notices. 

Additionally, hearings for eviction cases, pre and post pandemic, are still being held remotely if they are not COVID-19 related, according to Eviction Lab

Can I pay partial rent?
 
In short, yes. But it may not be worth it, especially if you don’t have a written agreement with your landlord that this is OK. 
 
During our meetup on May 8th, Michael Neumann, Esq affirmed, “If you can't pay your rent because you don't have enough money, don't pay your rent.” 
 
Your landlord is still entitled to any rent you have not paid during the moratorium period, even if you paid partial rent for those months. This can still possibly lead to an eviction. 
 
If you are unable to pay the entirety of your rent, it is best to keep your landlord informed. 
For more resources, including sample letters to send to your landlord, visit 0ur Landlord-Tenant resources page. 
 
Can my landlord charge me late fees?
 
You first must check your lease agreement.  If your lease doesn't include language about late fees, then your landlord should not be able to charge you. 
 
Almost all leases have a provision that allows late fees for rent to be charged. But almost all leases have a late fee provision. Additionally, Florida still allows for landlords to charge late fees
 
Can my landlord lock me out?
 
No. In Florida it is illegal for a landlord to force a tenant out by changing the locks or taking any action that prevents a tenant from accessing their home. 
 
Landlords must give notice and go through the formal eviction process with the courts to lawfully keep you out of your home. 
 
They also cannot remove your belongings from the home or cut off any of your utilities. 

I rent a low-income housing unit in Florida. Are there any additional protections or relief programs available to me?

Miami-Dade County law stops evictions at Miami-Dade Public Housing and County Owned Affordable Housing during a state of emergency. So even if you get a notice of eviction, you cannot be physically removed from your home. 

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is providing rental assistance. Click here to view their map and find a rental assistance program near you. 

If you are looking for more resources, check out some more advice here. Feel free to utilize Court Buddy’s self help resources or reach out to us for more help.
 
 
 
This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
 

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