Renting in Florida and unable to pay your landlord? You may only have until June 2nd before the eviction process starts.

Monique Bolsajian
 | 

Over two million people rent apartments or other types of housing in Florida. 

 

Because of the impact of the Coronavirus, around 14% of Florida renters didn’t pay their landlords in May. 

 

Many landlords fear this number will rise in the coming months. 

 

If you live in Florida and haven’t paid your rent, or are worried you won’t be able to do so soon, here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive from renters. 

 

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

 

Not right now. 

 

The CARES Act, passed by Congress on March 27th, placed a 120-day eviction moratorium on all housing that receives government subsidies or federally-backed loans. 

 

Note the key words here: government subsidies or federally backed loans.

 

According to the National Housing Law Project, over 70% of all US mortgages are federally backed or owned. 

 

The federal moratorium expires July 25th

 

But 30% of property owners don’t have a federally backed mortgage (meaning they outright own the property or have another type of loan). 

 

So Florida went a step further and issued a separate moratorium on evictions for any tenants who aren’t paying rent due to issues related to the Coronavirus.

 

Unfortunately, that order expires on June 2

 

To find out if you are protected by the Cares Act, use this tool created by the Florida Eviction Protection. 

 

If your address is listed here, that means eviction proceedings can’t start until July 25th.

 

If your address isn’t listed here, your landlord may start knocking on June 2. 

 

Unless, of course, you live in Miami-Dade County, where over 400,000 people rent their apartments or homes. 

 

Renters here may have some extra time because the police have said that they will not assist landlords in evicting tenants as long as the county is under a state of emergency

 

Furthermore, the cities of Miami and Hialeah have announced plans to provide financial assistance to renters in their area. 

 

In any case, remember that doesn’t mean you don’t owe your landlord for these few months. Your landlord will likely ask for back rent after the statewide and federal moratoriums end.

 

How do I prove if I’ve lost my job because of COVID-19? 

 

The language of the Executive Order is vague with regard to what constitutes “the non-payment of rent...due to the COVID-19 emergency.” 

 

While this order most likely applies to those facing financial difficulties due to job loss, it’s less clear whether it would also apply to people who have had to take reduced hours at work to care for family members, or for those whose family income has diminished.

 

If you communicate to your property owner that you will be unable to pay rent, your property owner may ask you for proof that your loss of income is due to the Coronavirus. 

 

For many, this might look like a letter from your employer explaining the reason you were laid off, or your application for unemployment benefits.

 

If your property owner is threatening you with eviction because of a lack of proof,  you may want to talk to an attorney to seek legal advice. Court Buddy can match you with an affordable attorney who can help. 

  

Can I pay partial rent?

 

It’s unclear. 

 

The best course of action is to try to talk to your property owner about your options during and after the eviction moratorium. Some possibilities include:

 

  • temporarily pausing your rent payments
  • paying reduced rent
  • extending the timeline to repay rental debt.

 

Always keep a written record of any agreements you reach with your landlord – including expectations of how much rent will be repaid and when. Be sure to compile any documents you have that show your inability to pay rent, or inability to pay rent in full, during this crisis. 

 

  

What happens if I break my lease and just leave?

 

Your lease is a contract. 

 

When you sign it, you agree to pay for the entire term. Breaking your lease does not make the contractual obligation go away.

 

If you leave early, your landlord will likely hold you responsible for rent through the end of your lease by filing a collections suit against you.

 

If your landlord finds a new tenant before your lease ends, however, they can no longer hold you responsible for rent through the end of your lease following the new tenant’s first rent payment.

 

Because each lease is different, the best thing to do is read through your lease, particularly section about lease breaking/early termination.  

 

Can my landlord lock me out during the moratoriums? 

 

No. 

 

To lawfully evict a tenant, your landlord must first serve you with a written notice and then file a case with your County’s Court if you do not move out voluntarily. If you do not move out voluntarily, they cannot have you physically removed from the property or change the locks until they have a judgment from the Court. 

 

If your property is covered by the CARES Act, you cannot be served with a notice to vacate due to nonpayment of rent until the federal moratorium ends on July 25th. 

 

The timeline of an eviction case will vary depending on the details of the case. 

 

If your property isn’t covered under the CARES Act, landlords can continue to give eviction notices during the moratorium, both for pandemic-related nonpayment and for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. 

 

They also cannot file pandemic-related eviction cases with County courts during the statewide moratorium. 

 

 If your landlord has locked you out before these dates, call 311. 

 

Does my landlord still have to fix things that are broken even if I haven’t paid rent?

 

Yes. If the needed repairs are due to a major habitability problem, and if you did not cause the damage, your landlord must fix the issues. 

 

Some examples of damages that could cause habitability problems might include plumbing issues, broken windows, damages to your heating system, or issues with your hot water.

 

If you’ve come to an agreement on postponing your rent payments or paying partial rent due to the pandemic, be sure to cite that when discussing damages with your landlord. Again, make sure that any agreements you make about fixing the damages are in writing. 

 

If your landlord isn’t making necessary repairs and you decide to seek legal advice, LawChamps is here to connect you with an attorney who can 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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