Gov. Ron DeSantis announced yet another extension of Florida’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures Monday evening, pushing back its expiration that was scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The new expiration date is 12:01 a.m. on October 1.
The announcement of the extension was made around 8:45 p.m., but unlike past months, the governor had hinted earlier what his decision would be. DeSantis said he was likely to make the extension on Friday when he was asked about the order during an appearance in Fort Lauderdale.
“I will work on the moratorium. I think we probably will continue that,” he said.
DeSantis originally issued the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures on April 2, but he made modifications to it when he announced an extension at the end of July.
The modified version narrowed the scope to apply only to renters and single-family homeowners “adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency,” and opened the door for landlords and lenders to begin filing evictions or foreclosures but stated the “final action” would be halted in court. Additionally, it stated that all missed rent and mortgage payments are due when the tenant or borrower “is no longer adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency,” which it defined as job loss or other income reduction during the pandemic.
Both apartment landlords and lawyers representing tenants have raised concerns about the order’s language lacking clarity and legal terminology.
Monday’s extension did not make any further policy changes, only extending the same language that was already in place through this past month.
The extension will undoubtedly cause more heartburn from landlords, who have been requesting longer-term solutions.
“Florida’s eviction restrictions fail to address the root cause of the problem and, therefore, are not an effective solution,” said Amanda Gill, government affairs director for the Florida Apartment Association. ”The only way to ensure housing security and the preservation of Florida’s rental housing supply in the long term is to provide rental assistance funds.”
Others said the extension was welcome news.
William Kilgore, 30, the principal organizer of a small activist group called St. Petersburg Tenants Union, said the extension is essential to continue to help people who have struggled with unemployment through no fault of their own.
The state has applied for additional federal help with unemployment benefits to boost Floridians’ checks by $300 on top of the state’s maximum of $275 per week. However, that new program has yet to take effect.
“People are still in limbo with unemployment,” Kilgore said. Landlords’ need to collect rent should be weighed “against this extreme human toll of people who face displacement in the middle of a global pandemic,” he added.
Tom DiFiore, team leader of the housing unit at Bay Area Legal Services, which offers legal help for civil cases at no cost, said the extension was good news but emphasized that tenants are no longer automatically protected by the narrower moratorium.
To prevent an eviction, tenants who have been financially affected by the coronavirus must file specific paperwork in court called a motion to determine rent, and then present evidence in a virtual hearing proving their inability to pay rent because of the pandemic, DiFiore said.
“Many people may believe it stops eviction like previous orders,” he said. “It does not.”
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