For the first time since Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a moratorium in April, Florida will be without its own statewide protections against evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic.
DeSantis announced Wednesday evening that he would be allowing the state moratorium to expire at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. In a news release, his office cited the federal order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that freezes some evictions. For that order to apply, tenants must submit a specific declaration form to their landlords, saying, among other things, that they have experienced a “substantial loss of household income" and have made best efforts to seek government assistance.
In the release, DeSantis spokesman Fred Piccolo said the governor was allowing the moratorium to expire “to avoid any confusion over whether the CDC’s evictions order should apply in a particular circumstance.” Since the federal order was announced, lawyers and court staff have been left to work through their own interpretations of which order would prevail and how it would affect eviction filings.
In Texas, the state’s supreme court is requiring that any tenant who is facing eviction be notified about the Centers for Disease Control’s eviction order and be given a copy of the declaration form. Florida has not instituted a similar mandate.
Even with that federal order in place, some Democratic lawmakers as well as housing advocates had been pushing for DeSantis to extend the statewide moratorium through the rest of the year.
One group that might be left unprotected without the state’s order are single-family homeowners without federally backed mortgages.
The Centers for Disease Control’s order does not include protections against mortgage foreclosure. Those with federally backed mortgages will likely still fall under programs instituted by the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and others that protect those homeowners from foreclosure.
The Urban Institute has estimated that about 70 percent homeowners have a federally backed mortgage.
"Not extending the Florida order would not only potentially harm owners of single-family homes without a federally backed mortgage, but any renters that rent out those single-family units,” said Kody Glazer, legal director for the Florida Housing Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control’s order is being challenged in federal court, another reason why advocates wanted the state to provide a buffer.
The landscape would have been “a lot safer for tenants to have the state order as a tool because there are challenges,” Glazer said.
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Eric Dunn, director of litigation for the National Housing Law Project, has cautioned that the chances of that lawsuit succeeding are not high based on similar challenges to state orders.
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