The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new 60-day eviction moratorium that applies only to places with higher community transmission rates of the coronavirus on Tuesday.
That change came on the heels of a frantic few days, after President Joe Biden said Thursday that his administration could not extend the moratorium because of legal constraints stemming from comments by the U.S. Supreme Court in a recent ruling. Congress scrambled to try to pass a new eviction freeze in the days before it expired Sunday at 12:01 a.m., but those efforts didn’t get very far.
Here’s what Florida landlords and renters should know about the new order.
How does it affect Florida?
The new moratorium applies to all counties or territories experiencing “high” or “substantial” levels of community transmission.
Those terms are defined by the CDC and are displayed on an online map. As of Wednesday, that map showed the entire state of Florida as having high community transmission with the exception of Glades County, where it is substantial.
That means that the moratorium currently applies to all of Florida. It’s scheduled to expire Oct. 3.
I’m a tenant behind on my rent. Am I automatically protected from eviction?
No. Just as with the previous order, any tenant wanting to invoke the moratorium’s protections must submit a signed declaration form to their landlord swearing under penalty of perjury that they fit the criteria to have their eviction frozen. Some tenants must also submit copies of these forms to the court during eviction proceedings.
To be eligible, a renter must: have used “best efforts” to obtain government assistance for rent, have made less than $99,000 last year or expect to make less than that amount this year (or alternatively, was not required to report any income last year to the Internal Revenue Service or received a stimulus check), be unable to pay rent because of a “substantial loss of household income” or “extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses” and be making “best efforts” to make partial rent payments. The renter must also swear that they would be rendered homeless or forced to live into a new shared living setting if they were evicted, and live in a county with high or substantial community transmission.
I already submitted a declaration form before this new order. Do I need to do it again?
No. The new order specifically states that as long as the renter lives in a county or territory with higher community transmission, their old declaration form is still valid.
What happens if coronavirus transmission goes down where I live?
If any county reduces transmission below the “substantial” level for 14 consecutive days, the eviction moratorium would no longer apply, according to the order. If that county’s transmission goes up again, the moratorium would then be in effect again.
But I thought the Biden Administration said they didn’t have the legal authority to issue a moratorium extension?
That’s correct, and there’s certain to be a lot of legal challenges. According to the New York Times, the new, more targeted moratorium was an effort by federal officials to avoid running afoul of the concurring opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in which he said that an extension of the previous freeze would require an act of Congress.
Biden acknowledged Tuesday that the order could still be struck down as an overreach of power, but said it would at least buy time, the Times reported.
Gov. Ron DeSantis also said Tuesday that he believes the previous moratorium was unlawful. He compared it to the restrictions on cruise ships implemented by the CDC that the state has sued over, saying the agency “overstepped their bounds.”
Does this new moratorium cancel rent? What happens to all the debt piling up?
No. As with previous orders, rent is not canceled or reduced, and nor are area landlords prohibited from charging late fees.
However, one of the primary goals of this new moratorium is to give state and local governments more time to distribute the approximately $46.5 billion in rental assistance money they’re receiving from the feds. Nationwide, that money has been getting out to landlords very slowly - and Florida has been even further behind, with only about 2 percent of its money distributed.
If you are a landlord whose tenant is behind on their rent, or a tenant facing eviction for non-payment, there are resources available. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has an online lookup tool to find what local rental assistance programs there are where you live.
Anyone in the state of Florida can apply for rental assistance through the OUR Florida program at OurFlorida.com.