The statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has been extended via an executive order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis. However, critics are questioning the language within the order itself as to just what it means for Florida residents facing evictions or foreclosures.
The executive order was signed and announced on July 29. However, the amended language in this new executive order does not prevent all evictions and foreclosures like the previous one did.
Under the new executive order, this protection is only given to single-family mortgage holders who are adversely affected from COVID-19. Mortgage lenders can begin new proceedings and can move forward towards a final judgment so long as the person holding the mortgage is not a single-family mortgagor who was adversely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
For Florida residents facing tenant eviction proceedings, the new executive order can have far-reaching effects, as well. Under the prior order, all Florida statutes that gave landlords a cause of action to evict a residential tenant due to the non-payment of rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic were suspended. Landlords were able to continue with commercial evictions and residential evictions, if the issue was one not related to payment of rent.
Under the new executive order, evictions will be suspended and the statutes providing for these causes of action tolled only in the situation where the residential tenant is being evicted due to inability to pay rent because he or she was adversely affected by COVID-19. If the tenant could not pay rent for any other reason, the eviction may continue.
The key change accompanying this new executive order is that the statutes for evictions and foreclosures will only be tolled if the individual involved is adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. While arguably this was the point of the initial moratorium issued by executive order, it was not spelled out in the same manner as it has been in this current executive order.
What does it mean to be adversely affected by COVID-19? The executive order defines this as a person who has experienced a loss of employment, diminished wages or business income or any other financial loss sustained during Florida’s State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, the person affected can only receive protection under the executive order so long as he or she is suffering damages related to the COVID-19 crisis. Once he or she is no longer being adversely affected from the crisis, the protection no longer applies.
The prior executive order expired on July 25. The CARES Act passed by Congress still requires landlords to provide a 30-day notice to vacate after the expiration of the protection from eviction. What this means is individuals are still protected until at least August 24. If the individuals being evicted or foreclosed upon are not adversely affected by COVID-19, it is fair game once August 24 hits. Many Floridians are already finding this to be the case and are being served with evictions or foreclosures and are being scheduled for remote hearings via Zoom.
The term “final action” is also being debated as it plays a great deal of importance in the new executive order signed July 29. Determining this definition will play out in the courts over the next few months as the cases begin to come in.
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