Are you concerned as a Landlord you will not be able to collect rent from your tenants next month due to the effects of COVID-19, I.e. the Coronavirus? Afraid that not receiving your usual rental income will in turn affect your ability to pay your mortgage, insurance, payroll and other expenses? Well don’t worry, you are not alone. Many businesses are in a similar position; however, there are still various options available to you as a Landlord to attempt to make the best of this difficult financial situation.
Current State of Florida Law/Procedure as to Evictions
The state of the law concerning evictions in Florida has vastly changed given COVID-19. Government at many stages from the Miami-Dade County Eleventh Circuit Chief Judge, Florida Supreme Court, Florida Governor’s office and even the United States Executive Branch has weighed in on this important issue.
Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order No. AOSC20-17, which was entered on March 24, 2020, instructed the clerk of courts to suspend the issuance of writs of possession, the order which instructs the sheriff to evict a tenant and give possession of the property back to its owner, through April 17, 2020. Subsequently, Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order No. AOSC20-23 has effectively extended the suspension indefinitely.
Additionally, Florida Governor Ron de Santis issued Executive Order 20-94 on April 2, 2020 which, while limited to solely residential tenants, suspends evictions as they relate to non-payment of rent for 45 days from the date of said order, I.e. until May 2, 2020.
Lastly, President Donald J. Trump on March 18, 2020, announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) authorized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to issue a moratorium as to evictions and foreclosures for 60 days, I.e. May 17, 2020.
Also, on March 18, 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to also suspend evictions and foreclosures for Enterprise-backed single-family mortgages for at least 60 days due to COVID-19.
Even at a more local stage of government, the Miami-Dade County Eleventh Circuit Chief Judge in Florida issued Administrative Order 20-08 A1 which defers to the Florida Supreme Court and the Governor’s office and affirms the suspension of the issuance of writs of possession.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, many police departments, such as the Miami-Dade Police Department have also refused to enforce writs of possession which had been obtained prior to these administrative and executive orders.
As of the date of this article, evictions are suspended in Florida. It is unknown when the government will allow them to recommence and as such the law concerning evictions remains fluid.
What Can I Do If A Tenant Has Not Paid Their Rent on Time?
As you can see, the current stance of the government is to support tenants given the emergency situation. It seems that for at least the immediate future, the moratorium on evictions will remain. However, a Landlord is not without some tools:
- The Landlord should first attempt to speak with their tenant and negotiate a reasonable amendment to the lease terms. For example, some options include agreeing to lower the rent amount provided the tenant agrees to extend the term of the lease or having the tenant pay half the rent on the day it is due and the remaining amount at the end of the lease. Regardless of what is agreed upon by both the Landlord and the tenant, it is strongly recommended that any amendment be in writing to protect both the Landlord and the tenant from any future misunderstandings as to their respective amended obligations.
- The Landlord may also still file a lawsuit for eviction as to a tenant. While they will be unable to obtain the writ of possession; they would still be able to obtain a judgment for rent owed against that tenant and will eventually be able to evict said tenant once the suspensions for the clerk to issue a writ of possession lapse.
- The Landlord may also wish to inform a tenant that the filing of a lawsuit would have a negative effect on their credit and would make it more difficult for them to rent property in the future. This concern may facilitate reaching a resolution.
What Should I do Now?
As a Landlord, you should now evaluate the status of your tenant(s) and see if they are paying on time for now or if they have been informing you they will not be able to do so. You should speak with an attorney to see which options work best for you and your tenants.
The attorneys at G&R Law are able to assist you in reviewing your leases and negotiating on your behalf with your tenants. G&R Law will work with you during these trying times and within your financial means to negotiate with you tenants on your behalf.
Please click on the link to contact G&R Law and set up your free of charge telephonic appointment.
Stay safe during these trying times.