WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida's eviction moratorium is over, but some landlords said they are still feeling the effects of it.
It was intended to protect tenants from homelessness during the pandemic, but according to some landlords, it's made them never want to rent to tenants again.
Others said they will have to raise rents to compensate for lost income.
"My hands were literally tied," said landlord Jennifer Fierman. "I couldn't do anything."
Fierman lives in California now but still rents out her old home in South Florida.
"It made sense to keep the property, right? Because it was easy, he was paying rent, and it was great," she said. "When COVID hit, the rent payments started getting kind of spotty."
Fierman was frustrated by the lack of recourse available to her at the time.
"I found it to be mind-blowing that there was literally nothing I could do," she said. "That's my takeaway from my whole experience."
As soon as the moratorium was lifted, Fierman said she was able to move forward with an eviction.
"I didn't go into this saying, 'I am going to invest in real estate and be a big, bad landlord,'" she said. "It's like I own a piece of property, and I need to pay for it. It was a stretch for me because I was still on the hook to pay my mortgage, even if my tenant wasn't paying their rent."
Ron Frontiero, a homeowner in Boca Raton, said he lost nearly $30,000 in rent and about $30,000 more in damages to his home. He said the moratorium was "frustrating."
"We got burned," he said. "It was rough because they took away the right to evict, and there was nothing we could do. We had no leverage."
Frontiero said he's lucky he didn't have a mortgage but still won't be able to recoup money lost.
"I always paid my bills, and I expect people to pay their bills," he said. "When you are giving someone a free pass and they don’t have to pay their bills, I don't think that's fair."
Tayson Gaines, a real estate attorney, who practices real estate litigation, including landlord-tenant disputes, said the balance is off.
"Overall, I think we have had a decent amount of understanding and sympathy for the tenants," he said. "I think there is some lost light on the owners. People very easily forget that these owners also are running a business, right? It doesn't mean just because I (the landlord) own three or four properties, I (the landlord) have all kinds of discretionary money to just keep throwing at a mortgage when nothing is coming in on it."
He said much of the financial assistance for renters is also gone now, making the situation even harder for landlords.
Gaines said he's seen lower and later payments, tenants concerned about rates going up and also lease renewals, especially given the property value increase in South Florida.
"I am starting to see that the rubber is starting to hit the road," Gaines said.
He also explained that property values going up means costs are being passed down.
"I think a lot of landlords are feeling it because there is not really much empathy out there, or at least as far as programs out there to help those owners out," he said. "The humanitarian side for the landlords is lost."
Fierman said she will increase rent now to market value.
"Up until the incident with my tenant, I had not raised rent, and I had not planned on raising the rent," she said. "I do have trepidation about letting someone else live in the apartment."
In Frontiero's case, it's game over when it comes to being a landlord.
"I'm not in the rental game anymore," he said.