BOCA RATON, Fla. — The eviction moratorium in Florida, intended to protect tenants from being thrown out on the street during the coronavirus pandemic, has had an unintended consequence, leaving some landlords high and dry.
Contact 5 has learned landlords have filed more than 1,100 non-monetary evictions since the eviction moratorium was issued in April.
But the backlog hasn't just held up evictions for tenants who have been financially squeezed by COVID-19 and can't pay the rent.
"When we came back, the pool was black with frogs living in (it)," Ron Frontiero said in an interview with Contact 5. "It was disgusting."
Mary and Ron Frontiero own a rental house in Boca Raton. They said their tenants stopped paying rent in February, weeks before the coronavirus pandemic spread and slowed the economy to a virtual halt.
The Frontieros claim their tenants took advantage of the moratorium. Court records show they filed for eviction March 6, almost a month before Gov. Ron DeSantis issued the moratorium.
But the Frontieros were never able to get their case before a judge.
"Whether by accident or as a byproduct, the state of Florida lent support to these people," Ron Frontiero said. "That's what they did, and that's not right."
The Frontieros invited Contact 5 into the home, where they said the tenants not only left behind a mess, but took advantage of the moratorium.
"I think the moratorium is good for a lot of people who need it," Mary Frontiero said, sympathetic to those hit hardest by the economic downturn.
But she lacks sympathy for the now-former tenants, telling Contact 5, "But these are people who played the system. They were going to be evicted anyway."
Tequisha Myles, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, told Contact 5 there are currently about 1,100 pending eviction cases for failure to pay rent in Palm Beach County.
"Because the moratoriums in place, the clerk's office has not been issuing summons and getting tenants served," Myles explained.
The Fronterios said they lost more than $20,000 in rent, plus damages.
"Once it happened, they rode that moratorium train," Mary Fronterio quipped. "They exploited the situation and they rode it out for as long as they could, and if the water company didn't cut them [off] in July, they'd still be here."
The Fronterios are just happy to have their house back.
"There's a lot of good landlords right now that had things prior to this virus that have no rights right now," Mary Fronterio said. "Where's our restitution? Where's our money?"