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Possible steps to extend eviction moratorium pending review

Eviction moratorium set to expire March 31
Posted at 12:24 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 12:24:49-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The federal ban on evictions is set expire in one week, but there’s some indication it could be extended.

A proposal from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently pending regulatory review by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

It’s a sign that the CDC could be taking steps to potentially extend the eviction moratorium.

The CDC order prevents a tenant from being evicted if they are unable to make rent or housing payments.

“Keeping people in their homes and out of congregate settings, like shelters, is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19,” reads a January statement from the CDC.

The national eviction ban was extended to March 31.

“The moratorium is limited to protecting tenants that have failed to pay rent due to economic hardship,” said Tayon Gaines, a real estate attorney based in South Florida.

Gaines is encouraging renters to stay informed, understand their rights and the protections in place, especially if they’re falling behind in monthly payments.

“The moratorium does not protect tenants that have violated rules and violated the lease agreement in ways that do not involve missed rental payments,” Gaines added.

As the state unemployment crisis wears on, Gaines is voicing additional concern about the dwindling supply of affordable housing available.

“I'm seeing an uptick in every type of case related to evictions and foreclosure,” said Gaines. “Both of those practice areas have spiked exponentially.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reports roughly one-third of Floridians are behind on rent or mortgage payments and likely to face eviction or foreclosure in the coming months.

“As long as tenants protect themselves under the CDC moratorium and file the necessary forms, they will not be displaced as a result of failure to pay rent,” Gaines said.

Current Florida law does not allow a landlord to force a tenant out by:

  • Shutting off the utilities or interrupting service, even if that service is under the control of the landlord or the landlord makes the payment;
  • Changing the locks or using a device that denies the tenant access;
  • Removing the outside doors, locks, roof, walls or windows (except for purposes of maintenance, repair or replacement); and/or
  • Removing the tenant's personal property from the dwelling unless the action is taken after the surrender, abandonment, or recovery of possession of the rental unit due to the death of the last remaining tenant or after lawful eviction.

If any of these occur, the tenant may sue for actual and consequential damages or three months' rent, whichever is greater, plus court costs and attorneys' fees.

EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS:

South Florida residents may be eligible for emergency financial assistance for payment of electric bills, water bills and/or rent.

Many of the programs require applicants to have a delinquent bill and meet certain income criteria in order to qualify.

More information about the rental and utility assistance programs across South Florida can be found below:

Palm Beach County: https://www.rentalassistancepbc.org/

Martin County: https://www.martin.fl.us/martin-county-services/emergency-financial-assistance

St. Lucie County: https://recoverstlucie.org/emergency-rental-and-mortgage-assistance-program/

Indian River County: https://www.ircgov.com/departments/human_services/Assistance.htm

Okeechobee County: https://www.co.okeechobee.fl.us/departments/ship-housing

Broward County: https://www.broward.org/cares/Pages/default.aspx

Miami-Dade County: https://www.miamidade.gov/global/housing/emergency-rental-assistance-program.page