ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Sade Green and her roommate came home from work with a warning on her apartment door reading in part, “As of Aug. 1st, Orange County will allow property owners to file for evictions, so it’s extremely important that the account is current.”
"It's very gut-wrenching," Green said. "No one really saw this coming and all of a sudden I'm getting threatened with an eviction and it's so bizarre."
Green said her apartment had assured them they could make payments, however, the change comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis amended the August extension of his executive order on Limited Extension of Mortgage Foreclosure and Eviction Relief.
The previous orders that were extended since March “I hereby suspend and toll any statute providing for an eviction cause of action under Florida law solely as it relates to non-payment of rent by residential tenants due to the COVID-19 emergency for 45 days from the date of this Executive Order, including any extensions.”
However, the new order signed last week reads a person has to be “adversely affected” by COVID-19.
“For purposes of this section, adversely affected by the COVlD-19 emergency means loss of employment, diminished wages or business income, or other monetary loss realized during the Florida State of Emergency directly impacting the ability of a residential tenant to make rent payments,” the order reads.
Jay Mobley, Senior Housing and Consumer Attorney at the Legal Aid Society believes we will see more evictions immediately.
“This latest version is not a total ban on evictions anymore,” Mobley said. “Unfortunately, I think it’s going to cause a lot of confusion. People hear a moratorium and hear this was extended by the executive order, they are going to think they are protected and then the sheriff is going to show up with paperwork.
This means in order to prove you were adversely affected, you have to prove it in court.
"I think this is the way to slowly start the eviction process and limit the protections to only those people who were directly affected," Mobley adds.
He also said Florida law said if you were officially served with an eviction notice and can prove you were negatively impacted by COVID-19, you will have to do so by responding to the official notice with five business days.
“You got all the proof in the world but if you don’t show up to court within those five days to file to prove it then you are probably going to be evicted,” he said.
The Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association is offering help to those facing evictions. They have a fill-in-the-blank style form you can fill out to answer to the court if you do receive an eviction notice. They also have staff on hand to help advise and even set you up with an attorney to help fight your eviction if you can prove you were directly impacted by the pandemic.
“Even if you don’t call us, you can simply write it on a piece of paper and you can file that by going to the courthouse. Even though the courthouse is closed for more in-person transactions, there will be somebody at the front door at the clerk’s office who can accept that answer and stamp it to make sure it is timely stamped.”
Mobley also said even if you haven’t been warned, if you are behind on your rent payments to go ahead and collect any documents that will prove you were adversely affected by the pandemic, from bank statements to proof from your employer you were fired or furloughed.
He also adds try working with your landlord on a payment plan or other options before that eviction is served.
“Maintain contact with your landlord, you can’t bury your head in the sand. This is not going to go away. Open the mail, read the notices and make sure you understand what your landlord is doing,” Mobley said.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the county is working on an eviction diversion program. County officials will present a plant to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners on Aug. 11.
On Aug. 11, Mayor Demings said the details of the program will be revealed.