ORLANDO, Fla. – The national moratorium on COVID-related evictions now extends through the end of March, but that is not stopping some landlords from trying to oust tenants who are unable to pay their rent.
News 6 uncovered thousands of evictions that were currently winding their way through Central Florida court systems.
In Orange County, there were 1,911 pending evictions – some of them filed as long ago as July 2020.
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Daltonya Thomas called News 6 when Orange County sheriff’s deputies showed up at her front door armed with an eviction order.
She said they told her, her boyfriend and their five children they had to gather everything they could and vacate their rental home.
“It’s been really hard for us,” she said.
Her boyfriend, Victor Andino, said the coronavirus has made it very difficult to find work.
“With the whole corona thing, it was pretty difficult. Especially now that we have a car and I’m able to move around to look for work and everything like that. It was very difficult,” he said.
Andino and Thomas lived in the 32808 ZIP code.
News 6 examined all the open evictions filed since last June in Orange County and found their ZIP code has among the highest numbers with 207 cases still pending.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 70% of the people who live in the ZIP code are African American and 26% work in the hospitality and service industries, which were hit hard financially by the pandemic.
The Orange County ZIP code with the highest number was 32839 with 239 evictions still open in the courts.
Forty-three percent of the people who live there are African American and 37 percent are Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Eighty percent of the population in 32839 earn less than $50,000 per year.
One of the ZIP codes with the fewest evictions was 34784 -- the Gotha area -- with one pending eviction.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the people who live in that area are 71% white, 19% Hispanic and 17% African American.
The 32804 ZIP code had 11 pending evictions.
The people who live there are 85% white, 13% Hispanic and 5% African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We deal with people of low, low income, and they were hit the hardest by this,” Jeffrey Hussey said.
Hussey is the litigation director for Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida.
He said his staff is preparing for what he calls a tsunami of new evictions.
“That wave, it’s just getting bigger and bigger and bigger because the moratoriums are great. It’s saving people’s housing, but it just keeps pushing the problem down the road,” he said.
News 6 worked to get results for Thomas and her family.
Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill contacted the Orlando Union Rescue Mission.
“The commissioner called and we were able to juggle some of the beds we have and living arrangements with the families who are already participants in our program,” said Freddie Clayton, the rescue mission’s president.
But those beds were not needed.
Hill helped Thomas enroll in a city program that assists people financially impacted by COVID-19 to get a temporary place to stay.
“I’ve walked in Daltonya’s shoes,” Hill said. “At one point in my life, I was homeless with three small children. When I saw those kids -- five kids -- that were going to be on the streets of Orlando during COVID in these trying times, I had to do something.”
Hussey said people who are facing possible eviction right now need to try to work out some kind of deal with their landlord, apply for CARES Act rental assistance and fill out the official eviction affidavit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thomas said she wrote letters to the judge asking for more time but she did not file that affidavit.
According to court records, that resulted in her eviction being ruled on by a judge.
“I’m going to keep my head up high,” Thomas said. “She didn’t break me. She’s just fixing to bless me. That’s all she’s fixing to do.
The Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association is offering housing clinics via telephone. Call 407-841-8310 to make an appointment.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida is also offering a help clinic the week of February 22.
Their help line is 1-800-405-1417.