MONROE COUNTY — Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed Florida’s ban on evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus state of emergency to expire Oct. 1 because a federal plan banning evictions has been put in place.
However, Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers questioned if allowing the state moratorium to lapse was premature, as the federal plan does not cover foreclosures and there are other requirements that could be onerous to renters such as income requirements for tenants and paperwork that must be submitted to landlords.
Carruthers and County Legislative Affairs Director Lisa Tennyson met last Thursday to discuss the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan. Carruthers was still concerned about the “lack of clarity” in the federal proposal. She would have liked to see the state moratorium kept in place a little longer to see how the CDC plan works and protects renters, she said.
The CDC’s order that prohibits evictions for many tenants unable to pay their rent for the rest of the calendar year.
DeSantis’ order had prohibited the courts from completing proceedings in eviction or foreclosure cases involving people behind on their rent or mortgage.
The mortgage foreclosure and eviction relief was permitted to expire to avoid any confusion about whether the CDC’s evictions order should apply in a particular circumstance, according to DeSantis.
The CDC’s order does not include protections against mortgage foreclosure and only postpones rent payment. Those with federally backed mortgages will most likely be covered by protections implemented during the COVID pandemic by the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to protect those with loans through those agencies from foreclosure.
To be eligible, tenants must sign a form that states they have used their best efforts to obtain available government assistance for rent, either earn no more than $99,000 this year or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return, or they received a coronavirus stimulus check.
Renters are protected from eviction due to substantial loss of household income, being laid-off or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses, according to the guidelines.
A renter must make his or her best efforts to make on-time partial payments that are as close to the full payment as he or she can afford. The eviction would likely make the person homeless or force them to move into close quarters in a new shared living situation, which could worsen the COVID-19 outbreak.
The application will be available online when it’s published in the federal register and must be submitted to landlords for each adult listed on the lease.
Even if the renters are protected until December, Key West Mayor Teri Johnston wants more data on workers financially impacted by the pandemic.
“Now we need to find out from our businesses how many of their employees are behind on their rents or mortgages, because the safety net is going to go away and we need to be prepared for that,” Johnston said.
The Key West Chamber of Commerce has not taken a position on eviction prohibitions but did send out an email to members with the information about the moratorium lapsing and the CDC plan.
The chamber is concerned about workers not being able to pay their rents and business owners not paying their monthly leases, but the impact on landlords as well, Chamber Executive Vice President Scott Atwell said.
“It’s such a fine balance,” Atwell said. “I understand the stress on both sides of the ledger.”
The county government recently closed its application period for workers and business owners who need mortgage and rental assistance. More than 200 people applied for the $838,000 in funding, Tennyson said.
The county is expecting more funding from the state and the federal government soon, including $300,000 from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, Tennyson said.