Gov. DeSantis extends eviction protection -- but not for everyone

Florida governor’s order on evictions, foreclosures extended until Sept. 1; Order on local hearings also issued

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis extended until Sept. 1 an executive order to help prevent foreclosures and evictions amid job losses and financial problems caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The executive order, issued late Wednesday, makes clear that it is only supposed to apply to people who are “adversely affected” economically by the pandemic and that they will ultimately have to pay amounts owed on mortgages or in rent.

“Nothing in this executive order shall be construed as relieving an individual from his or her obligation to make mortgage payments or rent payments,” the order said. “All payments, including tolled payments, are due when an individual is no longer adversely affected by the COVID-19 emergency.”

An earlier version of the order had been slated to expire Saturday.

The latest order may provide some relief to landlords who say they’re unable to pay their own bills and are being taken advantage of by some tenants.

Ventura landlord Arik Lev said some have taken advantage of the situation.

“First of all, they never hide it. They were so happy. They told me in the beginning, ‘We’re still working.’ And then they didn’t pay and they sent even some kind of text message, which I have, [saying,] ‘Oh, the governor said we don’t have to pay,‘” said Lev.

Due to a lack of payments, Lev estimates he’s $20,000 in the hole.

“Water, sewage, garbage, cutting the grass -- it’s at least $120 a month,” said Lev.

Even groups like United Way, which support the eviction moratorium, agree more needs to be done to help landlords.

“Who are having to still be responsible for making payments on these properties, even though they have no revenue coming in,” said United Way of Florida President and CEO Rick Owen. “So there are multiple sides to look at on this, and, obviously, the idea is to try to make everybody whole.”

When asked how landlords can prove a tenant is no longer impacted by the pandemic, Cody McCloud, press secretary for the governor said in a statement: “Every situation is different, therefor judges should work with both landlords and tenants on an individual case basis to determine if a tenant’s inability to pay rent is a result of COVID-19.”

But Lev thinks it’s likely too little too late. He anticipates a flood of backlogged evictions, all but guaranteeing the bad actors staying in his properties will have a free place to stay for the foreseeable future.

“I’m not that naive. I’m not gonna see a cent,” said Lev.

Lev also said some landlords are considering filing a lawsuit if their situation doesn’t start to improve.

Governor also issues order on local hearings

DeSantis late Wednesday also issued an order that will allow local governments to hold upcoming tax-millage and budget hearings in conference calls or through video conferencing.

DeSantis has issued other orders in recent months that have allowed such remote meetings of county commissions, city councils, school boards and other local agencies. But local boards typically have to follow specific legal procedures, including holding public hearings, on millage and budget proposals.