• Michael N. Bress, Esq.

FEDERAL EVICTION MORATORIUM IN FLORIDA (OVERVIEW AND UPDATE)

Updated: May 17


MAY 2021 UPDATE

The information below was originally written in September 2020 after the issuance of the CDC Order temporarily suspending evictions for non-payment of rent, so I have updated what is below to reflect certain changes. It is current as of May 15, 2021. For more recent and other information on the CDC Moratorium, see the Bress Law Firm’s Blog Post entitled Federal Eviction Moratorium In Florida: May 2021 Update. You can find it at BressLaw.Com.


INTRODUCTION

On September 4, 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order imposing a nationwide moratorium on most evictions for non-payment of rent (the “CDC Order”). As of October 1, 2020, Florida’s statewide moratorium on evictions, which was first implemented in March 2020, has expired. In Florida, those at risk of eviction for non-payment of rent, have to rely on Federal protections.


Absent any changes or extensions, the CDC order should prohibit landlords, or others with the right to pursue an eviction, from evicting tenants, lessees, or residents of residential properties who qualify as “covered persons” through June 30, 2021 (the “CDC Moratorium”).


This article discusses the CDC moratorium, its requirements, provisions, and effects, and contains an overview of the state of evictions and rental assistance in Florida. Also, below are links to key references and useful information on assistance.


STATE OF EVICTIONS IN FLORIDA

Now that Florida’s statewide moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent has expired, the CDC moratorium is the effective moratorium on most evictions in Florida.


According an Aspen Institute study, cited in the CDC order, 30 to 40 million renters are at risk of losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, it must be noted, landlords who depend on rents payments as a source of income are falling behind on their expenses and mortgages, putting them at risk of foreclosure.


The CDC order provides a temporary solution, a stop-gap measure to address these issues, but once it expires, countless renters and landlords will not be able to pay what they owe. In other words, there is a mounting housing crisis that the CDC order says could result in a wave of evictions that is unprecedented in modern times.


In short, to qualify as a covered person under the CDC moratorium, a tenant, lessee, or residential tenant must 1) meet the eligibility requirements, detailed below, 2) complete a sworn declaration certifying they meet such requirements (the “Declaration”), and 3) provide a signed copy of the Declaration to their landlord. This should prevent covered persons from being evicted through June 30, 2021. A copy of the CDC Declaration form is available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/declaration-form.pdf.


Keep in mind, that while the CDC moratorium has halted most evictions, it has not suspended the obligation to pay rent; nor does it prevent landlords from charging fees, penalties, or interest for late payments or non-payment of rent. This means that once there is no moratorium, in order to avoid being evicted, previously covered persons will have to pay what they owe all at once, which is a perilous situation.


THE CDC MORATORIUM

Until at least June 30, 2021, absent any changes, in order for a tenant to qualify for protection under the CDC Order, the tenant must first be able to check at least one box in both Column A and Column B of the CDC Declaration.


COLUMN A

[] I received a stimulus check (Economic Impact Payment) in 2020 or 2021.

[] I was not required to report any income to the IRS in 2020.

[] In 2020 or 2021, I earned (or expect to earn) less than $99,000 as an individual or less than $198,000 as a joint filer.


COLUMN B

I cannot pay my full rent or make a full housing payment because:

[] My household income has gone down substantially.

[] I have been laid off from work.

[] My work hours or wages have been cut.

I have extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.


IF you cannot check at least one box in both columns, then you do not qualify for protection under the CDC Order.


If you do qualify, the CDC Declaration requires you to then declare, under penalty of perjury, that the following statements are true:


[] My income level qualifies for the reasons explained above

[] I have done my best to make timely partial payments that are as close as possible to the full payment and to get government assistance in making my rent or housing payments.

[] If I were evicted, I have no other available housing options, so I would:

-Probably become homeless, or

-Have to move to a homeless shelter, or

-Have to move in with others who live in close quarters.

[] I understand that after I sign:

-Unless I come to an agreement with my landlord, I am still responsible for rent, back rent, and any fees, penalties or interest under my lease.

-I must still follow the conditions of my lease.

-Unless I come to an agreement with my landlord, if I fail to make my required payments, I could be evicted when this temporary halt of evictions ends.

-I can still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or not making a housing payment.


If you are able to attest that the foregoing questions are true, you then have to sign and date the CDC Declaration. Lastly, you must give the signed CDC Declaration to your landlord (the company or individual that you rent from).


Whether a landlord or a tenant, please read the Declaration carefully, understand what is required of you, and make sure that you continue to comply with the Declaration’s requirements.


If a landlord wants to dispute the truthfulness of a tenant’s declaration, they may do so in any state or municipal court.


Unlike previous moratoriums in Florida, the CDC moratorium allows for evictions of covered persons to be initiated. According to a government memo (discussed below), the CDC order is not “intended to prevent landlords from starting eviction proceedings, provided the actual eviction of a covered person for non-payment of rent does NOT take place during the period of the Order.”


PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF

THE CDC ORDER

The purpose of the CDC moratorium is to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which poses a severe threat to public health. In order to enforce compliance, the CDC order provides that anyone who violates the order may be subject to criminal penalties, including fines and jail time.


For violating the CDC order, individual landlords may be fined up to $100,000, one year in jail, or both, if the violation does not result in death; or, if the violation does result in death, up to $250,000, one year in jail, or both. For corporate landlords, up to $200,000 per violation, if the violation does not result in death, or $500,000 per violation if it does result in death.


THE NON-BINDING

GOVERNMENT MEMO

On October 9, 2020, the government issued a memo (the “Memo”) addressing frequently asked questions about the CDC order, a “non-binding guidance document shares the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).”


The government issued the Memo to clear up confusion caused by the CDC order. Some argue that the Memo created more confusion than it cleared up. For example, neither the CDC order nor Memo state whether a tenant’s inability to pay rent must be related to Covid-19. On the other hand, some of the rental assistance programs in Florida still seem to require that a tenant’s inability to pay rent be related to Covid-19. To many, such a requirement has always been confusing because these days almost any loss of income is arguably related to Covid-19.


Some of the outstanding questions that the Memo did clear up are the following.


To seek the protection of the CDC order, a signed Declaration should be provided by every adult listed on the lease, rental agreement, or housing contract. Also, the signed copy of the Declaration may be transmitted either electronically or by hard copy.


Landlords must comply with the CDC order, but are not required to make their tenants aware of the CDC order or Declaration. This has led some landlords to quickly file before their tenants learn about the CDC order and its protections.


Though not addressed by the Memo, some courts, however, are scheduling mediations in eviction actions against potentially covered persons, where legal aid attorneys have informed such persons of their rights. Legal-aid attorneys have also helped such persons determine whether they qualify as a covered person in order to assist them in obtaining rental assistance.


Ultimately, the full implications of the CDC order and the Memo, will not be clear until the courts in Florida have interpreted and construed the CDC order and fully implemented a uniform procedure.


RENTAL ASSISTANCE

Congress approved $25 billion dollars of rental assistance in December of 2020 and another $21.5 billion in March of 2021. The availability of housing assistance is continually changing, so for more information on rental assistance go to https://www.floridahousing.org. Regardless of availability of rental assistance, the CDC Declaration requires tenants to make best efforts to obtain housing assistance.


CONCLUSION

These are difficult and confusing times for many landlords and tenants. The status and future of evictions has been in a state of flux and uncertainty. With no clear end to the crisis in view, renters and homeowners are left in a state of frustration and anticipation. For assistance you can contact local agencies about relief programs, seek the assistance of local legal aid attorneys or, if you do not qualify for legal aid, contact an attorney to help you protect your rights and interests.


September 10, 2021; Updated (Current as of) May 15, 2021.


© Bress Law Firm, PLLC.


FOR MORE RECENT AND OTHER INFORMATION, SEE THE BRESS LAW FIRM’S MAY 2021 FEDERAL EVICTION MORATORIUM UPDATE AT THE BRESSLAW.COM BLOG.


CONTACT INFORMATION

The BRESS LAW FIRM, PLLC is located in Aventura, Florida, but serves clients throughout Miami-Dade County. Our areas of practice are Residential and Commercial LANDLORD AND TENANT LAW; WILLS, TRUSTS, & ESTATES; and CONTRACT LAW.

If you have any legal questions or want to schedule a consultation, you can contact the Bress Law Firm at (954)336-8049, Michael@BressLaw.Com, or you can visit our website at BressLaw.Com.


REFERENCES AND INFORMATION

SEE CDC ORDER entitled Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19, 85 Fed. Reg. 55,292 (Sept. 4, 2020).


LATEST CDC ORDER: CDC-Eviction-Moratorium-03292021.pdf.


CDC DECLARATION FORM: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/EvictionDeclare_d508.pdf.


THE NON-BINDING MEMO MEMO HHS/CDC Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of Covid-19 FAQ https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/eviction-moratoria-order-faqs.pdf


CDC DECLARATION FORM https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/declaration-form.pdf


HOUSING ASSISTANCE INFORMATION: https://www.floridahousing.org.


LEGAL AID IN YOUR AREA, LOCATOR https: //www.lsc.gov/what-legal-aid/find-legal-aid


DISCLAIMER

The information you obtain at BressLaw.Com or in this article is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. You are welcome to contact us about a legal matter via. Phone, Letter, or Electronic Mail. Contacting Bress Law Firm, PLLC. does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. Bress Law Firm, PLLC., however, treats all client information as if confidential.


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