By; Mac Ross, Esq., ROSS FELTY, A REAL ESTATE LAW FIRM
We have all seen the executive order put in place by Governor DeSantis on April 2nd, 2020 essentially suspending actions for evictions of Floridians with residential tenancies, and foreclosures on residential mortgages, Executive Order Number 20-94. But how does it affect Florida Borrowers, Renters and Landlords who are parties to these contracts, and what steps can each party take to ensure they are following the regulations imposed by the Order?
The Order states, simply:
- Any law allowing for eviction of a residential tenant for the Sole Reason of non-payment of rent due to Covid-19 is suspended for 45 days from the effective date of the order, Monday, May 18, 2020.
- And any statute allowing for mortgage foreclosure causes of action are also suspended.AND
- Nothing in the order relieves any Tenant from their obligation to pay rent or mortgage payments.
So, what should you do?
If you are a Tenant, struggling to make rent payments because you have suffered a loss of income due to Covid-19, while this Order provides temporary peace of mind, it does not relieve you from your obligation to pay rent. Therefore, tenants affected by this pandemic should reach out to their Landlords to inform them of the situation and discuss a possible modification of lease terms.
The Order also does not relieve tenants from facing evictions based on violations of other obligations laid out in their respective lease agreements.
Landlords who are not able to collect rents should do the same and reach out to tenants to see if their non-payment is a product of the pandemic. A landlord may request payment of rent, even if only a partial amount, but initiating an eviction based on non-payment of rent due to Covid-19 is prohibited until the expiration of this order.
In most cases, it will be in the best interest of the parties to discuss an option for a reduction in rent or a rent deferral with the missed rent payments being repaid over the course of the lease as tenants are able to get back to work.
If you are a borrower of a mortgage loan, the good news is all foreclosure statutes are tolled, and no specific condition relating to COVID-19 is mentioned. However, once the order expires Lenders will have the right to foreclose on any borrower that has defaulted. Borrowers struggling to make payments should reach out to their Lender to see if they will offer a modification to the loan or, in the alternative a forbearance period. The order still does not free you from making your mortgage and borrowers that can pay, definitely should, however, forbearance is a way to “pause” payments until you get back on track. Forbearance does not mean forgiveness, each Lender is different, but the delayed payments will need to be repaid to the lender at some point.
In any event, landlords, tenants, lenders, and borrowers that find themselves in these tough situations should seek advice from a Florida Real Estate Attorney. Many are offering services and fee arrangements specifically tailored to issues surrounding the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and can help you navigate these problems to reach a solution that works for all parties.