Florida Eviction Moratorium Needs Clarification

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April 18, 2020

On April 2, 2020 Governor Desantis issued an executive order suspending evictions for 45 days.  I wrote about it here.  The exact language of the order as it pertains to the suspension is below:

"Section 2. I hereby suspend and toll any statute providing for an eviction cause of action under Florida law solely as it relates to non-payment of rent by residential tenants due to the COVID-19 emergency for 45 days from the date of this Executive Order, including any extensions. 

Section 3. Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed as relieving an individual from their obligation to make mortgage payments or rent payments.”

That’s it.  That’s the operative language.  So let’s break it down.

What does it mean to “suspend and toll any statute providing for an eviction cause of action?”  The local clerks of court for Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco are all processing new eviction actions for non-payment of rent.  Will the judges enter judgments in these cases? I think it’s important to clarify whether the judge’s order prevents the filing of an eviction action or only the execution of a writ of possession in an eviction action.  Does the order allow landlords to start the process but not finish it by taking possession? A lot of local landlords are operating under the assumption that they can start the eviction process, which on average takes about 30 days, and then finish it once the moratorium has passed.  

Some other language in the order may cause confusion as well: “solely as it relates to non-payment of rent by residential tenants due to the COVID-19 emergency.”  Does that mean that the suspension doesn’t apply to tenants who stopped paying for reasons other than the COVID-19 emergency?  Does the suspension, for example, apply to tenants who were behind on rent even before the COVID-19 emergency?

I’ve also seen it argued that the order prevents the delivery of a 3-day notice for non-payment of rent.  I don’t see anything in the order that would prohibit the delivery of such a notice, but I’m not sure it would be enforced in an eviction action.  A landlord may be well advised to deliver a new 3-day notice after the moratorium is over.  

I believe it would save judicial resources and help both landlords and tenants if the order is more clearly stated. 

What is clear about the order is that tenants still have the legal obligation to pay rent during this time.  When the moratorium is over, any missed payments will still be due.

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