The New Housing Crisis on the Horizon
What the end to the moratorium on evictions means for the housing market
There’s something happening on the horizon, but it isn’t one of Florida’s gorgeous sunsets. It is something that, at least according to landlords across the state, is just as beautiful as a sunset, and it’s set to occur on July 31, 2021. I’m speaking, of course, of the moratorium on evictions that has been in place since September 4th of 2020. Originally mean to be a temporary ban on evictions due to non-payment by tenants if they met certain qualifications (mostly based on or around COVID impacts), it has become much more. Unfortunately, what has occurred is that many tenants have taken advantage of this provision as well as the back log in the Court system and have found the policy to be a safe way to keep from being evicted while also stiffing their landlords. In many cases, the landlord might be a large corporate complex with plenty of pocket space to make ends meet, but for people like Mary and Joe, the couple that rents their garage apartment to help cover the second mortgage on their personal home, this has all been a complete nightmare.
The original order issued by the Center for Disease Control that prevented landlord from evicting tenants back in September was meant to do a good thing. It was, in theory, meant to affect a small section of tenants in need of relief during difficult times. However, the issue comes in with how long the order has been extended and with how broadly it was written and then interpreted. The key things everyone needs to know about the order are:
It bans landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent if the tenant meets certain qualifications.
The order DOES NOT release or forgive a tenant’s obligation to pay rent
Tenant may also still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment.
At the end of this temporary halt on evictions, a landlord may require payment in full for all payments not made prior to and during the temporary halt.
Tenants are not automatically covered by the order. To be covered by the order, the tenant must make a declaration under penalty of perjury to the landlord that the tenant:
Has tried to obtain all government assistance for rent or housing
Expects income to be less than $99,000 in 2020-2021
Or the tenant isn’t required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS
Or the tenant received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) during the pandemic (which, if you recall, pretty much everyone did)
Is unable to pay rent due to a substantial loss of income, loss of hours of work or wages, layoff, or big out-of-pocket medical expenses
Is making the best effort to make timely partial payments “if possible”
Will become homeless if evicted or forced to move out because there are no other available housing options to the tenant
In other words, during the pandemic, I am pretty sure almost every tenant in the continental US got hip to the game and figured out a way they could easily fit into these categories and have been living under reduced or free rent since September of 2020. With just a quick 5-minute search on the web turned up 10 or 15 sites that gave me instant access to completing a declaration and providing it to a landlord, for free. And, as I’ve said, for huge landlords with money to back them up, this may not have been a huge problem. But for the single property landlord living off of the rent they earn, it could be. Plus, with the moratorium coming to an end in less than a month, I predict that it’s about to become a huge problem for a lot of tenants.
Here’s where it’s about to get sticky in the months ahead: a landlord has the absolute right to demand full payment for all rent owed (past due), plus any fees and interest owed under the lease agreement once the moratorium is over. That means landlords are about to get the chance to “stick it” to their tenants, and with such a low inventory in the housing market right now, people are looking for places to live––meaning properties will be in high demand (at full price) if landlords turn out a current tenant.
As always, this is going to take a bit of time because the Courts are backed up, but I also tend to think that the Courts have anticipated this was coming and have been preparing for it. In other words, I forecast a huge influx of evictions and foreclosures ahead, which means a different kind of housing crisis on the horizon.
Are you in need of legal representation as the moratorium comes to an end? We want to help. Give us a call at (407) 246-1950 for help in Orlando or (850) 979-4-ALG for help in Pensacola.