On September 4, 2020, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued an Order under the Public Health Services Act to temporarily halt residential evictions for the purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19 (the “Order”). Federal Register, Vol. 85, No. 173 (Sept. 4, 2020). On October 1, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis allowed his previous Executive Orders to “suspend and toll any statute” for residential evictions to expire, but only to avoid any confusion over the application of the CDC’s Order.
The CDC took this extraordinary action because “in the absence of State and local protections, as many as 30-40 million people in America could be at risk of eviction [and] a wave of evictions on that scale would be
unprecedented in modern times.” The CDC’s Order states that a residential landlord “shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this Order applies during the effective period of the Order.” The Order is effective through December 31, 2020. The Order specifically states that it “does not relieve any individual or any obligation to pay rent.” Any tenant, however, may invoke the protections of the Order (if the tenant meets the income qualifications and other requirements) by simply executing a “Declaration” form that is attached to the CDC’s Order.
The Order defines “evict” as taking “any action” to remove or cause the removal of a tenant. (Arguably, this may even apply to
serving a three-day notice or taking any action to begin the eviction process.) The term “covered person” is also broadly defined and includes “any tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property...” As a result, the Order effectively prevents any landlord from moving forward with any residential eviction in Florida for non-payment of rent through December 31st so long as the tenant qualifies for protection and signs the Declaration. The Order should be taken very seriously because it provides for criminal penalties and fines for any violation.
Even after the Order expires, there is still a legal maze of issues that will have to be sorted out based on Florida Supreme Court Administrative Orders regarding COVD-19, actions taken by Clerks of Court in regard to issuing summonses or writs of
possession, Sheriff’s offices refusing to serve writs of possession, and the challenges of getting hearing time before Judges in closed courthouses. As such, it is more important than ever to have qualified and experienced attorneys involved in the residential eviction process as the expected “wave of evictions” begins to form.
Bart R. Valdes is one of the managing partners of DSK Law. Mr. Valdes is Florida Bar Board Certified Expert in the area of Business Litigation and has represented landlords and property managers and handled commercial and residential eviction cases across the State of Florida for over 20 years.
Lindsay Moczynski is an Associate Attorney in the Firm’s Tampa
office. Ms. Moczynski has experience in handling real property, foreclosure, collections, family law, and insurance defense cases.
This article is for informational purposes only and you should seek professional legal advice before taking any action based on this article. Further, this information is subject to change due to the rapidly changing legal, political and business environment.