More than 1.8M Florida homeowners without foreclosure protection after moratorium expires

By John Haughey
The Center Square
October 2, 2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed the state’s six-month eviction and foreclosure moratorium to expire “to avoid confusion” with a federal order that stays evictions through the end of the year.

That Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order, however, does not cover foreclosures and is being challenged in court, leaving hundreds of thousands of pandemic-stressed Florida households now behind on rent and mortgage payments without a state-installed safety net.

“Today, Gov. DeSantis permitted Executive Order 20-211 to expire,” the Wednesday night order says. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently enacted a nationwide residential evictions Order that provides federal eviction relief to persons who submit a valid declaration to their landlord regarding their inability to pay rent.”

In a news release accompanying the order, the governor’s office said for the CDC order to apply, tenants must submit a specific declaration form to their landlords documenting that they have experienced a “substantial loss of household income” and have made best efforts to seek government assistance.

DeSantis was allowing the moratorium to expire “to avoid any confusion over whether the CDC’s evictions order should apply in a particular circumstance,” the governor’s office said.

DeSantis issued the moratorium in April and has updated it in 30-day increments every month since June, waiting until the last day in each instance to extend it.

The state’s order froze foreclosures for single-family homeowners without federally backed mortgages. The CDC directive does not.

The Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and others offer foreclosure-avoidance programs for homeowners with federally backed mortgages.

The Urban Institute estimated about 30 percent of Florida’s 6.2 million homeowners – more than 1.8 million – do not have a federally backed mortgage.

“Not extending the Florida order would not only potentially harm owners of single-family homes without a federally backed mortgage, but any renters that rent out those single-family units,” Florida Housing Coalition Legal Director Kody Glazer said in a statement.

Since the CDC imposed its “Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent Further Spread of COVID-19” order Sept. 4, there has been uncertainty across the country in how to interpret the federal order and whether it should prevail over similar state moratoriums.

The Texas Supreme Court is requiring any tenant facing eviction be notified about the CDC order and provided a copy of its declaration form. As of Thursday, no such accommodations have been suggested in Florida.

Defaulting to the CDC order leaves thousands of Florida families potentially exposed to being homeless, said state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, whose central Florida constituency includes theme park workers, most notably the 6,700 Disney World employees laid off this week.

“This is so dangerous,” Eskamani tweeted. “Federal order is being challenged in court, & if it’s overturned Floridians will have NO protections from evictions. Now we have NO protections on foreclosures either. Floridians need more housing security — not less.”

The National Civil Liberties Alliance has filed a complaint against the CDC directive and is requesting a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

The lawsuit challenges the CDC’s authority to impose the order, arguing only Congress has the constitutional right to make laws.

DeSantis also announced Wednesday that county and city government boards can continue to stage online meetings through Nov. 1.

The governor authorized local governments to hold meetings remotely in March and has extended the order several times since. The order was scheduled to expire just after midnight Thursday.

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Mark Tomes
Active Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
3 years ago

DeSantis’s order is like a mugger saying he’s going to shoot you. Great, no confusion there, but you’re still going to get shot.