TAMPA, Fla. - A directive from the Centers for Disease Control to temporarily halt evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic does not seem to protect renters in court. In some cases, including in Hillsborough County, eviction orders are being issued and carried out.
Across the country, state moratoriums on evictions, including Florida's, have expired, putting more than 20 million renters at risk of losing the roof over their head.
"There's a lot of constitutional issues surrounding this," attorney Anthony Rickman said. "Number one is a separation of powers issue. Does the CDC as an administrative arm of the federal government have the right to infringe on the obligations of the court?"
Some judges say the CDC does not have the right.
Housing advocates in states like Missouri and North Carolina have reported that some judges aren't following the directive.
According to the Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts, writs of possession -- also known as eviction orders -- are still being issued. Since September 4 when the CDC order was put in place, more than 600 eviction orders have been issued in Hillsborough County.
"We see people in this county and other counties still getting evicted and one of the reasons is, this does not provide people with a free pass to stay in a home that they aren't paying rent on," Rickman said.
In order to obtain protection from eviction through the CDC's order, you must fill out a 2-page declaration form. In doing so, you must agree under the penalty of perjury that you essentially have explored every possible avenue for government assistance and because of a substantial loss of household income you can't pay your rent.
The order is meant to keep people from living in close quarters in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
As Rickman explains, renters who filled out the form can appeal, but their appeal may not be heard before the order expires on December 31.
Once the order expires, landlords can request payment in full for past due rent. So far, the CDC has not said if they plan to extend the order beyond December 31.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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