Overdue rent, mortgages pile up as eviction moratorium extends to August 1

Gov. Ron DeSantis extended the freeze on evictions in Florida for at least another 30 days, providing relief to many out-of-work renters, but adding to the struggle of some landlords.

The moratorium on evictions went into place when the governor signed an executive order at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic to help tenants stay in their homes and apartments. It has since been extended 30 days in every subsequent month.

"No one wants to default on their rent payment. No one wants to have that fear in the back of their minds that they can be evicted," said Jack Whidden, a waiter who struggled to make rent payments before he was recently re-hired. "I was very concerned when I didn't know what the future would hold because I basically had to look at my savings and say, 'OK, I have 'x' amount of dollars left. I can either use that to go towards my rent for the next few months or I can use that to pay my tuition deposit.'"

A lot of other families, however, are still dealing with financial hardship and could face eviction when the moratorium is lifted.

In Hillsborough County, about 1,600 families received two months of rental assistance through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. Audrey Ziegler, Hillsborough's social services director, said the county is considering launching a second phase of CARES assistance.

"It still looks like, are we going to have to face this every 30 days as our unemployment situation has not changed," Ziegler said. "Some of them are now going on month three of not having an income, not paying the landlord. Some of the landlords are not being very understanding or very forgiving and kind of holding the eviction over their heads and waiting for these moratoriums to be lifted."

According to Bay Area Legal Services, at least 500 landlords have filed paperwork in Hillsborough County to begin evictions once the freeze is in the past.

Ziegler's concern is that this could lead to a second crisis.

"A lot of people, through no fault of their own, will be facing homelessness," she said. "Now we are going to be looking at a whole new population that are facing these concerns and may experience homelessness and how do we deal with that as a community?"

A number of landlords, meanwhile, are now wondering where they can find relief.

George Khoury, who describes himself as a hard-working, middle-class person, owns one rental property in Moon Lake and hasn't received rent since February.

"I can't make ends meet because they stopped all these evictions. That's fine. I'm not trying to evict them. I just want the money that's coming to me," Khoury said. "[Governor DeSantis] has done a lot of good to the people that can't afford it. But the thing I don't understand is, how is that fair to somebody like me?"

Ziegler urges struggling renters to discuss their financial situations with their landlords to try to come to an agreement and avoid eviction if possible.

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