Worried about the Risk of Eviction? Here are Some Tips!

Facing risk of eviction is a traumatic event for anyone. Nobody moves into a new home planning to be evicted, but when hard times hit everything is chaos. Even without COVID19, hundreds of people in South Florida are faced with eviction every year, many of them are families with children who need stability. If you are facing the risk of eviction, here are some things you need to know!

COVID-19 eviction protections expired at the federal level on July 24. However, the CARES act specified that landlords must serve their tenants facing eviction a 30-day notice, so the effective date for eviction is moved up to August 31 – not far away. The exceptions are those renting from a landlord who holds a federally-backed mortgage from the VA, FHA, or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. If you are behind on rent because of COVID19, there are resources to assist you whether it’s rent assistance or legal assistance in the form of Legal Aid in Broward or Miami-Dade counties.

What is Your Risk of Eviction?

There are some nuances to your risk of eviction. Were you served with a notice prior to mid-March? Is your landlord citing reasons other than nonpayment of rent? With the recent changes to Florida’s foreclosure and eviction moratorium, some landlords are charging right ahead to court. Unfortunately the burden of proof is squarely on the defendant, as there is no right to counsel in housing court. However, you can mitigate some risk by following the tips below.

  1. Don’t clam up. Telling your landlord that you can’t make rent is a lot better than giving them a rude surprise.
  2. Don’t hide. They know that you’re late and if they are trying to talk to you about it, it opens the door to negotiations.
  3. Document. Document. Document. You can make a ‘paper trail’ showing your communications with your landlord and your attempts to work out a repayment plan and/or lower your future rent, but don’t record calls with your landlord or his representative without their explicit permission. Florida state law requires consent from all parties before doing so.
  4. Understand your rights as a tenant and the obligations of a landlord.
  5. When you’re talking to your landlord, stay calm and be realistic. If the landlord will accept something over nothing, make sure that you pay that something. Negotiate in good faith.
  6. Get it in writing – for both parties’ sakes. Whatever deal you strike, it needs to be in writing. Even if it’s just something typed up on a computer, printed out and signed by both parties.

If your landlord does not respond to your attempts to communicate, or notifies that they will proceed with the eviction, you need to consider whether or not to fight. Your landlord will have an attorney, but unless you can find help at Legal Aid or afford one on your own, it’s just going to be you in an area of law where the plaintiff has a home field advantage.

Options for Moving Forward

It may be possible, if you can’t pay the back rent and your landlord won’t accept a payment plan to negotiate your exit and find a new place to live. The eviction is not yet on your credit record and must be a rendered judgement to be recorded. If you can keep that eviction off your record by asking for more time beyond the 30 days afforded by the CARES act, it could be a better idea to find a different living situation and move out. You may be sued for back rent, but the eviction won’t be on your record.

Lots of people are going to be in the same boat. It’s estimated that America’s renters are one-third of the population, and 20 percent are facing eviction. However, landlords may not be able to fill those vacancies right away. Indeed, in some hot housing markets such as San Francisco and Silicon Valley, landlords who banked on charging tech workers exorbitant rents have been left with empty rentals. The units are empty not because of those workers becoming unemployed, but because employers have shifted to ‘work from home’ and those workers have found a cheaper home elsewhere. Many of those employers are saying that working from home will remain the case until 2021. 

Remind your landlord that he can evict you, but that unit might sit empty for a very long time.

What about Bankruptcy?

Let’s talk about it. Being behind on rent might not be your only debt problem, or your debt might have gone from being no problem to being a huge problem. Most likely you struggled to file for unemployment, find a new job, and used your credit to buy food, pay bills, keep the car gassed up, or even access medical care for yourself or a loved one. You might be behind on your student loans, your car payment, and your credit cards. It’s easy to get into debt, but getting out of it is another story. You might be able to catch up, renegotiate, or even file for a personal bankruptcy. 

Look at what you owe versus your income and basic needs, then think carefully. Could you live comfortably on what you have coming in if those debts were either eliminated or revised? Would you be able to have some breathing room with the automatic stay on your bills and rent? It might be time to talk to an attorney and figure out your best way forward.

We Can Help!

Van Horn Law Group has been serving South Florida since 2009, helping businesses and individuals manage their debts. With negotiation, sound legal and financial advice, and experience with personal and business bankruptcies, our firm now serves Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. We are available for a free initial consultation by phone or video conference, and will help you to decide how to move forward. Call us today at (954) 765-3166, and get started on the road to a debt-free life!

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Worried about the Risk of Eviction? Here are Some Tips!
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There are some nuances to your risk of eviction. Were you served with a notice prior to mid-March? Is your landlord citing reasons other than nonpayment of rent? With the recent changes to Florida's foreclosure and eviction moratorium, some landlords are charging right ahead to court.
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Chad Van Horn
Van Horn Law Group
Van Horn Law Group
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Chad Van Horn

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