PORT CHARLOTTE — When the pandemic first hit, Governor DeSantis issued an executive order, banning any and all evictions.
Then, on June 1st, he extended that ban until July 1st. Now, one landlord in Fort Myers says her tenants are taking advantage of the situation.
Jessica DeGaetani said she shouldn’t have any tenants right now. The lease was up on June 1st, and she didn’t renew, but the tenants don’t want to leave, and at least for right now, DeGaetani can’t make them. She says, that needs to change.
DeGaetani owns a house in Port Charlotte. She said the last straw with her tenants came in mid-February.
“She took matters into her own hands and moved someone in without letting me know," said DeGaetani.
So DeGaetani filed the paperwork to have them both evicted.
“I had to set the court date to be able to move forward with the eviction, and then when COVID-19 happened, everything got put on hold," said DeGaetani.
We talked to Eviction Attorney Holly Cosby, who told us there are hundreds, if not thousands of landlords in DeGaetani’s situation right now: Trying to evict tenants for an issue that has nothing to do with their ability to pay rent.
“It doesn’t matter that it happened before COVID. It matters when the lawsuit was filed, and the current state of the lawsuit," said Cosby.
Once the Governor’s order went into effect, DeGaetani said, things only got worse.
“Once they felt like they could get away with anything, they did. All the way down to using 19,000 gallons worth of water within a two week period, that left me with a massive water bill," said DeGaetani.
DeGaetani says, she understands there are people who can’t pay rent for legitimate reasons right now, but she says this isn’t one of those cases, and she wants a judge to be able to consider that.
“I don’t make an astronomical amount of money. I can’t afford two households, and to be honest with you, I don’t know a lot of people that can," said DeGaetani.
And Cosby says, there’s another snag to this story. Even if the Governor allows the eviction ban to expire on July first, the Florida Supreme Court may still stop evictions.
Right now, it has put a ban on clerks of court from issuing writs of possession, which is the last step in the eviction process.
So both branches of government will have to lift their bans if DeGaetani wants to get some relief.