COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Since April, people struggling to pay rent in Florida were protected through Governor Ron DeSantis’ eviction moratorium.
But despite the governor’s decision to lift the ban on evictions, people financially impacted by the pandemic are still protected.
“The Center for Disease Control issued an order on September 4th that basically put a freeze on for evictions for non-payment of rent,” said Cathy Lucrezi.
Cathy Lucrezi is the supervising attorney at Legal Aid Service of Collier County, a nonprofit law firm.
Lucrezi says for people to be protected by the federal order, they must meet several qualifications.
“You have to be earning less than a certain amount of money, you have to be impacted by financial circumstances that you’re not able to pay the rent,” said Lucrezi.
The tenant must fill out a declaration form and give it to their landlord to invoke the protection.
“It’s basically a paper that says ‘I swear that all of this is true, that I make less than $99,000 a year, I’m having trouble paying the rent, I’ve tried to pay the rent, I’m doing the best I can’t,’ that sort of thing,” said Lucrezi.
The federal moratorium protects people until December 31st; after that, evictions can proceed.
“The tenant still remains liable for rent, charges, and late fees," said Lucrezi. "It’s not forgiveness of rent what so ever.”
Collier County Clerk of Courts received eighty-five eviction filings in September.
Collier County Sheriff's Office says it served eighteen writs of possession last month and two since October 2.
The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office says it has served 8 writs of possession since October 1.
Lee County Clerk of Courts reports receiving 76 eviction filings since October 1.
“If the tenant is engaging in unlawful activity, causing damage to the premises, or violating some other part of the lease, that eviction will go through, the CDC order does not protect it,” said Lucrezi.
To help answer questions surrounding evictions, Legal Aid Service of Collier County will be hosting a free webinar Wednesday, October 14.
The first of a grant-funded free webinar series.
“When a tenant signs the declaration or the certificate that they meet all of the criteria, the tenant is signing it under penalties of perjury, so we want to be sure people understand the impact of what they’re signing,” said Lucrezi.