Most people are aware that Florida Governor Desantis has had a stay placed on evictions and foreclosures from April until August 2020. The Executive Order, which I believe is an unconstitutional impairment of contract, offers a slight reprieve to tenants and homeowners facing evictions, but it also carries with it some very dangerous spin off effects that will impact hundreds of thousands of Floridians for years to come.
The bottom line….we’ve got an economic, social and legal catastrophe on our hands…and it’s one we’ll be dealing with as a crisis for many years to come.
No Brains To Eat In The Courthouse
Let’s look at this from a couple different viewpoints. If you’re a tenant, you’ve been given a bit of breathing room…actually a whole lot of breathing room…you can live in a property without fear of eviction for what I think will effectively be a year when this all said and done. I say a year because even when the CARES Act expires and even after the Governor’s Order expires, there is going to be such a wave of cases and clamoring to get into courthouses that prompt resolution of any kinds of disputes are going to be a dangerous delusion. The really disturbing thing that we’re looking at is an entire court system that will have been operating at a dramatically reduced capacity for effectively half a year. And every bit of information available indicates Florida courts aren’t planning for anything that looks like real functioning until 2021. And while some courts are moving ahead with some levels of functionality through zoom or telephonic hearings…the reality is….that while some cases are advancing, the system as a whole is bogged down. And whenever any true functionality is restored, most of the resources will be targeted at resolving criminal cases.
Landlords Are Sucking Wind
I represent consumers primarily and while I understand the plight of tenants, the impacts that will be felt by the other consumers…the landlords is going to be very extreme. The problem here is landlords made contracts and financial decisions based upon the promise that they would have the ability to enforce the lawful contracts they entered into with tenants. This expectation lies at the heart of the further investment decision they made to mortgage their properties and buy the properties they are now renting. It truly is a dangerous and unprecedented circumstance that now these landlords are being told that they have no forum for a prompt and just enforcement of their contract with their debtor tenants…..and it is a dangerous precedent to take.
The Moratoriums Are Merely Band Aid Over Cancer
Conceptually at least every dime of rent owed to landlords still remains due. But landlords will find it will be impractical and impossible to collect that rent from tenants. So landlords will be stuck subsidizing the rent for tenants….for up to a year. If the government was serious about addressing the problems we find ourselves living in right now…they would be providing far more broad based rent relief and greater worker protections. Instead we a grossly deficient unemployment system with millions of Floridians that still live on the margins. And we will all begin to feel the consequences for this in the months to come.
The Third Twig of Florida Government
A cornerstone of our society and our delusion about our (somewhat) stable society is that we have a court system that can intervene into disputes to resolve them promptly in a way that does not create further disputes. But like so much else that is wrong in this nation, that is a delusion. Here in good old Florida, the GOP has engaged in a campaign of defunding and defiling the whole of the judicial branch. The most dramatic proof of this is the handy little graph below: