In February of 2020, Florida’s unemployment rate was 2.8% according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data and the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was the lowest the State’s unemployment rate had been in over forty years. However, as the COVID 19 crisis and the associated shut-downs and slow-downs continue, the state has seen a rapid rise in unemployment claims. In the last week of March, the state received an estimated 224,000 calls to the re-employment hotline. Additionally, the state received 21,000 new unemployment claims in one day. Many Floridians have been laid off or seen their paychecks shrink as businesses are forced to close or reduce staff due to the shelter in place, social distancing, and quarantine policies currently in place to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.
The economic slowdown has left many Floridians wondering how to make ends meet. The largest monthly expense for most Americans is housing, whether in the form of a mortgage payment or rent. The good news is that the State of Florida is taking action to help ease the effects of this massive slow-down.
On April 2, 2020, Florida Governor Ron Desantis issued an executive order to “suspend and toll any statute providing for a mortgage foreclosure cause of action under Florida law for 45 days” and also to “suspend and toll any statute providing for an eviction cause of action under Florida law solely as it relates to non-payment of rent by residential tenants due to the COVID-19 emergency for 45 days.” The full text of the Order can be read here.
The Governor’s order follows and cites two actions taken by the Federal government in March related to federally backed mortgages. On March 18, 2020, President Trump announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development authorized the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for FHA-insured single-family mortgages for 60 days. The same day the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for Enterprise-backed single-family mortgages for at least 60 days.
A reading of the plain language of Governor Desantis’ order raises a couple of interesting issues. First, the section of the Order addressing mortgage foreclosures does not limit the suspension to residential mortgages. Therefore, the Order would offer relief to business and commercial property owners, many of whom are having a hard time making mortgage payments while their business is closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Perhaps the most important section of the order for all mortgagors and tenants to remember is section three. Section three clearly states, “Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed as relieving an individual from their obligation to make mortgage payments or rent payments.”
Therefore, while both mortgagors and renters, may welcome the temporary relief of not being forced out of their properties for not being able to pay the mortgage or the rent during this time, the mortgage or the rent will eventually come due. Further, there is nothing in the Order requiring the lender or landlord to allow the debtor time to catch up on past-due payments once the Order is lifted. These are all issues that would have to be addressed through negotiation and/or potential litigation.
Whether you are a mortgagor, mortgagee, tenant, or landlord, Boatman Ricci is here to answer your legal questions. Our attorneys are experienced in all areas of real property litigation and transactional matters. Call us today to arrange an initial consultation at (239) 330-1494. We are equipped to serve you via teleconference or video conference to keep us all safe.
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 News 4 Jacksonville, Mike Vasilinda March 31, 2020, (https://www.news4jax.com/news/florida/2020/03/24/florida-contends-with-soaring-unemployment-claims/)