There has been a lot of confusion surrounding foreclosures and evictions in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Donald Trump announced earlier in March that he was placing a freeze on foreclosures, while certain cities around Florida, such as Jacksonville, have taken the same kind of measures. Now, the Florida Supreme Court has issued an order that also seems to freeze all foreclosures. However, landlords in certain counties in Florida, such as Pinellas, are still issuing evictions and sending letters to tenants stating that they are still obliged to pay their full rent at the beginning of the month. So, what is the truth?
Donald Trump’s Order
The current administration has made mention several times of the fact that they understand that many people are suffering due to coronavirus. This is largely due to the fact that millions of people have been laid off and, with the shelter in place rules, most people cannot go out and support the businesses they once did. As such, President Donald Trump announced that he was placing a freeze on foreclosures.
Unfortunately, that announcement did not include all foreclosures across the country. In fact, they only applied to foreclosures that involved FHA loans. Although many banks, such as Bank of America, have publicly announced that they were also going to place a hold on foreclosures, Trump’s order did not include ordering banks to place a hold on all foreclosures throughout the country.
Florida Supreme Court’s Order
It was in late March that the Florida Supreme Court issued its own order regarding foreclosures. Recognizing that foreclosing on homeowners and forcing them out of their homes would greatly limit their ability to shelter in place, the highest court issued an order that seemed to place a hold on all foreclosures throughout the state. Unfortunately, that also is not true.
The order issued by Florida’s Supreme Court only affects the last step in the process of evicting someone from their home. This step involves the writ of possession. When a tenant is evicted, law enforcement takes the writ of possession to the tenant to evict them and show that ownership has been transferred back to the landlord. Writs of possession are also used in foreclosure cases. When a homeowner is foreclosed on, this document has the same purpose. It tells the homeowner that they must vacate the premises and that ownership has been transferred to the buyer of the property.
However, there is a lot of confusion surrounding these writs of possession, as well. The order issued by the Florida Supreme Court does not force court clerks to stop issuing writs of possession. It simply tells them that they have the option not to issue one. Although most court clerks have interpreted the order to mean that they are to stop issuing writs of possession, not all of them feel this way.
Some believe that the language of the law surrounding writs of possession requires them to issue these documents when they are told to do so. These clerks argue that only the legislature can change the law, and say that they will continue issuing them until the law clearly states otherwise. These clerks stated that even though the Supreme Court’s order is the right thing to do so that fewer people become hurt and have nowhere to go during a time when sheltering-in-place is absolutely essential, they do not feel comfortable breaking the law.
Some clerks also believe that the language in the order gives them the option of when to issue these writs of possession when they feel it is necessary, and to refrain from issuing them when they feel there is no need.
The state is working to correct these issues and to clarify the law on how to handle writs of possession. All of Florida’s 67 Clerks of the Circuit Court are working with the Chief Judges within their own jurisdictions to find a way to handle them.
Until the language is made clearer and clerks are given better direction, homeowners in fear of foreclosure and tenants who are worried about getting evicted may have to rely on rules made within their own county. For example, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has said it will not be executing foreclosures during the coronavirus outbreak and until there are no longer rules for sheltering in place. The sheriffs in each county play an integral role in the foreclosure process because they are the ones that issue both the notice of foreclosure and the writ of possession to homeowners when a lender forecloses on a property.
Foreclosures Not Canceled, Just Frozen
The other confusion surrounding foreclosures in this unprecedented time is the fact that many homeowners believe that due to the fact that writs of possession are often not being issued, their foreclosure has been canceled. Sadly, that is not the case.
The rule on the writs of possession will simply freeze the foreclosure process in the exact place it was prior to the new ruling. This means that once the coronavirus outbreak has been handled and things finally return to normal, homeowners will still face foreclosure and the fear of possibly losing their home. This could happen fast once the virus passes, as the writ of possession is the last step in the process and so it can be issued quite quickly, forcing homeowners out of their homes.
Facing Foreclosure? Our Foreclosure Defense Lawyers can Help
If you are in fear of losing your home, you need the help of a Fort Lauderdale foreclosure defense lawyer, even with the new laws and temporary regulations. At Loan Lawyers, we can explain the laws and how they apply to your case and, if you are about to lose your home, will create a strong defense to give you the best chance of keeping the asset you value the most. When you need help, call us at (954) 523-HELP (4357) or contact us online to arrange a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations. Contact us for a free consultation to see how we may be able to help you.