Bill would help tenants facing eviction

Tenant holding up “Stop Evictions” sign in protest. Photo courtesy AP

The Florida Senate is poised to consider a bill which removes the back rent that most tenants are required to pay before starting their court process once evicted.

Senate Bill 582 removes back rent pay, which waives a tenant’s defenses.

In the revised version of the bill, the removed section states that tenants would have to pay the registry of the court before moving on with their court processes.

According to the Office of the State Courts Administrator, over 47,000 Floridians filed for eviction in the pandemic year 2020.

Eviction has also been an ongoing issue in Florida this past year after the Centers for Disease Control pandemic eviction moratorium expired.

According to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, the eviction process not only includes paying back rent but also includes a timely response to the landlord’s eviction complaint.

If an eviction case loses in the court, then the judge will file a writ of possession and three-day notice, according to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

Executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority, Brenda Williams, believes the legislation is a step in the right direction. She also believes that lawmakers should work on affordable housing to help more low-income families who cannot afford the prices in today’s market.

“I believe this [SB 582] is a step in the right direction … but more funds should be made available to develop affordable housing, There is not enough affordable housing to meet the needs of low-income families in Tallahassee,” Williams said.

Low-income families and people of color are at a high risk of eviction across the country, according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Some evicted tenants also believe that this bill is a start, but is still not enough.

Freddie Gaines, a Tallahassee restaurant server, would like to see more resources to help evicted tenants.

“I feel that there needs to be more federal or state level aid for this targeted purpose especially when we are going out everyday and we are doing everything we have to do legally to try to pay our bills,” Gaines said.

Gaines also feels that lawmakers should try to pass legislation that will remove eviction from tenants’ records. He says that this would help tenants with their efforts to obtain future places to live.

“The most important thing is to remove it [eviction] from the records because that affects you trying to get a place in the long run,” Gaines said.

Another Tallahassee resident believes that the capital city should have more funding for programs that help those renters and homeless people year long.

“Funds dedicated toward programs like Leon Cares that were helping during COVID … something like that needs to be ongoing to help people or what will happen is it will widen the gap of the homelessness rate. It takes away from the overall enhancement of the community,” said the resident who requested that their name not be used.

Williams recommends her evicted tenants seek help through legal services.

“Some residents seek assistance from Legal Services when faced with eviction, I recommend they seek assistance from North Florida Legal Services,” Williams said.

While lawmakers have only introduced SB 582 to the floor, its companion, House Bill 6005, had its first reading last month.