While federal eviction protections provided by the CARES Act have expired as of July 25th, an emergency moratorium on evictions enacted in April has been extended until September 1st. With these protections expiring soon unless Governor DeSantis decides to extend protections once again, rental property owners are in for a surprise.
While the current order still allows investors to send notices to any renters behind on rent that they intend to pursue an eviction, no cases will be heard or evictions enforced by law until this temporary ban lifts. As of this writing, an estimated 2,672 eviction cases are already pending in Florida, waiting for their day in court. This means that, even if you send notices now and rush to pursue an eviction once restrictions lift, you'll likely find yourself behind a backlog of built-up cases.
For property owners in Sarasota, this means that finding alternatives to eviction when you can't evict can still be useful when a moratorium on evictions lifts and you find yourself waiting in line (or on Zoom) while you have your hands full with a 'Professional Tenant' or another risky renter. This is why we want to share some of what you should be doing now to prepare and some viable alternatives you can pursue when you need a renter to leave your Sarasota property quickly.
Foreword: The following article is not a substitute for legal counsel. The information contained herein was current as of the time of writing. If you need immediate help with a pressing issue concerning your residents, turn to a competent attorney or Sarasota property management for real-time assistance!
A Quick Note About Screening Your Renters
While COVID-19 has affected renters on a massive scale nationwide and taken plenty of property owners by surprise, many of the headaches that line the road to eviction can be avoided outright simply by employing the right screening procedure for every rental applicant, every time.
When you take the time to develop thorough screening criteria (including investigating the rental history of an applicant with former landlords), you can skirt many of the pitfalls that would otherwise plague your rental later. If your screening process successfully shelters your Sarasota rental property from the grip of a Professional Tenant, this could equal savings to the tune of thousands of dollars.
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Even if you're a property investor who lives and dies by the 'Do-It-Yourself Mentality,' having the eyes of professional Sarasota property management on your screening procedure can help point out weaknesses in your first line of defense that you might not have otherwise spotted under pressure.
Get Everything in Writing
While you're waiting for your day in court, you should be collecting the evidence you, your attorney, or your property management partner need to pursue the issue through the proper legal channels. This means that every communique you have with your residents should be traceable, trackable, easy to store, and easy to print.
With that in mind, phone calls are not ideal. If you haven't been communicating with your renters via email or text, now is an ideal time to start so that you can build a base of evidence should you need it in the future. This step also means that any payment plans you had worked out with your renters as a result of COVID-19 should have been in writing as an official addendum to your lease agreement. If you haven't been keeping your house in order, this is your wakeup call as an investor.
Alternatives to Eviction
Even if the situation seems dire on your end, most Sarasota property management professionals would argue that even in the best of times, eviction is often the last resort scenario. In cases where it may be more challenging than normal to evict your renter, trying alternatives first can help. We already briefly discussed payment plans for your renters in several of our earlier blog posts, but there is one alternative we have yet to discuss that's still a viable option: 'Cash for Keys.'
- 'Cash for Keys' originated in the home loan and mortgage industry. Banks would occasionally offer homeowners who were being foreclosed upon a small amount of cash in exchange for keys to the property.
- This agreement hinged on the premise that the homeowners would only receive the cash in exchange for a property left in good condition, and emerged as a direct result of the Great Recession of 2008.
This concept also has a use in the rental housing industry as well: if you find your renter unable to pay rent and you're considering an eviction, choosing 'Cash for Keys' may get your resident to leave sooner—and of their own volition—rather than through a drawn-out court battle. However, dispensing funds should always depend on an agreement made in writing (see above) that confirms that the renter will leave your Sarasota property in good, rentable condition.
When It's Time to Suit Up
Any time you're considering pursuing an eviction, you should be partnering up with either a capable and qualified attorney who has experience with rental law and evictions, a skilled property manager in Sarasota, or both. Depending on the capabilities of your property management company, they can oversee the eviction for you as part of their services.
Here at Gulf Coast property management, we actually offer the property investors we serve multiple avenues to address eviction:
- Our comprehensive and non-discriminatory screening process helps you pick the right renter.
- If the wrong renter somehow slips through our screening process, we offer Eviction Oversight services to manage the process for you from start to finish.
- We also offer an Eviction Guarantee, which covers all costs associated with eviction to protect you and your rental when you need support.
If you choose not to work with a qualified Sarasota property management partner, then you absolutely should be relying on an attorney to handle the eviction process for you. This is not something you want to tackle alone: one misstep could cost you more than mere rental income. However, an attorney cannot provide the same depth of services for your rental property that a property manager can.
If you've exhausted your other options and have no choice left but to pursue eviction, turn to our Tenant Eviction Checklist to begin the process. Then, meet with one of our capable property managers here at Gulf Coast Property Management or your trusted attorney to proceed.