Central Florida evictions grind to halt, lawyer says landlords are struggling

ORLANDO, Fla. — Tenants behind on rent have been given two more months to pony up or have the government pay their bills for them. The question, though, is how much of them will get that aid.

The dollars have been designated under Rental Assistance Programs, which are offered by most large municipal and county governments. Tenants and their landlords can apply and, with paperwork in order, receive tens of thousands of dollars toward payments or bills.

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Some counties, though, are struggling to push the money out.

“The money’s just sitting there or they’re using it sparingly or they don’t know how to do it,” Central Florida Real Estate Attorney Mark Lippman said.

Lippman said his industry was “in limbo,” right now, with attorneys telling their property managers to not touch eviction cases involving failure to pay rent. Unless systems are smoothed over, he said, the state will face a crush of court cases in October.

As of last week, Orange County doled out the fewest dollars of their allocation of counties Eyewitness News checked with at just 16%, though it has helped 959 people along the way. County data showed hundreds of other applications were in the pipeline.

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Seminole County had the best track record, releasing 71% of its allocation. Staff members credited their success to early, vocal and frequent communication with their residents.

“I think if they opened up more programs, for the homeowners, the landlords, the investors to be able to apply rent towards their tenants that you may see some more action,” Lippman said.

Some evictions are still moving forward, since the moratorium doesn’t apply to everyone. It only applies to evictions for people who fall under a certain income threshold, lose their income or face huge medical bills, and have actively sought help and tried to pay what they could.

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Homelessness nonprofit organization leaders are advising people at risk of eviction to seek help sooner rather than at the last moment.

“We know that a lot of people just think it’s never going to end,” Homeless Services Network CEO Martha Are said. “We don’t want people being misled by that, that they don’t need to go ahead and ask for the help.”

For more information about local rental assistance programs, click here.

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