9 Investigates

‘I thought I was going to lose everything’: The stories behind Central Florida’s eviction crisis

ORLANDO, Fla. — New data shows we are seeing what experts are calling a “dramatic spike” in evictions and it’s not exclusive to just one part of Central Florida.

Across Central Florida, more people are no longer able to make rent payments and are being forced out of their homes.


Orange County data shows with two months left in 2022, we’ve already seen more evictions this year than we have in more than a decade. And help is running out for those who are behind on rent. For the few who do manage to get help, it may not be enough.

This was the case for Tayha Baez. The 19-year-old mother said she was just days away from homelessness when a three-day notice landed on her door. She had just three days to pay her late rent or face eviction.

Read: Hundreds of Orange County families being evicted after Hurricane Ian damages complex

“I had no idea what I was going to do. I thought I was going to lose everything, said Baez.

Baez said a church ultimately helped her make the payment that offered temporary relief.

But at the time Baez told us she was worried about making her next payment.

Read: As flooding recedes, is Central Florida prepared for a wave of evictions?

Since we sat down with Baez, we’ve learned some of her worse fears have become reality.

Orange County court documents show she received a second three-day notice on Oct. 6 for late rent.

When Baez couldn’t make that payment, her landlord filed for eviction.

“It’s just overwhelming, one thing after another,” said Baez.

Read: Sting operation: Woman attacked officers with bees during eviction, deputies say

It’s a situation countless others are finding themselves in across central Florida. Records from Orange, Osceola and Brevard counties all show steep increases in evictions this year .

Through several public record requests we learned that all three counties have already surpassed last year’s eviction totals.

With two months left in 2022, Orange County is seeing a 48% increase, Osceola is seeing a 17% increase, and Brevard is seeing a whopping 102% increase in evictions filed so far this year.

Read: Orange County apartment complex residents given days to move out after flooding from Hurricane Ian

Frank Wells is the host of a regional task force on evictions that studies data like this.

He said Orange County is likely to have more evictions this year than any year since 2009. As of Oct. 28, more than 12,918 evictions had already been filed in Orange County.

“It’s a pretty dramatic increase,” said Wells.

Wells said it’s because we’re seeing a perfect storm: the pandemic eviction moratorium ended, emergency rental assistance programs have run dry, rents have continued to skyrocket across our region, and supply and demand have continued to put pressure on the housing market.

But the picture isn’t as clear cut as some might think.

Nick Helyer owns 20 single family homes in Lake County. He said it’s been nearly a decade since he’s filed any eviction paperwork and believes most landlords will do everything they can to avoid filing an eviction.

“The evictions are so stressful for everybody involved. There’s absolutely no upside for anybody,” said Helyer.

But Helyer explains landlords are feeling the impacts of this tough economy too.

“They’ve got mortgages, they’ve got jobs, they’ve got all the usual expenses that all their tenants have got,” said Helyer.

According to 2018 census data, 70% of landlords only own one rental property.

Read: Orlando-area homeless shelter floods as concerns about housing crisis mount

Right now, Helyer says it can be especially difficult for this majority of landlords to make ends meet.

A combination of high insurance premiums, rising interest rates and an increase in maintenance costs have meant some landlords are seeing their incomes slashed, meaning if they don’t raise rent, they are operating at a loss, according to Helyer.

“The landlord is facing increased costs of about $250 a month, and has no option but to pass that on,” said Helyer.

It’s a sentiment echoed by the Florida Apartment Association. Executive Vice President Chip Tatum said the industry is being rocked by a number of colliding factors.

“You’re looking at significantly higher costs of debt,” said Tatum.

As landlords and tenants both struggle to make ends meet, Tatum said communication is key.

According to Tatum, if you’re finding yourself in a situation where you may not make rent, it’s best to talk to your landlord ahead of time.

They may be able to connect you to other resources or work out a payment plan so you can avoid eviction.

In the meantime, with an unstable housing market and skyrocketing eviction filings, the question for many is how long this will last.

Helyer thinks a spike in evictions is a temporary setback as the economy continues to rebound from COVID-19.

But others like Wells have their doubts.

“We think it’s very likely that eviction filings are going to continue to climb, unfortunately, because no end in sight in rent increases,” said Wells.

Read: 7 people evicted from Orlando complex while waiting for rental assistance

It could mean more people like Baez are finding themselves squeezed and left wondering how much longer they’ll have a place of their own to call home.

“I just got to keep going for him and do what I have to do as a mom,” said Baez.

At this time, we don’t have an update on Baez’s eviction case.

We tried to learn whether she was able to avoid eviction for a second time, but Baez’s phone line says it’s now out of service.

When Channel 9 last spoke to Baez, she told us she was not only worried about rent, but had since started falling behind on her other bills too.

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