‘We exist but we were completely forgotten about’: Florida’s eviction ban during COVID-19 pandemic fails to protect hotel, motel residents

Evictions and foreclosures have been put on hold in Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, but one segment of renters found they are not protected by the order.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Evictions and foreclosures have been put on hold in Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, but one segment of renters found they are not protected by the order.

Those who live in long-term hotel and motel rentals paying their fees week to week said they fear being put out on the streets if they can’t make their payments.

A local mom living in a hotel along Orange Blossom Trail told Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray that she’s out of work and almost out of money. And her rent is due every week.

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“It is a week-to-week hotel. I’ve been living here six months now, and it’s basically if you can’t pay your rent on your due date, you have to leave the property,” she said.

The woman asked not to be identified for fear of losing the only place she has to call home.

“There's a lot of families who live in this hotel, the hotel across the street,” she said. “School buses come here to pick up the kids so people are aware that we're here because they have to send the school buses here.”

People living in hotels aren't considered homeless by the federal government, so there is no total count of how many live in hotels and motels in Central Florida.

But Florida Department of Education data shows in the 2017-2018 school year more than 2,000 Orange County Public School students reported motels as their permanent residence. A reported 1,139 students said the same in Osceola County.

The latest numbers show Brevard and Seminole counties both had more than 300 students living in motels, Volusia County had 285 and 164 in Lake County.

“I just feel like we were forgotten about. We exist but we were completely forgotten about,” she said.

Channel 9 reached out to the Orange County mayor's office to see if he would consider doing a local order to help protect these families, but they said that's not in the works at this time.

Instead, they suggested having extended-stay renters talk with hotel managers to try to work something out, or to call 2-1-1 to help find assistance.

More than half of Orlando area rental properties say fewer people were able to pay rent this April, according to a poll by the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando (AAGO).