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On March 18, 2020, President Donald Trump ordered a moratorium on the foreclosures of mortgages that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). That moratorium arose from the President’s proclamation that the COVID-19 outbreak constitutes a national emergency. The moratorium is expected to stay in effect for at least the next sixty days.
Although the effect of the President’s moratorium has thus far had a somewhat limited impact locally, other events have caused either extreme delays or complete stoppages of foreclosures and evictions. For example, Hillsborough County Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta recently issued an Administrative Order that expressly authorized the Sheriff to completely cease the execution of Writs of Possession arising from eviction suits until at least April 20, 2020. It is a fair presumption that the holding of Writs of Possession by the Sheriff’s Department will continue past April 20, 2020, if the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have not significantly improved by that time.
Judge Ficarrotta’s Administrative Order has effectively stopped the completion of evictions in Hillsborough County. It is unknown if the Hillsborough County Sheriff will apply Judge Ficarrotta’s Administrative Order to commercial evictions, as they are not specifically mentioned.
Hillsborough County is not the only Florida County with stoppages in the court system. In almost every Florida county, the Clerk of Court’s Office is closed to the public. Further, at least thirty-seven separate Sheriff’s Departments in Florida have ceased executing Writs of Possession. Even in counties where the Sheriff’s Department is still in action, landlords are faced with judges who are only handling cases that are “mission critical.”
If you decide to file for eviction, it is our firm’s recommendation that you move forward quickly – especially on commercial evictions, as the intent of the Order appeared to be related to dwellings. Although you will very likely hit a stoppage, we think it is important to advance your case as far as possible and get in line as early as possible, so that your case is more quickly addressed when the court system resumes full operations.