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Landlords and tenants should work together to reduce evictions in Tampa after moratorium lift

Everyone has been impacted by COVID-19, and renters and landlords are feeling especially vulnerable.

Various state and federal safety nets have been created to help tenants remain in their rental homes or apartments if they’re having problems coming up with rent due to job losses, health costs or other challenges due to the pandemic.

But there’s less attention to the other part of the equation: the landlords, who are also impacted by COVID. Not only do many have their own personal and professional challenges, they also are restricted from taking action on tenants unable to pay their rent.

In Pinellas County, about $45 million in rental assistance has been put aside from various federal, state and local sources. As of late September, more than $14 million has been allocated to about 1,800 homes to help pay landlords on behalf of their tenants, and hopefully put the tenants on a path toward financial stability.

But while many families continue to benefit from these programs, conditions are changing.

A federal freeze on evictions has just ended, which means landlords can begin to take action on families delinquent on their rent payments. Potentially millions of people could be evicted, increasing the numbers of homeless as well as leaving landlords with months of unrecoverable, unpaid rent.

The current dynamic rental housing situation was recently discussed on “To The Point Already,” a podcast hosted by Rick Elmhorst and Roy DeJesus from Spectrum Bay News 9.

One guest was Michael Singer, a Lieser Skaff real estate attorney who has represented all types of landlords. While he applauds programs which help hard-working families, he said these programs also create challenges for landlords, who may not get some or all of the rent due to them. They still must pay standard costs (upkeep, utilities, mortgages) without the rent revenue.

“It has been frustrating,” Singer said.

The end of the moratorium has created another interesting challenge. Some landlords are expected to begin the process of evicting delinquent tenants at the same time that local municipalities are trying to get funding to landlords on their behalf. This could stay or cancel any eviction efforts.

“It’s become a race to get this money out,” he said.

Joining him on the podcast was Bruce Bussey, community development manager for Pinellas County, who said that the Tampa area still has more than $30 million available in the form of rental assistance. Some potential applicants may not be sure of their eligibility or understand all the paperwork. Some tenants may have put the application off while the eviction moratorium was in effect, and may be scrambling now to fill it out, if they remember.

Bussey said some restrictions have even been lowered to encourage more families to apply.

He and Singer encouraged landlords to be involved in this process and work to create positive relationships, which can include encouraging or even assisting tenants with the paperwork. Once submitted, funding can be received within a month.

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