GLS sees uptick in eviction calls during COVID-19 pandemic

ST. PETERSBURG — Gulfcoast Legal Services (GLS) has suspended in-person services, but the legal aid organization continues to work with clients via email and phone and has received an influx of calls regarding evictions.

Many clients and callers are confused about the changing rules regarding their housing situations. All those facing housing challenges now and throughout the past few weeks are particularly vulnerable.

For example, a recent housing client came to GLS with a non-renewal notice forcing her out of her home at the end of March. She has a disability and was recovering from major surgery. She was terrified of having to find new housing in the middle of a pandemic.

GLS successfully negotiated with her property owner and got them to either extend her lease for another month or renew a long-term lease, so she can heal and remain housed through the height of the pandemic.

To help with the confusion, GLS has compiled several tips for tenants:

  • According to an Executive Order by Governor DeSantis, all mortgage foreclosure lawsuits are stopped at least until May 17, 2020.
  • All residential eviction lawsuits based on failure to pay rent are stopped until at least until May 17, 2020.
  • Tenants must continue to pay their mortgage or rent, but the enforcement of foreclosures and evictions is stopped.
  • This order applies to mobile-home park residents and RV park residents as well as people who rent homes, duplexes, and apartments.
  • In addition, The Federal CARES Act prohibits eviction filings for nonpayment for 120 days from March 27, 2020. This includes public housing and other covered dwellings.
  • Other “covered dwellings” can include federally backed or insured mortgages such as Section 8, Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), Section 202, Section 236 etc.
  • Additionally, loans that are owned, purchased or securitized by Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Fannie Mae), the Federal National Mortgage Association (Freddie Mac), FHA or VA loans are covered.
  • If you have just been given a three-day notice to pay or be evicted, contact your landlord to discuss alternatives.
  • If you were served an eviction before April 2nd, read and follow all the instructions on the summons. In Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties, a writ of possession will not be issued until after May 29, 2020.

“While there is never a good time to lose your home, the uptick we’ve seen is of particular concern. This is a time when everyone, including our most vulnerable seniors and single-parent households, requires safe and secure shelter.” – Caryn Rosencrantz, Supervising Attorney for the GLS Housing unit.

For more information, or to see if you are eligible for services, call 727-821-0726 ext. 273 or fill out an online application for services at gulfcoastlegal.org/request-assistance.

While the organization has suspended in-person services to slow the spread of COVID-19, staff will work with clients via email and phone and will support clients in court hearings either by phone or in-person if they are deemed mission-critical by the courts, such as injunctions for protection for domestic violence survivors.

In addition, GLS has a list of common Questions & Answers regarding civil legal needs (such as information on employment law, housing, etc.) on their blog at gulfcoastlegal.org/blog.

If you live in the City of St. Petersburg or are a veteran, contact Bay Area Legal Services for advice.

About Gulfcoast Legal Services

Gulfcoast Legal Services, Inc. (GLS) is a regional 501(c)3 non-profit organization providing free, comprehensive civil legal aid through counsel, advice, representation, advocacy, and education for vulnerable individuals and families in the greater Tampa Bay area. GLS is dedicated to serving vulnerable individuals living in poverty, low-wage workers, persons with disabilities, veterans, the homeless, victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, the LGBTQ+ community, and the elderly who otherwise may not have access to an attorney. For more information, visit http://gulfcoastlegal.org.

Bay Area Legal Services

Contact the Bay Area Legal Services Legal Aid Line to qualify for advice telephonically. The number is 800-625-2257 and it is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Applications can also be completed online at www.bals.org Veterans can contact the Bay Area Veterans Legal Hotline at 1-866-486-6161.

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