A growing number of renters in South Florida report they have endured great expense and frustration as a result of receiving little-to-no notice that they must vacate their rental after it’s been resold through foreclosure. The Miami Herald recently reported families have been uprooted multiple times, some given no more than 24 hours notice that they must vacate.
Miami foreclosure defense lawyer Bruce Jacobs, as an authority on real estate litigation and landlord-tenant law in South Florida, was asked to weigh in.
The best thing tenants can do, Jacobs said, is to become educated about their own situation, become involved in the legal process and have contingency plans.
“Rather than just putting your heads in the sand and waiting for the sheriff to show up – that’s the worst situation to be in,” Jacobs said.
It’s one in which many South Florida renters find themselves in the wake of the housing bubble burst and recovery. The good news is Florida’s foreclosure rate has fallen by 50 percent in the last year. But that’s still double the national average. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 87 homes in this region was in foreclosure in the first quarter of 2015. Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties have some of the highest rates, with an average of 16 percent of all mortgages currently underwater. That means those homeowners owe more on their loans than the home is worth.
When the housing market bottomed, many people lost their homes to foreclosure in Miami. Some have held on, but it’s often just a matter of time. If a rental property is in foreclosure, it can still be rented in the meantime. There is no requirement that landlords inform tenants whether the home is in foreclosure, though such filing and records are public.
But the bigger issue is when these properties complete the foreclosure process and the new buyer stepped in – be it the bank, an investment company or individuals – they started demanding tenants leave immediately.
The federal government sought a temporary solution to this problem. Thus was born the Protecting Tenants and Foreclosure Act. The law was passed six years ago, and it granted renters the right to remain in their homes either until the lease expired or, at the very least, 90 days. But again, this solution was temporary. It officially expired in December of last year.
When that happened, renters still residing in newly-foreclosed homes had virtually no rights.
In stepped the Florida Legislature with a law that went into effect in June 2015. That law was meant as something of a compromise. It required renters be given at least 30 days notice before being forced to vacate. Not as good as the 90-day minimum, but far better than the “immediate” ultimatum many were getting. Backers of the original bill had wanted to require at least 90 days, but the banking lobby – powerful in South Florida and elsewhere – managed to convince some lawmakers to fight for a limited time window.
For many, moving is not only time-consuming and stressful, but expensive. One renter interviewed recalled that he and his wife shelled out almost $6,000 in costs for storage, moving fees, legal expenses and in lost vacation time. Because the demand came in the middle of the school year and they wanted to keep their first-grader enrolled in the same classes, they were left with limited options and forced to rent another place that cost nearly $700 more a month.
If you are a Miami renter unsure of your rights or a homeowner facing foreclosure, our experienced legal team can help.
If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs|Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs and Court Keeley,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.
South Florida renters stuck in aftermath of real estate crisis, Sept. 8, 2015, By Nina Agrawal, The Miami Herald
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Report: Florida Among Least-Friendly States for Coping With Student Debt, Sept. 6, 2015, Miami Foreclosure Defense Lawyer Blog