We have been getting many inquiries this week about legal rights and obligations during this Coronavirus Pandemic. In particular, people are asking about what happens if they can’t pay their rent, mortgage, utilities or credit card bills. Here are some of the common questions, and our answers (for Florida residents).
- Do you have to pay your rent/mortgage? Yes! There has been no order issued by the government (federal, state of Florida, or local) releasing you from your obligations. You can always try to negotiate, but the clock is still ticking on any late payments, especially for your mortgage. Unless you negotiate otherwise, late payments beyond 30 days will hit your credit report.
- That being said, what happens if you choose not to pay? Can the landlord or bank file for eviction or foreclosure? Will the Sheriff show up at my home? It depends. As of today (March 25) Governor DeSantis has not declared any related statewide order, but some counties have issued orders. For example, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have halted all evictions and removal of homeowners who are under foreclosure. This means that you are temporarily safe to stay in your Miami-Dade or Broward home, even if you received a Notice of Eviction or Notice to Vacate, or if your property is under foreclosure proceeds. You are protected, even if you were sued or received a notice before the pandemic. However this is only temporary. You’re not going to get a get-out-of-jail-free card, you should still prepare to pay soon.
- What about utilities, such as power and water? Florida Power and Light said this week it will suspend service cut-offs over overdue bills for at least two weeks. Miami Dade Water and Sewer had a similar message for its customers, giving a 30 day delay on any disconnections (notices were sent last week, so we’ve burned 7 of those days by now). You can also always call to negotiate an extension.
- Credit cards: again nothing from the government for this common problem. Every bank and credit card company is sending emails about how you can pay online and how they’ve increased cleaning procedures, but unfortunately nothing about delaying your payment. There may be something you can negotiate, but be careful and ask questions. We’re familiar with this type of “assistance”. Often these payment plans give short-term payment relief but do long-term damage. Your card could be canceled, and until you’re caught up, your account will be considered past due. If a minimum payment becomes more than 30 days past due, as with your mortgage, it is reported to the credit bureaus and you can say goodbye to your credit score for 7 years. Best to pay it when it’s due or at least before that 30 day mark.
Please note that this information is accurate as of today, March 25. As you are aware, things are constantly changing with the Coronavirus situation, including the law.
If you have a specific question or situation you need help with, please contact us at 305-733-3561 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.