A group of Miami-Dade County landlords, condo associations and others are pushing to end the moratorium on executing residential writs of possession filed during the pandemic.
The county has suspended police enforcement of such writs for evictions filed since March 2020. The Miami-Dade Police Department executes writs of possession.
Six landlords, three condo associations and one property owners association sued the county and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, arguing the moratorium is too broad.
Although the ban is meant to protect tenants who lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it also ties the hands of landlords and associations seeking to evict for other reasons, said attorney Michael Farrar, who co-filed the suit in February.
“This case has 10 plaintiffs and not a single of their tenants was affected by corona. In every case, the judge has determined it’s a non-corona case,” Farrar said.
John Paul Arcia, the other attorney who filed the suit, previously represented the plaintiffs in 10 separate eviction suits filed between June and December. The landlords own property in Miami, Miami Gardens, North Bay Village and Homestead, and the associations are for communities in Miami, Miami Beach and Homestead.
A judge issued writs of possession in all cases but none can be enforced.
Some of the cases are for owed rent, and the remainder are over alleged nuisance tenants who are breaking association rules.
Arcia said Levine Cava hasn’t established a timeline as to when the county will execute these writs.
“The mayor is just saying, ‘We will get to it when we get to it.’ This has really gotten out of hand,” he said.
The county and Levine Cava didn’t return a request for comment.
Levine Cava, who took office in November, continued former Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s suspension executing writs. Last month she loosened the restriction allowing police to execute writs for evictions filed before the pandemic.
Gimenez in November also had allowed pre-pandemic evictions to resume. Those cases came under a temporary halt earlier this year and resumed late last month.
The state’s eviction moratorium expired on Oct. 1.
Miami-Dade assistant attorney David Murray at a March 3 court hearing said the county is prioritizing executing 2,200 writs for cases filed before the pandemic, which will take about two months. Then the county will take up writs for cases filed during the pandemic.
The police department has full discretion over how long it takes to execute writs, Murray added. For those who disagree with the county’s timeline, the ballot box, and not the court, is the right place to voice their dissent, Murray added.
“It can’t be the case that whatever squeaky wheel runs to court gets to jump the queue and jump the line. It’s a question for the sheriff,” he said at the hearing.
It’s unclear whether the lawsuit would lead to an execution of all writs or for just the plaintiffs’, Arcia said. That would depend on Judge Carlos Lopez’s order.
Lopez has ordered the county to provide a timeline for executing writs for cases filed since the onset of the pandemic, and specifically for plaintiffs’ cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a ban on evictions of tenants who can’t pay because of the virus, although this ban expires at the end of March.
Attorney David Winker, who isn’t involved in this case, said the CDC moratorium hasn’t been effective as judges often determine it doesn’t apply. This leaves the ban on executing writs as the only protection to tenants.
On the other hand, there are landlords who haven’t been paid for a year and are seeking evictions for rightful reasons, he said.
“I think the mayor is under tremendous pressure to allow these evictions,” Winker added.
If the suit is successful, then the county might have to change its policy across the board. If the county allows only non-monetary eviction to go through, then it would face the issue of all landlords filing evictions as non-monetary, Winker said.
Levine Cava last month announced a $60 million relief program for residential landlords who already have been granted eviction writs. The relief breaks down to $3,000 per month of back rent dating back to March 2020.
Arcia and Farrar countered that landlords in part depend on tenants’ cooperation to obtain support, and tenants don’t always cooperate.
“There are a lot of mom and pop landlords on the brink of bankruptcy,” Farrar said, “and not being able to pay their own rents.”