Miami-Dade extends window of notification for evictions of month-to-month tenants to 30 days

The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the window of notification for evictions of month-to-month tenants to 30 days on Wednesday morning. The vote helps thousands of the county’s most economically vulnerable residents, who will now have two more weeks to relocate in case of an eviction.

Previously, renters whose leases had expired and never renewed, or were renting an apartment based on a verbal agreement with the landlord, could be legally notified they had to vacate the premises in 15 days.

About 10 people spoke in favor of the legislation during the commission meeting. The City of Miami already requires a 30-day eviction window for month-to-month tenants.

“We’re seeing countless households in fear of what happens next when they get that notice on the door,” said Alana Greer, director and co-founder of Community Justice Projects, which aids grassroots and community groups. “It’s incredibly important that we give people this amount of time to prepare. Less than half of tenants in eviction court had a written lease. They are at risk of being pushed out with no reason within 15 days.”

The legislation, which was sponsored by Commissioner Eileen Higgins, provides critical time for people to be able to find a new place to live once the current ban is lifted and evictions resume.

“Leases that were signed last year are starting to expire and I feel this is consistent with doing the right thing,” Higgins told the Herald. “The County has played a leadership role assisting people during the pandemic and this is just continuing that role.”

Evictions are currently suspended nationwide under a ban issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that expires on Jan. 31, 2021.

Miami-Dade Police, the only authority allowed to carry out an eviction and physically remove a tenant from the premises, remains under an eviction moratorium, meaning they are not executing any evictions filed after March 13, as per the March order of former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez that’s been extended by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who took office on Nov. 17, 2020.

But even though evictions cannot be carried out, judges have issued more than 2,000 Writs of Possession in Miami-Dade Court — the final document that allows for an eviction to proceed as soon as the moratorium on the police expires. That would include month-to-month renters.

On Wednesday, Levine Cava said the Miami-Dade Police eviction moratorium will continue, but she is also looking for ways to support landlords as well.

“The eviction moratorium has saved lives by keeping people safely in their homes and preventing the spread of coronavirus, as we continue to grapple with an ongoing public health and economic crisis,” Mayor Cava wrote in an email to the Herald. “At the same time we need to make hurting landlords whole, and I am looking for ways to do that with CARES Act dollars.

“I have been a longtime advocate for landlords and tenants’ rights and am working aggressively with our Chief Public Safety Officer, Miami-Dade Police Department, and both tenants and landlord rights organizations to provide a humane and fair solution to this that helps move our economy forward, while protecting our most vulnerable community members,” she wrote.

During a discussion about the referendum, Commissioner Raquel Regalado rang a warning bell about the potential for unintended consequences.

“My experience in this area, especially with these verbal month-to-month tenancies, is these are our most fragile residents,” she said. “I don’t want to push them into a situation where they have to sign a lease that is written in English. Folks who have verbal tenancies have not been able to get COVID rent relief, because you had to have a written lease.

“The reason that the statute is given the flexibility it’s given is that these month-to-month [tenancies] are supposed to be temporary,” she said. “I hope that the statute promotes instead of discouraging landlords [from continuing month-to-month arrangements].”

Annie Lord, executive director of Miami Homes For All, one of the most vocal supporters of the new legislation, said it is a small but important step toward preparing for the inevitable flood of evictions the county will experience in the coming months.

“We’re a county on the edge of a precipice,” she said. “One-hundred eighty thousand households in the tri-county area expect to get evicted in the next two months. With this pandemic, what would it take for our excellent systems of care and providers to be overwhelmed and to have an explosive homeless issue? The moratorium has been a good thing but it cannot last. We must prepare and switch over from crisis management to crisis resolution.”

~Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald