Much has been made in the media of homeowners who have lost family homes to foreclosure. News stories have told tales of adjusted rate mortgages with skyrocketing interest rates, fraudulent notarizations on foreclosure paperwork and scores of homeowners left upside-down in properties that will never again be worth what homeowners owe on them.
Lost in the shuffle are another group of victims: renters. According to census data, renters live in 42 percent of the housing units in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. Nationally, 40 percent of families who face eviction because of foreclosures aren’t homeowners — they are tenants.
As foreclosure looms on apartment buildings, condos and rented single family dwellings, many landlords try to cut their losses by shutting off water and electric service to their buildings. Cutting off utilities is illegal in Florida, and judges order the service to be restored when tenants fight back. Unfortunately, most victims are low-income individuals who don’t have easy access to the justice system. Stuck in the middle of their landlords’ disputes with lenders, tenants struggle to get by without water and electricity, not even knowing that they have the right to fight back.
In duplexes, triplexes and single family dwellings, some landlords have simply stopped maintaining the properties, depleting their value even further. By law, Florida renters have the right to remain in their homes for 90 days after a foreclosure has been finalized or throughout the original term of their leases, whichever is longer. Understandably, tenants balk at paying rent for properties that have no running water and are falling apart from neglect.
The Huffington Post: “Florida’s Forgotten Victims Of Foreclosure: Tenants,” Matt Sledge, Dec. 1, 2011