Even though Florida’s governor suspended evictions during the pandemic, Taking Action Reporter Jackie Callaway uncovered that hasn’t stopped Tampa Bay area landlords from trying to kick renters to the curb.
Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a suspension of evictions earlier this month, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has pledged to stop serving eviction notices during the pandemic.
But ABC Action News found one property manager hired a process server to deliver a court summons to a Brandon father.
Shane Dobson, who has a son and two daughters, said after he lost his job in March, he notified his landlord he wouldn’t be able to pay the $1,600 for his Brandon rental for April.
“For the last few weeks, my only priority has been food because the money dried up pretty suddenly,” said Dobson.
The property manager filed eviction papers with the Hillsborough Clerk of Court’s Office earlier this month.
ABC Action News reached out to that property manager, who said she filed the eviction and hired the process server because it was her job to enforce the terms of the lease.
Bay Area Legal Services has filed a motion to dismiss Dobson’s eviction, but Taking Action Reporter Jackie Callaway found he’s not the only one who has a landlord filing eviction notices with the court.
Court records show more than 200 evictions have been filed in courts in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties since DeSantis’ April 2 order suspending evictions.
Court clerks continue to accept eviction filings despite the suspension.
A Hillsborough court spokesperson said in an email, “We do not have the authority to pick and choose which lawsuits to accept and which to reject.”
Martin Lawyer, an attorney with Bay Area Legal Services, said his nonprofit has been busy fighting legal battles against landlords filing evictions.
“You can’t send notices for eviction,” said Lawyer. “That’s my comment for landlords throughout the State of Florida.”
Tenants facing eviction can contact Bay Area Legal Services at www.BALS.org.