Feb 2, 2021 - News

Tampa Bay lawmakers try to stave off rise in evictions

Illustration of a crumpled-up eviction notice in a trash can.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

State lawmakers seeking to lower the eviction rate introduced two bills on Monday:

  1. Requiring more mediation for residential eviction cases.
  2. Allowing tenants to seal court records in eviction cases if their eviction was due to pandemic-related circumstances.

Driving the news: Since the pandemic started, thousands of families in the Tampa Bay area have found themselves unable to pay rent and at risk of eviction, reflecting a national trend.

  • Last week, the CDC announced an extension of a federal eviction moratorium meant to keep people in their homes and out of living conditions that may spread COVID-19.

By the numbers:

  • 11 families are evicted every day in Pinellas County, Tim Dutton of Unite Pinellas said at a press conference yesterday. In Florida broadly, it’s 180 families a day. 
  • 16 million families are at risk nationally of eviction since the pandemic began, Dutton said. Florida’s share of that is about a million people.
  • 46% of Florida households are considered ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed) by United Way, a term used to describe households that are above the federal poverty level but still struggling financially.

Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) filed the bills hoping more mediation would lead to fewer evictions while still ensuring landlords are paid.

  • Mediation is an option in some courts that handle evictions but isn't always required.
  • Plus, eviction hearings favor landlords. Only around 10% of tenants are represented, compared to 80-90% of landlords, Dutton said.

Plus, sealing court records would give tenants a fairer shot at finding better housing and job opportunities, Rouson said.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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