Frequently Asked Questions

Frequent Landlord Questions

Saves money:

  • You save the costs associated with filing an eviction case that is likely to become contested (filing fees and attorneys’ fees)
  • You prevent the cost of advertising for a new tenant and making repairs or renovations to prepare the property for a new tenant
  • Your income remains steady without a lapse in rental income while trying to locate a new tenant
  • Mediated agreements, which are voluntary, are much more likely to be honored by both parties

Saves time/minimizes stress:

  • Avoid an eviction action which can take months of your time
  • Avoid time spent working with lawyers to resolve disputes between tenants and devote that time to growing your business
  • No time devoted to preparation for contested hearings
  • Avoids the uncertainty and stress of going before a judge
  • End your case with the certainty that you have an agreement in place

Mediation is a voluntary process, but we ask that landlords approach it with an open mind and a willingness to compromise. We do not require a financial commitment.

If an agreement is reached at mediation in a litigated case, we ask that the landlord agrees to dismiss the eviction action and seal the file if the tenant complies with his/her part of the agreement. There are no other “strings attached” for landlords.

  1. You can call us at (727) 582 – 7475 or reach out through the online portal.
  2. A Staff member will ask you for the name & contact information of your tenant, or alternatively, you can have your tenant reach out directly to us.
  3. An Intake Specialist will conduct an intake interview with your tenant.
  4. If mediation is advisable, we will schedule a remote mediation with one of our Contract Mediators. This mediation typically takes 30 minutes to an hour but can last up to two hours.

Our Staff may ask you for:

  1. Your driver’s license (to prove identity) and verification of settlement authority
  2. A copy of the lease with your tenant
  3. A statement, spreadsheet, or ledger of what your tenant owes to you and why they owe it
  4. A W-9 form (for rental assistance payments)

Mediation is a non-adversarial process in which a certified mediator speaks with both parties, listens to their concerns, and endeavors to negotiate an agreement between them. The mediator will clarify the issues, identify areas of agreement, and help develop possible solutions. The mediator is not on anyone’s side and won’t decide who is “right” and who is “wrong.” The mediator will not make a decision on your case, as he/she is not a Judge. Rather, the mediator helps both sides understand each other, brainstorms about solutions, and tries to help the parties reach an agreement to end their dispute.

In most mediations, the landlord and tenant will be in separate “breakout rooms” on Zoom. The mediator will go back and forth between the virtual rooms endeavoring to find common ground with you and your tenant. Mediation is confidential (with certain exceptions), so this means that neither you nor your tenant are to share any communications made during mediation with third parties.

If any agreement is reached, the mediator will generate it, and you and your tenant can sign it. If the case has been filed with the Court, this can be submitted to the Court to end the case. If the case has not yet been filed with the Court, this document becomes a binding contract between you and your tenant.

You will receive a Mediation Intake Form and Agreement to Mediation to complete. Please complete these forms and return to our office via email 24-48 hours before your mediation. These forms will ask you for a complete copy of the lease, a ledger of unpaid rent, and a statement of other issues you may be experiencing with your tenant. Please think ahead about possibilities for the resolution of your contested issues. The more prepared you are in advance, the easier and faster your mediation will be!

If an agreement is not reached at mediation, either party may pursue remedies available to them under the law. It is advisable for both parties to obtain advice from an attorney as to their rights under Florida law.

We encourage active negotiation even if mediation is not successful. You can negotiate an agreement up to the point of going to court, and even after going to court. An agreement can be reached at any point and you can always end your case amicably.

Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance Program is now open! Tenants and landlords can apply.

To learn about eligibility requirements, what documents are needed, and more, go to Emergency Rental Assistance Program Frequently Asked Questions – Pinellas County COVID-19 Response and Recommendations for a detailed listing of frequently asked questions and answers.

To apply, go to http://www.bit.ly/pc-rent.

Frequent Tenant Questions

Saves money/saves time/minimizes stress:

  • With the benefit of a rental assistance program, you may be able to remain in your home (so no need to hire a moving truck or come up with money for a new home)
  • Avoid the uncertainty of when/if an eviction may be filed – agreements are much more likely to be adhered to
  • Be heard and understood by a neutral third party who is specifically trained to address your concerns
  • Avoid time and the stress of preparing for a court case
  • Avoids the uncertainty of an outcome in front of a Judge
  • Maintain confidentiality – this program is outside of the court
  • Possibly avoid an eviction action on your record
  • End your case with the certainty that you have an agreement in place
  1. You can call us at (727) 582- 7475 or reach out through the online portal.
  2. A trained Intake Specialist will conduct a 20-30 minute interview with you. He/she will ask you about your residence, your tenancy (do you have a lease? What is your rent? How far behind are you on your rent?), your income, if you were affected by COVID-19, and other related background questions.
  3. The Intake Specialist will inform you if you meet the criteria for our program.  Your application for assistance is complete at the conclusion of your intake appointment.
  4. If rental assistance is requested, we may be able to help you with the application and/or let you know if we are able to help expedite the process.
  5. If mediation is advisable, we will schedule a remote mediation with one of our Program Mediators. This mediation can last up to two hours but usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour.

Our Staff may ask you for:

  1. Your driver’s license or other photo ID (to prove identity)
  2. A copy of the lease with your landlord
  3. A statement of what you believe you owe your landlord
  4. Any documents you have received from your landlord (such as notices, written warnings, or court documents)

For rental assistance, our staff may ask you for:

  1. Verification of your income
  2. Pre and post COVID paystubs or other proof of COVID impact
  3. Proof of past due utility bills
  4. Documentation of amounts owed to your landlord

Mediation is a non-adversarial process in which a certified mediator speaks with both parties, listens to their concerns, and endeavors to negotiate an agreement between them. The mediator will clarify the issues, identify areas of agreement, and help develop possible solutions. The mediator is not on anyone’s side and won’t decide who is “right” and who is “wrong.” The mediator will not make a decision on your case, as he/she is not a Judge. Rather, the mediator helps both sides understand each other, brainstorms about solutions, and tries to help the parties reach an agreement to end their dispute.

In most mediations, the landlord and tenant will be in separate “breakout rooms” on Zoom. The mediator will go back and forth between the virtual rooms endeavoring to find common ground with you and your landlord. Mediation is confidential (with certain exceptions), so this means that neither you nor your landlord are to share any communications made during mediation with third parties.

If any agreement is reached, the mediator will generate it, and you and your landlord can sign it. If the case has been filed with the Court, this can be submitted to the Court to end the case. If the case has not yet been filed with the Court, this document becomes a binding contract between you and your landlord.

You will receive a Mediate Intake Form and Agreement to Mediate to complete. Please complete these forms and return them to our office via email 24-48 hours before your mediation. These forms will ask you for a complete copy of the lease, a statement of unpaid rent, and a statement of other issues you may be experiencing with your landlord. Please think ahead about possibilities for the resolution of your contested issues. The more prepared you are in advance, the easier and faster your mediation will be!

If an agreement is not reached at mediation, either party may pursue remedies available to them under the law. It is advisable for both parties to obtain advice from an attorney as to their rights under Florida law.

We encourage active negotiation even if mediation is not successful. You can negotiate an agreement up to the point of going to court, and even after going to court. An agreement can be reached at any point and you can always end your case amicably.

Frequent CDC Questions

The Order temporarily halts residential evictions of “covered persons” for nonpayment of rent during September 4, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

The order was recently extended to provide protection through June 30, 2021.

This Order applies to a “covered person.” To be a “covered person”, you would be a tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property. You would need to swear under oath that you meet these criteria:

    1. The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
    2. The individual either
      1. expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return),
      2. was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or
      3. received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
    3. The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, or a lay-off due to COVID-19;
    4. The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and
    5. Eviction would likely render the individual homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new shared living setting—because the individual has no other available housing options.
    6. The order was recently extended to provide protection through June 30, 2021.

A tenant must provide a completed and signed copy of the declaration, as described above, to their landlord, owner of the residential property where they live, or other person who has a right to have them evicted or removed from where they live. The declaration may be signed and transmitted either electronically or by hard copy. Each adult listed on the lease, rental agreement, or housing contract should complete the declaration.

Yes. Covered people still owe rent to their landlords. The Order halts residential evictions only temporarily. Covered persons still must fulfill their obligation to pay rent and follow all the other terms of their lease and rules of the place where they live. (See question below regarding evictions for reasons other than paying rent). Covered persons must use best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as their individual circumstances permit. When the Order expires, a covered person will owe their landlord any unpaid rent and any fees, penalties, or interest as a result of their failure to pay rent or make a timely housing payment during the period of the Order.

Yes, you may still be evicted for reasons other than not paying full rent or making a full housing payment. The Order does not prevent you from being evicted for

  1. engaging in criminal activity while on the premises;
  2. threatening the health or safety of other residents;
  3. damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property;
  4. violating any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or
  5. violating any other contractual obligation of a tenant’s lease, other than the timely payment of rent or similar housing-related payment (including nonpayment or late payment of any fees, penalties, or interest).

Individuals who are confirmed to have, have been exposed to, or might have COVID-19 and take reasonable precautions to not spread the disease should not be evicted on the ground that they may pose a health or safety threat to other residents. Individuals who might have COVID-19 are advised to self-isolate except to get medical care.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has coronavirus-related resources for renters available on its website.

In addition, there are state and local resources available to assist tenants and landlords, such as through Pinellas County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which can be accessed at www.bit.ly/pc-rent.  You can also call 211 for other available rental assistance and housing resources or ask one of our staff members for any additional resources.

The Order applies to any property leased for residential purposes, including any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park, or similar dwelling leased for residential purposes. The Order does not apply to hotel rooms, motel rooms, or other guest house rented to a temporary guest or seasonal tenant.

CDC issued this Order because evictions threaten to increase the spread of COVID-19. During a pandemic, calling a temporary halt to evictions can be an effective public health measure to prevent the spread of disease. A temporary halt of evictions can help people who get sick or who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 protect themselves and others by staying in one place to quarantine. These orders also allow state and local authorities to more easily implement stay-at-home and social distancing measures to lessen the community spread of COVID-19.

No, landlords are not required to make their tenants aware of the Order and Declaration. But landlords must otherwise comply with all requirements of the Order.

If this happens, you should seek legal help ASAP!  Our Staff can determine if you qualify for free legal help and can refer you, if needed, to one of our legal aid partners.  Alternatively, you can reach out directly to Bay Area Legal Services’ Legal Aid Helpline at 1-800-625-2257, or to Gulfcoast Legal Services at (727) 821-0726.

A landlord can challenge the truthfulness of a tenant’s declaration in court. The protections of the Order apply to the tenant until the court decides the issue as long as the Order remains in effect.

If you falsely claim to be a covered person under this Order by attesting to any information which you do not believe to be true, you may be subject to criminal penalties of perjury or other applicable criminal law.

Tenants often keep some form of proof that they gave the declaration to their landlord. For example, tenants show evidence by:

  • Taking two physical copies of the signed Declaration to the landlord/management company and asking that the landlord to initial both copies and saving one copy
  • Sending the signed declaration by certified mail (expedited delivery/overnight mail/second day delivery) and keeping a copy of the signed CDC, the form from the post office, and the certified mail card signed and returned by the landlord

The Order doesn’t specifically require this.  HOWEVER, recent data indicates that the courts are now requiring tenants to prove that they are covered individuals.  This means the tenant will need documentation to support the CDC Declaration (see below).

Evidence of a significant loss of household income due to an economic impact from COVID-19, such as bank statements, tax returns, or a letter from your employer indicating that you lost your job or experienced a loss in wages or hours.

  • Evidence of trying to make partial payments to your landlord if your budget allows, such as receipts and/or money orders.
  • Evidence that you have attempted to obtain rental assistance, such as an application # from Pinellas County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program or other documentation received from the rental assistance provider.

Have more questions? Contact us.