MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – In October, Miami-Dade county commissioners passed two resolutions in an attempt to stave off another imperfect storm.
One resolution called on Florida courts to adopt new rules that would automatically delay, or stay writs of possession in eviction cases. The rules would also require judges to delay eviction proceedings during states of emergency.
The other resolution urged state lawmakers to establish a moratorium on residential evictions during emergency declarations.
"I don't want to say it's an oversight, but things happen, and this is a way to correct it so it will never happen again," said Joe “Pepe” Diaz, District 12 commissioner who sponsored both of those county resolutions.
The legislation was prompted by the eviction of 75-year-old Maria Cazanes and her family from their Miami Beach apartment. At the time, South Florida was in full preparation mode for Hurricane Dorian.
Miami-Dade police officers executed the court ordered eviction.
Legislation is now coursing its way through the state house aimed at freezing eviction filings, pending cases, or enforcement actions whenever a federal, state, or county state of emergency is in place.
The Florida Supreme Court said it is aware of the county’s resolution and "taking it under advisement".
On Tuesday, nearly all of Diaz's commissioner colleagues signed on as co-sponsors and passed a third resolution, directing the Miami-Dade Police and Public-Housing departments not to execute any eviction orders on people living in public housing, or county-owned affordable housing units during states of emergency.
"This is something that was put in place, along with the other two parts that we have done to make sure that we protect our citizens," said Diaz.
The resolution reads, in part:
"...during and after a disaster or emergency, law enforcement should focus only on protecting the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Miami-Dade county ... Oftentimes tenants who are evicted are impoverished, lack the resources to timely move their personal belongings, and have nowhere else to go ... The removal of tenants and their personal property, and the placement of a tenants' personal property outside ... During and after a disaster or emergency not only endangers the tenants' lives, but the placement of such tenants' personal property outside of their rental units endangers the public health, safety and welfare because such personal property could become projectiles in a wind event…”
Commissioners said residents have an obligation to comply with their lease terms, but no resident should be forced to vacate their residential unit when a storm is, potentially, at their doorstep.
In an email to Local 10 News, Miami-Dade police explained they will update their written policy since the resolution has passed and gave further explanation to the incident in question. It read, in part:
"At the time of the incident in review, the CSB were already carrying out the eviction service when the State of emergency was declared by government authorities. All evictions displace the individuals involved however, especially in this case during an emergency, our department took the position that we will not further compound situations for individuals; the CSB was verbally instructed, moving forward, to cease evictions during any state of emergency.
“Since Hurricane Dorian, that has been the department’s position and CSB’s procedure for handling such evictions. No policy update had been approved as MDPD waited for the Board of County Commissioners approval process and the recently effected resolution. Now there is a resolution in place, we will complete the update of the current policy to add language to include that no Writ of Possession (Evictions) will be served during a government declared State of Emergency.”