MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Some critics believe Miami Dade County’s residential eviction COVID-19 moratorium is protecting squatters.
Despite judge’s ordering people to be removed from homes, it is not happening.
Miami-Dade County hasn’t been enforcing evictions and some homeowners, who continue paying their mortgages and taxes, are outraged and can’t believe the county is protecting criminals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions remains in effect but does not protect squatters.
A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s office claims she is looking into the issue.
A spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police Department said if someone has a specific issue with squatters, they can contact the department’s Economic Crimes Bureau.
Anthony Stewart has taken over apartment 2D inside the building located at 915 Jefferson Avenue in Miami Beach.
He’s never had a lease, he doesn’t pay rent and yet he’s been living there since August.
Kevin Harris owns the apartment that Stewart has been living in.
“No one will remove him,” Harris said. “Originally I called the police and they said there is nothing they can do, so they said we have to go thru the legal system.”
Harris went to court and last December received a writ of possession from a judge. It’s an order instructing the sheriff’s office, or in this case the Miami-Dade Police Department, to remove Stewart, his possessions and anyone else living in apartment 2D.
“No one will enforce the law,” Harris said. “I have called the sheriff’s office five or six times. They said we can’t do anything because the Mayor of Dade County will not let us. And I’ve shot her a lot of e-mails.”
Harris said he spent $20,000 on legal fees to have Stewart removed through the courts and get the writ.
“It makes my blood boil,” he said. “I got a squatter living in my condo that has no right, no lease. I’m making the payments, and he refuses to leave, and no one will make him leave.”
Harris’ situation is not an isolated incident.
A group of individuals threatened to release a dog on Local 10′s Jeff Weinsier after he asked who gave them permission to live inside a Miami home.
The owner of that home also got a writ from a judge last August, ordering the removal of those people who have never had a lease and no legal right to be in the home.
Phil Revah is the attorney representing that homeowner.
“When it was time for the sheriff to execute the writ, they said, ‘We are not going to execute it,’” Revah explained. “To which we said, ‘These people are not tenants. They are not protected under a moratorium. They are squatters.’”
Then there’s Patricia Guererro, who took matters into her own hands.
Squatters, who showed police a fake lease after they were called, had moved into a vacant home Guererro owned in Miami and was selling.
She got a writ from a judge back in December, but there was no communication or movement from police to remove squatters.
“I have been paying the mortgage, property taxes,” Guererro said.
So, when the squatters were out, Guererro moved in and changed the locks, taking their possessions to a police station.
“This is what we call a constitutional crisis,” said Revah. “A political office like the mayor’s office tell the sheriff’s office to stand down, and not to execute writs of possession.”
Last week at a news conference, Mayor Levine Cava did had something to say when asked about squatters.
“We are not preventing the removal of squatters,” she said. “Squatters are not protected by the courts. Those matters have always been available to call into the police department.”
The homeowner’s and attorney Local 10 News talked to said they were told by police who showed up that they had to go through the court system.
“In the cases presented to us, Miami’s-Dade’s residential eviction moratorium seems to be inadvertently protecting squatters,” said Revah. “It’s a problem, again, only in Miami-Dade County.”
For now, those squatters still have someone else’s roof over their heads, rent free.