After Hurricane Irma, Florida residents who rent their homes are facing a variety of obstacles: paying rent for uninhabitable homes, difficulties getting refunds on rent deposits, and struggling to find new housing in a strained rental market.
“It's kind of like being stuck in the mud right now… You just have to work your way through it,” said Jay Myers, owner of Orlando Realty and Property Management.
This group manages 600 Central Florida rental properties — only 1.5% of which were vacant before Irma hit. With damaged properties, they have little left to offer. While typically 33% of renters move every year, those numbers may be increasing due to the storm. Residents of Naples and other areas that were hit hard by the storm are frantically looking for rentals in Orlando and other nearby areas. Unfortunately, the rental process has slowed due to the mass income of prospective tenants.
Emily Moll and Ryan Rose left their home on September 11 as Hurricane Irma came through Orlando. They were forced to evacuate after a pecan tree crashed into the house that Rose had rented for three years. Firefighters responded to a call about smelling smoke and told the couple they needed to evacuate. Moll and Rose grabbed their dogs and a few belongings, fleeing to a friend's house.
Of course, Rose's lease exempted refunds for natural disasters, so it looked like they weren't going to get their $1,500 security deposit back. The landlord told the Orland Sentinel he was going to try to work with them on a refund for the deposit.
The “force majeure” lease clause concerning natural disasters isn't common, says Orlando attorney Justin Clark. It's just another obstacle renters may run into, and Clark suggests tenants discuss their options with their landlords for a break on future rent.
Moll reached out to FEMA in hopes of getting help with leasing an apartment, but she was told that until she settled her renters insurance, she was ineligible for financial aid. The insurance company paid $3,300 of the $5,300 in damages, and the couple quickly received the rest of the money from family and friends.
Much like other renters, the young couple worries their hopes of establishing a good credit score in order to qualify for an affordable mortgage one day won't be possible for a long time to come.
“We were working so hard and now it's back to square one,” Moll said.