The first of the month is looming and thousands of Florida Keys homeowners and renters are out of work and watching whatever savings they have dwindle daily.
An online petition at change.org is urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend all mortgage, rent and utility payments for two full months.
“State and federal officials are encouraging people who feel sick to stay home, but many workers already struggle to make rent or mortgage payments,” the petition states. “The choice to skip work for the sake of community health could leave them and their families unsheltered.
In order to protect the health and housing security of our community, we, the undersigned, call on Governor DeSantis to act now so workers won’t have to make that choice. … The legacy of every public official currently serving will be determined in the next few months. It’s time to act now, and choose the right side of history.”
The Federal Housing Finance Agency has established a webpage dedicated to coronavirus assistance that states, “Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) and the Federal Home Loan Banks are taking steps to help people who have been impacted by the coronavirus. If your ability to pay your mortgage is impacted, and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be eligible to delay making your monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period, during which you won’t incur late fees or have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus and foreclosure and other legal proceedings will be suspended.”
The notice further advises homeowners to contact their mortgage provider as soon as possible to let them know about current financial and employment circumstances.
Local banks as of March 25 were working on provisions for their own mortgagees and loan holders, citing similarities to work disruptions that occur in the wake of hurricanes, while acknowledging that the duration of this difficulty is tougher to predict.
“First State Bank is looking at all avenues to help our customers and our community survive this uncertain time, but the best way for us to help our customers is for us to understand their individual circumstances,” said Karen Sharp, First State president and CEO. “We encourage any customer who is having difficulty during this crisis, to reach out to our local banking team so that we may help find a solution that is best for them.”
First State Bank is currently offering two loan deferral options for customers with existing loans, a 3-month payment deferral option and a 6-month interest-only payment option. An added benefit of both options is that the deferral is added to the end of the loan, not due at the end of the deferral period. More details and the form for customers to easily apply for these options can be found on the Bank’s website, KeysBank.com. Additionally, the Bank has extended their call center hours until 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday to help address customer needs. Call 305-296-8535.
Also in the Keys, an increasing number of landlords decided to lower their tenants’ monthly rents by half during this coronavirus crisis while so many are out of work. The measure was gaining traction and support on social media as of March 25.
“My wife and I are landlords and we told our tenants yesterday that for the next three months at least, their rent will go down by half,” Michael Blades posted on Facebook on March 22. “I would have liked to waive it altogether, but the fact is we are not in a position to do that as there are still costs associated with the property. I think that our solution helps share the coming burden. I cannot judge other landlords, but would hope that others would be compassionate and understanding and do whatever they can to help others during this impossible time.”
Longtime Key West residents Nancy Klingener, a well-known media personality, and photographer and birding expert Mark Hedden quickly followed suit and urged others to do the same.
“Be like Mike,” Klingener posted. “Mark and I are also landlords – and have followed (Blades’) lead by cutting our tenants’ rent in half. One is on the front lines as a health care worker, the other is out of work as a bartender. We are fortunate in that I’m still employed and we can afford to do this. I think there are others, besides Michael and Kathy and us, who can, too. Join us!”
The response from both grateful — and hopeful — tenants was swift, with one person promising their generosity and empathy would “come back to them 10-fold. We’re all in this together.”
A petition on change.org is urging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to enact a “suspension of all rent, mortgage, and utility payments for two full months to allow people to do what they need to in order to take care of themselves, their loved ones, and the community.” The petition was launched March 18 and as of March 25 had acquired 176,530 signatures with a goal of 200,000.