Many South Floridians are facing eviction after not paying rent for months during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating stressful situations like the one that turned deadly in Brickell Tuesday.
The incident, where a woman was killed in a shootout with police during an eviction process, points to the stress of a potential eviction.
Police have identified the woman they say was shooting at them Tuesday inside the high-rise building as 40-year-old Stephanie Voikin. Miami-Dade police said they were at the unit as part of the process to get the unit back to the landlord. NBC 6 was told the trouble with payments went back prior to the pandemic and that she had a history of tenant troubles.
One of her previous landlords, who asked to remain anonymous, said he rented Voikin a room in Sunrise and that he had to reach out to police several times because she was "not mentally stable."
He not only had to evict her, but he had to file for a restraining order. The landlord showed a threatening picture he says she sent him of a gun.
“I was sometimes coming back from work, she was here with random people, homeless people and they were smoking weed,” said the landlord, detailing just a few of the issues. “It was a hell of an experience.”
The key message from all the experts NBC 6 spoke with is don’t wait when you get any whiff that you are so far behind that the property owner has already started the eviction process.
”There’s one word that comes to mind here and its communication,” said South Florida real estate lawyer Geil Bilu.
Bilu said the key to resolving these situations is trying to get a resolution early on.
"It bruises your ego right. It hurts your pride to say 'I don’t have money to pay for a roof over my head,' but waiting till the last second is never going to make anything better," Bilu said. "Deal with it in advance. Talk to your landlord. Reach out to family, to your local organizations who might be able to help you out that you are not facing such a separate situation that the police are coming to your door and your have no place to go."
The Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts said more 10,000 evictions were filed over the last year. Just over 4,000 are still in the works.
The county said people who need it can get help with the rent for up to 12 months. The payments can go up to $3,000 each month but they have to qualify, showing that Covid impacted them.
The county is processing the applications it already has now and believes it will have more money soon, from the funds under the Biden Administration rescue plan.
"There is assistance for people who are being evicted," Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado said, "We got more money from the federal government and we are going to do that programming in the following weeks. For folks that have a final judgement and are facing a writ of possession they can still apply for this assistance."
Also, there are community groups that can point you in the right direction.
"What we do is collective impact and right now when it comes to evictions we are working with community-based organizations through the county in addition to county agencies and municipal agencies to insure that rental assistance gets to where it needs to go," said attorney Sabrina Velarde, with Miami Homes for All.
The following groups can help:
You can call Miami Dade County at 305-374-5370 or visit their website.
If you live in Broward here's their website.