Florida tenant protections could end up on chopping block thanks to new bill

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Just as landlords have rights for maintaining their property and managing residents, the residents themselves have their own enumerated rights, with some variation depending on where they live. A bill proposed in the Florida Legislature could take the localized versions away.

As a state, Florida has statutes that spell out the rights of both landlords and tenants in the state, called the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, in F.S. chapter 83, Part II.

Additionally, tenants in the Tampa Bay area have multiple layers of protection when it comes to housing protection, such as Pinellas County’s tenants bill of rights, and a similar set of protections in the City of St. Petersburg, as well as in Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa.

House Bill 1417, titled “Residential Tenancies,” would make the state’s tenant and landlord rules preempt those of municipalities. Sponsored by Reps. Tiffany Esposito (R-Lee) and Lawrence McClure (R-Hillsborough), the bill would put the power to regulate tenants’ and landlords’ rights back in state hands, instead of counties or cities.

As written, HB 1417 specifically lists the following matters for preemption:

  • Screening processes to approve tenants
  • Security deposits
  • Rental agreement applications and fees
  • Terms and conditions of rental agreements
  • Rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants
  • Disclosures concerning premises, dwelling units, rental agreements, rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords
  • Fees charged by landlords
  • Notice requirements

Analysis of the bill’s impacts by legislative staff says the proposal would be effective on policies in municipalities that are inconsistent with state law or conflicts with state statutes.The bill, as proposed, also sets a minimum of 60 days’ notice from either a tenant or landlord to vacate a residence, saying that rental agreements may not have a shorter notice time from either party.

Analysis by the legislature says this would be an increase from the current 15 to 30 days’ notice as applied to month-to-month renters or tenants.

Opponents of the bill say the legislation will prevent the ability of local governments to hold bad landlords accountable for harms to their residents.

“HB 1417 would take power away from communities by making it illegal for cities and counties to hold bad landlords accountable,” Cythia Laurent, Housing Organizer for Florida Rising, said in part. “This bill destroys the hope of communities who finally began to believe in the political process again and will create greater apathy and distaste for politics.”

Should the bill, or its Senate Companion pass, it would take effect on July 1.

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