Emphasizing renters rights and need for affordable housing, lawmakers
and community organizations across Florida unite behind renters
rights legislation never seen before in the Florida Legislature
Joining forces with community organizations across the state, lawmakers have introduced a comprehensive renters rights legislation to address Florida’s acute affordable housing crisis and the exploitation of vulnerable renters.
Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami-Dade) and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orange) are leading the fight for renters with SB 1794/HB 1283, a renters rights proposal never seen before in the Florida Legislature. This legislation was written with feedback directly from constituents; empowering tenants with the basic rights necessary to combat predatory landlords taking advantage of a worsening displacement and affordability crisis. Among a long list of reforms, SB 1794/HB 1283 includes:
- Just cause eviction, protecting tenants from eviction for an improper reason by allowing evictions only for specific reasons, such as failure to pay rent or for violation of the lease terms.
- A “right to first refusal” policy to require any housing unit to be offered to existing tenants first, before being sold or re-rented on the private market.
- If a landlord fails to return a deposit, the tenant shall be awarded damages in an amount equal to three times that amount.
- Requires leases to be provided in the preferred language of the tenant.
- A moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during a state of emergency, such as a natural disaster.
- Requires that application fees be refunded in the case of no available units, and that landlords may not charge excessive rental application fees.
- Requires 30 days notice of rent increase from the lease renewal period. If the rent increase is over 5%, the notice period must be extended from 30 days to three months.
- Protections for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, or stalking.
- Prohibits discrimination of renters based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Florida is in the midst of a housing emergency that is threatening the health and well-being of millions of renters. Florida is one of the least affordable states in the US, having the highest rate of cost burdened renters in the nation. The majority of Florida’s renter households are rent burdened with 1.8 million Florida households unable to afford their rent, including over 715,000 renter households who are paying over 50% of their income on housing. According to a 2018 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, only 17 rental units are available for every 100 extremely low-income renters in the In the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area; and only 22 in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach region.
Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez offered the following statement:
“Our landlord-tenant laws have been out of balance for a long time, tipping the balance in favor of landlords. Especially at a time when affordable housing is at a crisis point in our state, we need to make sure tenants are protected as they spend more and more simply to keep a roof over their head.”
Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith offered the following statement:
“I have seen first hand the exploitation of Hurricane Maria evacuees by predatory landlords in our area: unjust evictions, stolen application fees and deposits, and zero housing security during times of crisis. Our working families cannot thrive without reliable and affordable housing; I’m proud to partner with Senator Rodriguez on this groundbreaking vision for Florida’s renters.”
This legislation represents one part of comprehensive affordable housing agenda. In addition to uniting behind renters rights and rent control, lawmakers and housing advocates are repeating calls on the Florida Legislature to stop stealing dollars from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and reimburse the nearly $2 billion already taken over the past eleven years.