Local Rules Between Landlords, Tenants on Chopping Block in Florida

New rules Miami-Dade County put in place to protect renters amid skyrocketing rents may soon be scrapped by state lawmakers in Tallahassee.

The Republican supermajority in the legislature will likely send a proposal to Gov. DeSantis creating statewide rules for landlords and renters, making most local rules “null and void.”

On Wednesday, the Florida House passed HB 1417, its version of the law, along mostly party lines. The Senate passed its version, SB 1586, Friday afternoon. The two chambers will have to settle small differences in their proposals before sending it to the governor to become law.

In the past three years, rents have skyrocketed across South Florida. Rising rents pressured the Miami-Dade County Commission and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to put in place the “Tenants Bill of Rights.” During the coronavirus pandemic, Pinellas and Orange counties passed similar ordinances. Many smaller cities have similar ordinances. Orange County voters also approved a cap on rent which has drawn a lengthy legal battle.

Much of that work may be out the window with changes coming to Florida’s Landlord Tenant Law.

Senate Bill 1586 would require 60-day notice to renters when a landlord wants to raise rent by more than 5%. It requires a landlord or a tenant to notify the other they want to terminate the lease 60 days out – up from 15 days — and 30 days if it’s a month-to-month lease. According to the proposal, many other local regulations will be “null and void.”

Levine Cava wrote NBC6 that if the bills become law, they “will remove critical protections including notice of new owners, extreme rent increases or eviction proceedings. This legislation needlessly ties the hands of local governments working to find solutions to our housing emergency and strips protections from families when they need them most.”

So, if the bill becomes law, Miami-Dade will no longer ban landlords from asking about past evictions, will no longer require landlords to notify renters about new property owners, and will no longer give renters the right to deduct repairs they make from their rent. The bill sponsor, Sen. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, specifically mentioned the last ordinance as one of the reasons for the bill.

“One of the more egregious local ordinances happens to be in Miami-Dade County, where a tenant is allowed to make repairs to their units without prior approval and then deduct the repairs from their rent,” said Trumbull as he laid out his bill in committee.

The goal, he told fellow lawmakers, is to get everyone on the same playing field by eliminating different rules in different places.

“That causes confusion for both landlords and tenants,” Trumbull said.

The proposal may also put in jeopardy other county rules like the housing section of the Miami-Dade human rights ordinance. The United States and the State of Florida do not ban housing discrimination based on “source of income” like housing vouchers or other public assistance. Miami-Dade does, and those rules may also go away.

“I think that’s a question that’s going to be answered by the courts. I believe there are advocates who believe it could be at risk,” said Jeffrey Hearne from the Legal Services of Greater Miami.

Hearne’s organization represents low-income renters and says many of the local rules – including the “source of income” protections – have a big impact on people struggling to pay rent in an affordability crisis.

The Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights received 97 total complaints of housing discrimination in 2022. Forty-nine of them were “source of income” complaints. In 2023, out of 20 total, nine were “source of income” allegations.

“In Miami-Dade County, a landlord, at least right now, cannot advertise, can’t put in their ad ‘no section 8’ because sometimes that can pretext for other things like racial discrimination or familial status discrimination,” Hearne said.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins told NBC6 she’s traveled to Tallahassee to try to prevent the changes.

“It’s turning the clock back. We really have made progress,” Higgins said. “People feel protected.”

To address Florida’s affordability crisis, the state legislature passed $700 million for developers to build more affordable housing units. That effort was spearheaded by President of the Florida Senate Kathleen Passidomo.

State lawmakers aim to make it clear they feel the solution to Florida’s housing issues is helping build up the supply of affordable housing instead of limiting landlords on what they can do and how much they can charge for rent.

According to Zillow, the average rent in Miami is more than $2,700 a month.