Miami-Dade Commission passes the county’s “Tenant’s Bill of Rights”

Mercedes Cabrera came to Miami-Dade County Hall with photos of cracked walls, flooded floors and a plea for protection from a landlord she claims is trying to evict her as retaliation for reporting her townhome’s disrepair to authorities. “We have no rights at all,“ said Cabrera, 38, who lives in Hialeah with her family in a private home subsidized by a federal Section 8 housing voucher. “It’s all biased in favor of landlords.” Hours later, Miami-Dade commissioners passed the county’s first “Tenant’s Bill of Rights,” legislation that makes it harder to screen rental applications based on past evictions, makes it easier for tenants to bill landlords for repairs, and protects against retaliation for reporting a rental’s disrepair to the government.

“We are not looking to hurt landlords,” said Jean Monestime, who sponsored the legislation along with fellow commissioner Raquel Regalado. “We are just trying to provide equity to those who need it most.”

The legislation passed on a unanimous vote, despite some critical comments of the proposal by commissioners. Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins said the county needs a tenants’ bill of rights but questioned why Miami-Dade should change the law to protect renters without considering protections for landlords, too. “We cannot pass policy that says we are prioritizing tenants,” Cohen Higgins said before ultimately voting for the ordinance. “We are trying to pass legislation that is going to withstand the test of time, and is going to protect both tenants and landlords, and not favor one group over another. That is incredibly important.”

The new legislation is the latest housing bill to pass the commission during a surge in reports of soaring rents and rising real estate prices exacerbating one of the country’s widest affordability gaps in housing. Miami-Dade commissioners have already required 60 days notice ahead of rent increases above 5%, and made it easier for Miami-Dade to force building owners to pay for temporary housing if residences are evacuated over maintenance neglect. Passage of the legislation followed campaigns by advocacy groups pushing for more action by Miami-Dade on rising rents.

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