Florida bill guts local governments’ power to protect tenants

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bill filed by Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee would gut any protections offered to tenants by local governments, instead shifting all authority over landlord-tenant relationships to the state.


The bill, SB 1586,  pre-empts all municipal and county regulations regarding landlords, including the process a landlord uses to approve tenants, security deposits, landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, and disclosures.

It was filed by a senator from Panama City and a representative from Ft. Myers, and comes days after Orange County celebrated the opening of its Office of Tenant Services, which was created by the county’s Tenant Bill of Rights enacted in January.

The Bill of Rights (BOR), along with a rent control measure struck down by a judge, came in response to soaring housing prices that began in 2021.

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Under the BOR, landlords are required to disclose their fees upfront and must give notice before hiking the rent more than 5%. The bill also added protections against additional categories of discrimination and clarified other aspects of the law, in addition to creating the tenant services office.

Tallahassee’s bill would eliminate all those protections, except for the new office. It mandates 60 days’ notice of any rental agreement renewals or cancellations, except for month-to-month leases, in which 30 days’ notice would be required.

Reaction from the BOR’s supporters was swift, and primarily focused on the increasing amount of power Tallahassee was taking from municipalities and counties.

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“If they want to do our job, they can come and do it,” Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla said. “It seems like they don’t want us doing anything and they’re not helping either.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), who has filed bills to add protections to tenants at the state level, was equally critical.

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“The state of Florida should be supporting consumer rights, not taking them away,” she said. “It’s just shame because, at the end of the day, I like to think we all have the same goals in mind to keep people housed. When they see policies like this, this speaks to the opposite.”

Neither sponsor of the bill responded to phone calls Friday.

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