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Florida renters fear sudden rent hikes with protections stripped away

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida renters have fewer rights than they did just a few weeks ago.

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In Orange County, two ordinances designed to protect renters have been stripped away by lawmakers in Tallahassee.

This will have an immediate impact on renters in Central Florida and across the state.

The law affects more than one-and-a-half million Florida renters.

But not much could stop a landlord from doubling rent from $1,500 monthly for a studio apartment to $3,000 tomorrow.

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“It’s a little stressful because they can raise it at any time, at any moment,” resident Michael Johnson said. “We don’t have that kind of money right now.”

Earlier this year, Orange County created rules that prevent rent hikes of higher than 5% without at least a 60-day notice in writing while also preventing discrimination against renters with housing vouchers.

In June, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an industry-backed law that wiped both county’s ordinances off the books while erasing tenants’ bill of rights in 40 other communities across the state.

Read: Lawmakers form ‘Congressional Renters Caucus’ to tackle rental crisis

“It’s kind of concerning,” resident John Fester said. “Like, what is protecting us renters, knowing next year I’m going to have a place to live?”

Florida lawmakers also banned local governments from limiting how much a landlord can increase rent.

Fester said he would have to sacrifice his free time if his rent increases.

“That’s my main concern,” he said. “Being able to maintain that income so I can pay for my cost of living so I can come out and enjoy life.”

Read: Florida House votes on bill that would trump local rent rules

Fester has rented for 12 years but worries about what the next year will look like.

“Now, we’re looking at how can we increase our income so that we can afford to either keep living here or move somewhere better,” he said.

Johnson, a father of five, feels he has no options with his local government unable to protect him.

“Increasing it more is going to put a toll on me,” he said. “I’m already paying a lot of bills as it is. Increasing would make it worse for me.”

Under the new law, local governments cannot have their own regulations on security deposits, the screening process, rental application fees terms and conditions, or landlord and tenant responsibilities.

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