Florida bill aims to require air conditioning and protect renters

A South Florida lawmaker wants to reestablish some rental rights that lawmakers eliminated during the 2023 legislative session and require landlords to provide air conditioning, except for single-family homes and duplexes.

Rep. Gervonte Edmonds, D-Palm Beach, HB 31 would cap rent increases to once per year, capped at 30%.

Prohibitions will be waived if expenses such as property taxes, repairs, and insurance modifications exceed 30% of the current rent.

Edmonds’ proposal revives some local government regulations and notice requirements for rentals that were repealed by HB 1417. Signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on July 5, it preempts all state government landlord-tenant regulations.

Back story

Rent increases of 35% in Miami, 29% in Tampa, and double figures elsewhere during the pandemic have made housing less affordable for many working Floridians. Tenants and groups such as Florida Rising and the Miami Workers Center have pushed for local rent control laws governing fees and evictions.

St. Petersburg has passed notice requirements before raising rent or fees. The Orange County initiative has set increases at 5% above inflation. Others created a back payment level system to prevent evictions.

Rep. Tiffany Esposito, R-Fort Myers, said she sponsored HB 1417 to replace this patchwork of regulations with Florida’s Residential Landlords and Tenants Act, to protect landlords and capitalism.

“Capitalism and the free market will solve our housing crisis if we get government out of the way,” Esposito said while discussing a bill to take rent regulations out of the hands of city and county governments.

The measure was supported by the Florida Apartment Association, which represents the rental housing industry, and passed along mostly party lines. A Democrat in the House and Senate crossed the aisle to vote with the Republican majority.

The bill invalidated local regulations on security deposits, application fees, rental agreements and eviction procedures for 1.5 million households in seven major Florida counties, according to the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida, as first reported in the Seeking Rent newsletter.

The rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords are now set forth in Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes.

Suggestion or offer

Landlords can currently begin eviction proceedings with three days’ notice when rent is three days late. Edmonds wants to amend the law to prevent eviction when part of the rent is paid within three days of the due date and full payment is made within 15 days of partial payment.

Edmonds will also add air conditioning to the list of amenities that include trash removal, running water and winter heating that landlords are currently required to provide to tenants.

The draft law has not yet been referred to the committee. The 2024 Florida Legislature session will begin on January 9.

James Cole is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at jcall@tallahassee.com. Follow on Twitter: @CallTallahassee

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