Fort Myers state rep sponsors bill nixing local housing regulations

Author: CBS Miami Staff
Published: Updated:
Apartment building. CBS file photo

On Wednesday, the Florida House passed a controversial bill that would lead to state law trumping local regulations governing landlords and tenants.

In recent years, cities and counties, including Orange, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties, have passed ordinances – frequently described as a tenant “bill of rights” – that go beyond a state law known as the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

The ordinances deal with a variety of issues, such as notices about rent increases, notices about fees and notices about changes of ownership.

The Republican-controlled House voted 81-33 along almost-straight party lines to approve HB 1417, which could undo those tenant bills of rights.

Republican Rep. Paula Stark joined Democrats in voting against the bill, while Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels voted for it.

Bill sponsor Tiffany Esposito, R-Fort Myers, and other supporters said the state needs to take a free-market approach to addressing the housing problems and that local regulations drive up costs.

“The government is the problem when it comes to the affordable-housing crisis,” Rep. David Borrero, R-Sweetwater, said.

But opponents said the bill would lead to reduced consumer protections and that local governments should be able to address housing issues.

“This bill is designed to help corporate landlords at the expense of tenants, many of which are already struggling to stay in their homes,” Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, said.

The Senate is scheduled to take up its version of the bill (SB 1586) on Friday.

Lawmakers last month passed a separate bill (SB 102) that included preventing local rent controls. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed that wide-ranging housing bill on March 29.

During a debate about Esposito’s bill, lawmakers agreed on the problem – a lack of affordable housing – but had starkly different positions on the government’s role in addressing it.

Supporters of the bill said regulations help lead to limited housing supply, which results in higher costs. Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, said the law of “supply and demand is irrefutable.”

“This bill is not about helping renters, per se,” Gregory said. “It is about making sure local governments don’t love them to death.”

But Rep. Lindsay Cross, D-St. Petersburg, said dozens of local ordinances would go away if the bill passes and that the system is already “tilted” toward landlords.

“What we are talking about here in this debate is simple consumer protections,” Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, said.

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