TAMPA, Fla. – As rents in Tampa Bay continue to rise, local governments are looking at how they can do more to help people struggling to keep up with the price of paradise.
At the same time, proponents of Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties said that while they welcome the changes, there is still more work to be done.
Pinellas County commissioners won on Tuesday for tenant rights. The commissioners have adopted a bill of rights of a tenant.
It requires landlords to give tenants a notice of rights under Florida law and county code. It also prohibits discrimination based on income and requires written notice of late fees and rent increases.
Karla Correa of St. Pete Tenant’s Union said it’s a good step toward enlightenment.
“As the housing justice movement grows, and you know, although national landlord organizations came forward to tear it down, they still succeeded,” she said.
Correa said this doesn’t mean their work is done.
“Rentals in Pinellas County are still dealing with huge rent increases, their landlords are doing illegal things like shutting off their water and power, locking them out. These are all illegal things,” she added.
Correa continued: “So we need more protection for tenants. We need a tenant advocacy office so tenants can call if they need help. We need a guaranteed right to counsel that guarantees tenants an attorney if they are evicted. “
While Pinellas exceeded their benchmark, neighboring Hillsborough County is also exploring protection.
On Wednesday morning, the province will hold a public hearing focused on changes to the existing TBoR. The changes would require landlords to give tenants 60 days’ notice if their rent increases by more than 5%. They will also look at a 30-day rental termination notice for monthly rental payments and 60 days for payments longer than a month.
It’s similar to the city of Tampa’s tenant law passed in March.
Getulio Gonzalez- Mulattieri is a community organizer for Chispa Florida. He said changes have been made because of the hard work of the people.
“Fortunately, after months of going back and forth with them, the City Council has listened to us. They are working on rent stabilization on the November ballot,” he said.
Gonzalez-Mulattieri said the work does not stop. The team has plans for many more changes, most similar to questions in St. Pete.
“We are also urging the City Council to introduce a landlord registry to hold unscrupulous landlords to account,” he said.
Ahead of the Tampa city council meeting on Thursday, Gonzalez-Mulationri and others plan to gather outside Old City Hall at 8:45 a.m. to push for a housing emergency and more money for affordable housing and housing assistance.
“Here in the state of Florida, for a municipality to implement any sort of rent stabilization measure, it must declare a housing emergency,” he said.
Both organizers said the best way to see change is to keep pushing for council and committee meetings.