TAMPA — Hillsborough County is opening the door to greater protections for residential renters.
The County Commission on Aug. 3 approved new requirements for landlords to give tenants 60 days’ notice of pending rent increases greater than 5% and to give at least 30 days’ notice if a lease is not being renewed.
“Our goal is to stabilize a community in crisis right now,” said commission chairperson Kimberly Overman.
The county is at least the third local government in the region to institute greater tenant protections. The city of Tampa approved the same ordinance in May and the Pinellas County Commission authorized a rent-notice requirement Aug. 2 as part of a broader tenants’ bill of rights. A similar proposal died last month in St. Petersburg City Council’s Housing, Land Use, & Transportation Committee, though it could be resurrected in a separate committee in the coming weeks.
The governments’ response comes as rising real estate prices, new residents coming to Florida and the proliferation of corporate investors in rental housing markets have resulted in substantially higher prices for renters.
Rent prices in Tampa Bay increased by a record 24% in 2021, according to an analysis by CoStar Group, a commercial real estate data firm, which included Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties. Tampa Bay had the highest rent spike in the nation for markets with at least 100,000 apartments, CoStar said.
Some advocates asked the commission to go further.
Robin Lockett, Tampa Bay regional director of Florida Rising, which advocates for economic and racial justice, asked the commission to extend the notice requirements to 120 days and to institute stiffer penalties for violators.
“We’re fighting against greed,” she said. “There has to be some type of regulations put in place to stop it.”
Commissioner Pat Kemp asked the county attorney’s office if a 90-day notice would be legal, but assistant county attorney Nancy Takemori said going beyond 60 days could violate state law.
Commissioners approved the ordinance with an amendment from Commissioner Mariella Smith that also requires landlords to include any fee increases to be included in the written notification to tenants. She said some apartment complexes tack on fees for pets, parking and other costs.
The 6-0 vote came with Commissioner Stacy White out of the board room. The ordinance is effective Aug. 8, but the $500 fine for violators won’t be enforced until Oct. 1.