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Some Hillsborough County apartment complexes are voluntarily 'freezing' rent increases

Hillsborough Co. leaders urge the governor for a statewide freeze
Posted at 5:36 PM, Apr 10, 2020

HILLSBOROUGH CoUNTY, Fla. -- Americans are being hit by surprise rent increases during this time of great uncertainty. In Hillsborough County, leaders are taking action to protect tenants.

Tracy Solomon got a renewal letter at her door. It shows her rent is going up by nearly $50 a month.

"It's almost like business as usual, but nothing right now is life as usual or business as usual," she said.

Despite the letter, Solomon is feeling peace of mind because her apartment complex Park at Palermo has taken the initiative by freezing rent increases for the next three months.

Solomon says this is the right approach for management companies.

"Your business relies on your tenants," she said.

Hillsborough County leaders say they've received numerous complaints of other apartment complexes not budging.

"An increase in rent right now is a pretty scary thing," said Commissioner Kimberly Overman.

That's why Overman and the rest of the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis urging him to order a statewide freeze on rent increases.

"I definitely think that would give a lot of people definite peace of mind," said Solomon.

The office of the Attorney General Ashley Moody tells ABC Action News they've gotten 15 consumer complaints about rent. Depending on the circumstances it can be illegal price gouging.

Moody's office released the following statement:

"Depending upon the facts of each situation, rent increases could be actionable under the price gouging laws.

However, unlike most commodities, e.g. hand sanitizer or in a hurricane, ice or water, which typically have costs that are essentially interchangeable between similar brands (unless they are typically priced more as a unique brand), an increase in rent can be attributable to any number of case-specific factors.

Therefore, each case must be reviewed in detail to determine if the rent increases were the result of legitimate market conditions."

Overman says it just makes sense for managers to hit the pause button.

"It might be in their benefit to keep a stable tenant rather than lose one," she said.

Meanwhile, Solomon insists with the stakes so high a little compassion is needed.

"There's a lot of people that are just completely out of work. So do you take care of the rent first, or do you buy food? Do you pay your electric?" she asked.