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Rental rights advocates push for more assistance from local leaders

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Posted at 11:09 PM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-02 23:14:40-04

TAMPA, Fla. — As rent prices continue to rise in Tampa Bay, 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, advocates from Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties said although they are happy to see changes, there’s still more work to be done.

Pinellas County Commissioners dealt a win for tenants' rights Tuesday. Commissioners passed a Tenant's bill of Rights.

It requires landlords to provide tenants with a notice of rights under Florida law and county code. It also prohibits income-based discrimination and requires written notice of late fees and rent increases.

Karla Correa with St. Pete Tenant's Union said it's a good step toward relief.

"As the housing justice movement grows, and you know, even though national landlord organizations came out, trying to tear it down, they still passed it," she said.

Correa said this doesn't mean their work is done.

"Tenants all over Pinellas County are still suffering huge rent increases, their landlords are doing illegal things like turning off their water and power, locking them out. These are all illegal things," she added.

Correa continued, "So we need more tenant protections. We need an office of tenant advocacy for tenants to be able to call if they need help. We need guaranteed right to counsel which would guarantee tenants a lawyer if they're facing eviction."

While Pinellas passed their measure, neighboring Hillsborough County is looking into protections as well.

On Wednesday morning, the county will hold a public hearing aimed at changes to its existing TBoR. The changes would require landlords to give tenants a 60-day notice if their rent will increase more than 5%. They'll also look into 30 days' notice of lease termination for monthly rent payments and 60 for payments longer than a month.

It's similar to the City of Tampa's Tenants Bill of Rights passed in March.

Getulio Gonzalez- Mulattieri is a community organizer for Chispa Florida. He said changes had been made through the hard work of the people.

"Fortunately, City Council has listened to us, after months of going back and forth with them. They're working on getting rent stabilization on the ballot for November," he said.

Gonzalez-Mulattieri said the work doesn't stop. The team has plans for many more changes, most similar to asks in St. Pete.

"We're also pushing city council to implement a landlord registry to hold unscrupulous landlords accountable," he said."We want to make sure that the landlords across the city are complying with the tenants bill of rights."

Ahead of Tampa’s City Council meeting on Thursday, Gonzalez-Mulattieri and others plan on gathering in front of Old City Hall at 8:45 to push for a housing state of emergency as well as more money for affordable housing and rental assistance.

"Here in the State of Florida, for a municipality to have any form of rent stabilization measure passed, a housing state of emergency needs to be declared," he said.

Both organizers said the best way to see change is to continue to apply pressure at council and commission meetings.