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Renters in Tampa worried over housing discrimination

The Tenants Bill Rights is supposed to prohibit lawful income discrimination to help protect people who rely on Section 8 vouchers.

TAMPA, Fla. — Renters in Tampa say housing discrimination is still happening around the city despite council members passing a Tenants Bill of Rights earlier this year.

"We all just want to live just like everybody else," said Kenneth Lofton, who has been looking for housing. "But it’s hard…you know? You’ve just got to keep pressing on."

Lofton has been looking for a new place to lay his head, says his landlord decided to stop taking the housing vouchers that he uses to pay for housing.

"They put a note on my door saying they’re not taking Section 8 anymore," he said. “So I had to vacate the premises.”

Kenneth and advocates with the group, Florida Rising, say this story is common.

“Isn’t the Tenant Bill of Right’s supposed to protect them from that,” Robin Lockett from Florida Rising asked Tampa City council members at a meeting on Thursday. “What’s the enforcement on that?”

Lockett told council members that the ordinance is effectively “worthless,” pointing out that the Tenants Bill of prohibits lawful income discrimination for people who rely on Section 8 vouchers.

“It’s complaint driven,” Nicole Davis of the city’s administrator of Development and Economic Opportunity said. “So people have to file a complaint, code enforcement goes out…and the most we can fine the landlord is $450.”

City leaders say they have received complaints about some landlords, and can try to get the word out more, but add that there’s not much more that can be done as a local jurisdiction. 

“The Tenant Bill of Rights is honestly the most that you can do as a local municipality,” Davis said. “We don’t have the power, we don’t have the authority, to do more than that.”

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