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Housing bills in Tallahassee could make big changes to renters' rights

Bills related to housing in Florida were filed on both sides of the aisle.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A new housing bill is on the table in Tallahassee that could bring sweeping changes to what rights tenants have in rental properties.

Florida Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-District 42, has proposed a 46 page bill, HB 1407, that she says would strengthen tenants' rights across the state with changes that include creating a statewide agency to would focus on tenant advocacy and homeless services.

“This is the crisis impacting all of our constituents, and it just gets worse by the day,” Eskamani said.

Other aspects of the bill include renter protections like prohibiting evictions during a state of emergency declared by the governor, allowing victims of domestic violence or stalking to terminate a rental agreement under certain circumstances, capping security deposits so that they can’t exceed one month’s rent, and requiring certain records be removed from a tenant's credit report under certain circumstances.

“The landlords that are following all of the best operating practices and ethics, they’re going to be fine,” Eskamani said. “It’s really designed for those landlords who operate in a profiteering fashion who are jacking up rent for those who live in those environments.”

Those fighting for housing rights in the Tampa Bay area are supportive of that bill, but skeptical it will pass in the Republican majority House. They say, if constituents who are for it speak up, it might have more of a chance.

“We ultimately need a different type of economic system that prioritizes housing as a human right and not for profit,” Jack Wallace of the St. Petersburg Tenants Union said.

Across the aisle, there’s another bill that was filed recently from Representative Tiffany Esposito, HB 1417.

That bill would put all tenant and landlord relations in the hands of the state government, preempting any local regulations that have been put in place.

According to the bill text, the state regulations would supersede any local government regulations on matters including, but not limited to, “the screening process used by a landlord in approving tenancies; security deposits; rental agreement applications and fees associated with such applications,” and terms and conditions of rental agreements.

We reached out to the representative to get more information on the bill, and are awaiting a response.

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