Many South Florida tenants have long feared sudden rent increases amid this hot housing market. Now, they have a new source of hope to look toward: More local governments are taking steps to offer them new protections.
A new law — being enacted or considered in various communities — requires landlords to provide their tenants with at least 60 days’ notice before landlords hike up the rent by more than 5%. And the required notice period for eviction is being broadened from 30 to 60 days.
Under this newly planned law, landlords in Broward County and the city of Lake Worth Beach soon would be required to give renters such notice. Other communities already have enacted similar ordinances, including Miami-Dade County last month. Such protections are already in effect in Hialeah and Miami Beach.
“This is a crisis,” said Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich. “There are people losing their place to live every day, because the amount of the rent increase is so high that people cannot afford it.”
Housing prices have exploded in recent years, including in South Florida, where countless people have moved since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people have been priced out of buying a home, boosting demand for rental properties. In South Florida, landlords are raising rents by as much as 40%, and wages have only increased about 6%, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
Kattye Adderly Thomas, a cancer patient and retiree, recently told Broward County commissioners she was dumbfounded when her landlord raised her rent for her two-bedroom house in Lauderdale Lakes from $1,350 to $1,900. “I begged them,” the widow said of her efforts for relief.
The landlord told her she could pay $1,750, but only through July, she said.
Still “$1,750 is kind of hard for me right now,” she said. “I’m trying to find another place in the meantime that’s cheaper and I can’t find nowhere cheaper.”
Thomas’ story is increasingly common. Officials with Florida Rising, a nonprofit focused on economic and racial justice, said it’s happening frequently. “People are losing their housing,” said spokeswoman Rachel Johnson. “The rents are being increased and they can’t afford to pay it.
“Or their leases are expired, and the landlords are not renewing it because … some of them are selling their properties to the highest bidder, and they have to squat because where are they going to go?”
Johnson said it is “such a terrifying thing” for people to go through a rent increase they can’t afford. “People are becoming displaced,” she said.
As more people were being displaced locally, the idea took root for tenants to at least receive two months’ notice that their rent was about to increase.
As Miami-Dade County passed its protections last month, Rich said it was clear the same initiative would help tenants across the region. Miami-Dade passed its legislation with “lightning speed,” and “we need to do it up here [in Broward] because of this tremendous crisis in affordable housing,” Rich said.
“When somebody does get a huge rental increase, they can’t afford to pay it and then they are pretty much out on the street because we don’t have a supply of affordable housing out there.”
Among the new laws:
- Broward’s ordinance would require landlords and tenants to give at least 60 days’ notice of termination of their contract for properties who don’t have a standard lease, specifically month-to-month or quarterly rentals.
- Lake Worth Beach’s City Commission unanimously voted in favor last week of a measure that would require landlords give 60 days’ notice to tenants if they plan to increase their rent more than 5% or terminate their lease. They will have a second and final vote on April 19. Commissioners said rental increases have surpassed the costs landlords have incurred and say many of the increases are more attributable to greed.
- The rule in Miami-Dade County requires landlords to provide their tenants with at least 60 days’ notice before imposing a rent increase of more than 5%, as well as extending the required notice period for eviction from 30 to 60 days. Miami-Dade commissioners passed the legislation unanimously on March 15.
“We’ve heard our residents and we’ve seen it in our community. Rents are going up too high too fast. Countless households live in fear of receiving a scandalously high rent increase with little to no notice” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins, who sponsored the bill, in a prepared statement. “Fair notice gives families more time to prepare.”
How Broward’s new rules will be enforced is not yet covered in the ordinance, but that is expected to come up at a later date.
Although the rule would pertain to Broward’s unincorporated areas only, the ordinance gives its 31 cities the authority to enforce the ordinance with their code enforcement officers. “We’d like to see it enforced across the county,” Rich said. “Rents are too high too fast and people cannot afford the increase.”
Linda Taylor, CEO of HOMES in Broward County, said without relief, families will be forced to move.
“I’m glad they’re doing something, because to ignore it is not helpful,” she said. “It does help in terms of giving people a little more time but the issue is, it’s a Band-Aid. The issue remains there are insufficient units for lower-income families in Broward. The prices are too high.
“But these new efforts will help the situation some. It’s certainly not the solution.”
Ned Murray, associate director with the Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center at Florida International University, called it a “dire situation for the majority of renters in Broward County right now.”
The majority of renters “are low and moderate income, they are the most distressed and they are in the lower wage service occupations that comprise the majority of our residents.”
He said it was a “bandage over a gaping wound” and “it’s going to require long-term care.”