Florida routinely makes the lists of America’s most landlord-friendly states.
No limits on security deposits!
A ban on rent control!
Unlimited penalties for late rent payments!
“Despite Florida having a high concentration of renters, state laws have not kept up, which leaves landlords in an advantageous spot,” gushes one property management group.
Florida features “plenty of lenient rental property laws that favor property owners and landlords,” boasts another.
Florida’s so accommodating to landlords it doesn’t even make them do an inexpensive criminal background checks on maintenance workers who possess master keys giving them access to any apartment.
Police think a maintenance worker at Arden Villas used his master key to sneak into Miya Marcano’s apartment, abducting and then killing the 19-year-old before the worker later took his own life.
Arden Villas says it ran a background check on the worker suspected of killing Miya, Armando Caballero, and he didn’t have a criminal record. Regardless, the case highlighted yet another instance of how Florida law is rigged in favor of landlords and against renters. Arden Villas chose to run a background check on Caballero, but it didn’t have to under the law.
We can hear the objections now to mandating background checks: Caballero didn’t have a criminal record. This is a solution in search of a problem. And yet, we recall that Florida recently passed an “anti-riot” law even though Florida didn’t have riots during the 2020 protests over George Floyd’s murder by a police officer in Minneapolis.
If an ounce of prevention made sense in that instance, why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply in forcing all landlords to find out whether their maintenance workers — who are granted access to renters’ apartments — are convicted rapists?
What’s more, tenants should have the right to be informed by landlords if a worker does have a violent criminal record, and that ought to be grounds for a tenant to break their lease, which under current Florida law is not easy to do.
Orlando state Sen. Linda Stewart told the Sentinel she’s working on a proposed law that would require landlords to run background checks on workers with access to apartments, and place restrictions on hiring those with violent criminal convictions.
That makes sense, which is exactly why the proposal has a difficult road ahead in Florida’s nonsensical Legislature.
As the makers of those lists of landlord-friendly states already know, Florida is disinclined to give a hoot about the interests of renters.
Rents, for example, are soaring in Central Florida and across the state, jumping by nearly 14% year over year from the summer of 2020. The research firm AdvisorSmith recently estimated Miami was the least affordable city in the nation for renters, with rent consuming nearly 50% of a family’s income. The National Low Income Housing Coalition calculates that a worker needs to make nearly $25 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Florida.
Some states have rent-control laws to ensure landlords can make a profit and renters can afford to live. Not Florida, which also prohibits cities or counties from imposing their own rent controls.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando has introduced bills to lift the rent-control preemption for local governments but, hey, this is Florida. Her bills went nowhere.
Even Dennis Baxley of Ocala, one of the most conservative state senators you’ll ever meet, tried without success to aide renters. He introduced a bill last year that would have let local governments set up boards to investigate cases where landlords retaliate against tenants who complain about lack of repairs or pest control. Under current law, renters who face retaliation must file a lawsuit.
Baxley’s bill also went nowhere.
Florida law is so hostile toward renters it gives them just five days to make good on back rent before a landlord can start eviction proceedings. Five days.
Miya Marcano’s death was a terrible tragedy for her family and for this region.
The least Florida lawmakers could do in response is help renters by passing a simple, common-sense, inexpensive measure requiring background checks, giving the state’s apartment dwellers a small measure of security.
Editorials are the opinion of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board and are written by one of our members or a designee. The editorial board consists of Opinion Editor Mike Lafferty, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio, Jay Reddick and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Send emails to email@example.com.