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Collier County Commissioners to vote on 60-day rent increase warning

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The Collier County Board of Commissioners can still make changes to the rental ordinance on May 10. There were concerns voiced at a recent meeting about how it would be enforced, with some people arguing that the code enforcement division already is overburdened.

The Collier County Board of Commissioners recently discussed implementing a Local Rental Ordinance which would require landlords to give their tenants 60 days written notice for rent increases over 5%. The Board voted 3-2 in favor of pushing forward the ordinance. They will meet on May 10 for a final vote.

The ordinance is modeled after others in the state, including one in Miami-Dade County and one in the City of Lake Worth Beach. These rules are meant to ensure that tenants have time to prepare for rent hikes, but 60-day notice has become the norm for most leases, according to President of the Landlord Protection Agency John Nuzzolese.

“The notice periods vary from state to state, sometimes even from county to county, but I understand a lot of them now are going to be a little bit more notice,” he said. “Even with a normal increase, the tenants may need enough time to be able to make a decision on whether they're going to stay or leave.”

The Landlord Protection Agency sells lease agreements all over the United States, and Nuzzolese said that 60-day notice is the standard for all of their Florida leases. He said the Collier ordinance is reasonable and will only impact those who don’t keep up to date on local legislation and who aren’t giving their tenants enough notice.

“It's something many landlords already do, and the ones that don't have 60 days in their lease are going to have to adapt,” he said.

Nancy Lewis spoke during the April 26 meeting’s public comment section. She was strongly opposed to the ordinance, disagreeing with the ordinance’s establishment of a 60-day notice for month-to-month rentals among other things.

“In 25 plus years in real estate, I have never heard of 60-day notice on a month to month,” she said. “If they want protection, they need to go for a six plus month lease.”

Lewis also said that having the Code Enforcement Division enforce the ordinance is impractical. The division enforces numerous County Codes and Ordinances of Law, addressing health, safety, and welfare issues, and Lewis suggested that this ordinance would overburden the agency.

“Code Enforcement is understaffed as it is right now,” she said. “It's struggling trying to deal with the parking, the noise, the beach. There's just not enough code enforcement staff to go around.”

Board members also discussed at length enforcement of the ordinance. Vice Chairman Commissioner Rick LoCastro said he was concerned that if the board passes the ordinance, it will have no impact on the real problems effecting constituents.

“A lot of the examples that everyone gave of people being homeless, people being kicked out on the street- this isn't going to prevent a lot of that,” he said. “I want to just make sure before we pat ourselves on the back and pass something that it is actually going to do what we think it's going to do.”

Elayne Gundek has lived in rental properties in Collier County for around 10 years, and she said this ordinance is absolutely necessary. The rental she lives in has been passed through four management companies in the time she’s lived there, and the last company, Weller Management, increased her rent $200 with only 17 days’ notice.

“I believe that the apartments are price gouging,” she said. “I'm being priced out of Florida.”

Gundek is not alone in this sentiment. Elizabeth Ratty spoke during the public comment section of the April 26 Board meeting. She said that the county has ignored this issue for a long time, and she felt that the board was arguing logistics as a way of pushing the issue to the side once again.

“We have people that are homeless because they're not being given the amount of time that they need,” she said. “We have the ability to help our seniors, our veterans, and those that are hurting from this rental crisis, and you can choose to get on board and do the right thing for them or step aside and let somebody else do it.”

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