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Collier County reverses rental hike notice law after landlord protest

After protests from landlords and the county’s board of realtors, Collier County commissioners repealed a requirement that landlords raising rents give tenants 60 days notice. Commissioners had approved the ordinance, requiring the notice if rental rates increased by more than 5%.

The commissioners voted on the repeal four to one in its first meeting of 2023. Newly elected Commissioner Chris Hall brought up the repeal of the 60-day notice. Hall said the ordinance involves too much government overreach. The 60-day ordinance was passed in neighboring counties such as Miami Dade County, Broward, and Orange County in Orlando.

"We are here to speak in favor of repealing the 60-day notice to tenant act," said Danielle Hudson, Vice President of Public Policy at the Naples Area Board of Realtors. "I will go on the record and just state that we did notify our membership in November that this ordinance had passed."

"This ordinance specifically mandates an additional timeline on written leases," Hudson said. "This is not a deal with, you know, nonwritten lease agreements."

The ordinance made provisions for a fine of up to $500 if landlords failed to give their tenants the proper notice.

"They didn't mind putting all of these regulations and restrictions down on Marco Island around short-term rentals, now all of a sudden it's a problem," Thomas Felke, an associate professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in the Department of Social Work, said. "So, they didn't mind burdening landlords with all these short-term rental restrictions, but then when it comes to 60-day rental notice, all of a sudden, it's a problem."

Felke currently sits as the vice chair of the Collier County Homeless Coalition and on the Lee County Continuum of Care board,  a group of community stakeholders who work together to address the needs of individuals and families who are in homeless Lee County. 

"Why would relocation be different in terms of a rental increase notice as opposed to an eviction notice? If 30 days is okay and agreed upon within the lease agreement for an eviction," Hudson said. "Why wouldn't a 30 days’ notice be fine if I'm raising my rent?"

According to Hudson, this required notice goes above and beyond what is required in state law. If notice before vacating the property is required, a rental agreement may not require more than 60 days' notice from either the tenant or the landlord. 

"I just don't believe this is even a major cog," Commissioner Rick LoCastro said. "When it comes to what I say, government overreach and redundancy of statutes and relationships that already exist between tenants and landlords, I don't think it's a requirement."

Hudson said that while the real estate group favors the repeal, the commissioners should look at a different approach to the housing shortage.

"Spend the time we have spent on this ordinance trying to address the problem," Hudson said. "It's an inventory shortage instead of the symptom, which is individuals needing more time to relocate."

"Somebody can say I want $5,000 extra yearly at the renewal. There's no law stopping them," Vicky Rodriguez, A Collier County resident, said, "The 60-day ordinance wouldn't stop them from being able to increase their rent. It's just saying, hey, be considerate, be courteous."

Commissioner Burt Saunders is the only board member who voted to retain the ordinance. He said the ordinance is an excellent way to show the community that the county is aware of the affordable housing crisis.

"This ordinance will go away, and it's not going to have any impact on the housing market or the number of available units," Saunders said. "But I think it was just an effort to say we care and want to provide."

"It's not supposed to hurt anybody," Rodriguez said. "The ordinance only provides people 60 days to be able to uproot their life".

"When your rent increased by hundreds to even thousands of dollars, 30 days is not enough time to see if you can find a new place," Rodriguez said. "I called many different places, and it was either waitlisted or because I may go over the low-income qualifications, I got denied."

Rodriguez said it's very easy for people to fall into the gray area. With no option but to find roommates or leave Collier County altogether.

"You're supposed to be excelling in life, and you find yourself backtracking when you shouldn't have to," Rodriguez said. "Especially when you have a career or work to make enough income to afford rent."

"Is it going to keep me in my housing? Maybe not, but at least I'll know 60 days out," Felke said. "Whether or not I can afford this place versus two weeks out. Where now, all of a sudden, do I have to scramble versus two months out where I have a lot more time to figure things out."

Felke said it'll be interesting going forward, as Commissioner Hall will now lead the Collier County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. Before that, it was Commissioner LoCastro.

"By taking away the 60-day ordinance, the only people they hurt were the working-class Citizens of Collier County," Rodriguez said.

This story was produced by Democracy Watch, a news service provided by Florida Gulf Coast University journalism students. The reporter can be reached at vmamador2491@eagle.fgcu.edu>