Miami Beach tenants worried about being overpriced amid soaring rents may soon get some relief — or at least notice of a higher monthly bill.
The city commission is expected to vote Wednesday on a draft ordinance requiring landlords to give 60 days notice before raising rent by more than 5%.
If the measure is enacted, tenants will be able to report Code Compliance violations.
The ordinance itself does not provide a specific penalty for landlords who violate the law, but the city’s rental housing code provides for a maximum fine of $500.
Violations also carry the threat of 60 days in jail, but that’s unlikely, the city’s chief assistant attorney Robert Rosenwald said Friday. Tenants could also use the new law to base a lawsuit against their landlord or to defend against an eviction notice, he said.
“I can’t imagine anyone being arrested for this,” he said.
Commissioner Alex Fernandez, who sponsored the ordinance, said the state has authority over most landlord-tenant issues, but he wants the city to take action to help struggling residents.
“It’s the low hanging fruit and something we could do immediately,” Fernandez said in an interview on Friday.
Studies have shown that apartment rents are skyrocketing in South Florida, with some communities seeing rent increases of 34% in December compared to 2020. Tenants of a building in Hialeah staged a protest the month last to denounce rent increases of up to $650.
Florida law prohibits local municipalities from impose price controls on private companies. It also states that landlords cannot be required to give more than 60 days’ notice before terminating a lease.
Fernandez said he will ask the city to notify residents and property owners of the ordinance if it passes. While he said he supports the creation of more affordable housing through partnerships with private developers, Fernandez said he wants to “ensure that existing housing remains accessible to the workforce” .
“Right now our residents are in a housing crisis,” he said.
One such resident, Ivelyn Sanchez, said in an interview Friday that she was trying to find a new apartment on the beach but nothing was in her price range.
Sanchez, who lives in South Beach, said her landlord plans to sell the $1,300-a-month apartment she currently rents with her partner.
All of the units she found cost between $1,500 and $1,700 a month, which she says isn’t sustainable even with two paychecks. If they don’t find a new apartment, Sanchez said she would be forced to move back in with her parents and live separately from her partner.
Sanchez works as an administrative assistant and is a member of the advocacy group Miami Workers Center, which connects tenants with eviction lawyers and works to create affordable housing.
The new order wouldn’t help her situation, but she said it was a start. Other municipalities might adopt the city’s model, and other politicians might find they can do more to help residents, she said.
“It’s pretty much common sense to me,” she said. “It’s great, but I think politicians can do so much more for residents and voters. It’s just a minimum of rental protection.
The city commission unanimously approved Fernandez’s proposal in a preliminary vote in January, so the legislation will become law if the vote passes on Wednesday.
This story was originally published February 4, 2022 5:10 p.m.