Tenant’s bill of rights, income anti-discrimination pass first step with Tampa City Council
In Tampa Bay, the rent is too damn high.

The ordinance is "virtually identical" to legislation recently passed in Hillsborough County.

The Tampa City Council Thursday took the first step in approving a Tenant’s Bill of Rights and income anti-discrimination ordinance.

The ordinance mirrors a Hillsborough County ordinance passed last March. Deputy City Attorney Morris Massey said the city’s version is “virtually identical” to the county’s ordinance.

Council members voted 6-1 to approve the ordinance on first reading with Council Member Charlie Miranda the sole no vote. The ordinance would mandate that landlords provide tenants with a “Notice of Rights” related to housing. It would also mandate landlords accept Section 8 vouchers and other government assistance as part of a prospective tenant’s income.

Council members will hold a second and final vote on the ordinance during the Feb. 3 City Council meeting. The ordinance comes as affordable housing inventory remains low and rental prices in Tampa rise to among the highest rates in the country.

While Miranda was the only no vote, Council Member John Dingfelder was close to joining him. Dingfelder, who is a former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, said he has always been a supporter of human rights and civil rights, but he hadn’t seen evidence that a problem existed to require the ordinance.

He said he feared implementation of the ordinance could overburden city departments that would have to enforce it.

“We’re responding to a problem that I haven’t heard in 10 years of (this) Council as a problem. Now we are creating more bureaucracy and regulatory framework that is unnecessary,” Dingfelder said. “Who is going to jump in and inform these folks that this is a requirement? Who will enforce that and how much time and resources will we devote and who is saying there is a need for a document?”

Creation of the ordinance was spurred by City Council late in 2021 to bring the city in congruence with the county and address an emerging housing crisis, Council Chair Orlando Gudes said.

“Purpose of this when the county did it, was to make sure tenants had some rights. Knew what their rights are,” Gudes said. “Most tenants don’t.”

And Council Member Luis Viera added he has toured some properties and talked to tenants and was shocked by what he learned. He said he strongly supported the move.

“We’ve heard stories that were shocking. Seen things that were shocking. And a lot of people don’t know their rights,” Viera said. “This is an ordinance that responds directly to not just something that is a problem but is a crisis that is getting worse.”

Dingfelder also said he feared the anti-discrimination aspect of the ordinance would force unwitting landlords into the Section 8 program. Massey said that wouldn’t be the case.

Ultimately, Dingfelder supported the ordinance with the caveat that city staff update Council members on how it is impacting tenants and landlords six months after it goes into effect. The ordinance, however, must first get a favorable vote next month.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected]

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