Gov. DeSantis signs law to protect apartment dwellers

Linda Stewart
Law requires background checks on maintenance workers, controls over master keys.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed “Miya’s Law” bringing swift new protections to apartment dwellers after the slaying last September of a college student in Orlando who apparently was stalked and murdered by a maintenance worker.

The new law, Sen. Linda Stewart‘s “Miya’s Law” (SB 898) is intended to create new safeguards that might save others from the fate of Miya Marcano, a 19-year-old college student who was murdered in Stewart’s Orange County district last September. The suspected killer was an apartment maintenance worker with a violent criminal background, an obsession with her and a master key that opened her apartment. He committed suicide before he could be arrested.

“Miya’s Law” would require apartment owners to conduct national criminal background checks on employees who could enter apartments. It also would institute rigorous controls, including logs, over master keys to apartments. The law also would require apartment employees to give tenants at least 24 hours’ notice before entering an apartment, up from the current requirement of at least 12 hours.

Stewart, an Orlando Democrat who was joined on the House side by Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman of Weston in pushing for the new law, said it was one of the most difficult but satisfying bills she’s ever carried.

“We’re happy we got this through today. It’s been a real struggle. With all the news coming out every day this is a big hope for not just the family but for those who live in apartments. They want to be safe. And they want to know that we’re going to do the best we can to make them safe.”

Bartleman’s bill (HB 577) got seriously watered down in a committee substitute, to the point that Stewart said she preferred no bill at all. Stewart said she went to various apartment associations and other interest groups, and got their backing. She also received help from Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo to get her version through.

Stewart said her bill picked up momentum in the House when it was attached with anti-human trafficking provisions that had been lifted from a dead bill (SB 1852) sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley in the Senate.

The final version, which included the tenant protections and Bradley’s provision to a ban of rent-by-the-hour hotel and motel rooms, won unanimous approval in both chambers.

“Every tenant deserves to be safe in their own home,” DeSantis said after signing the bill. “By signing this legislation, we are making it safer to live in a rental unit and giving renters more peace of mind in their homes. Miya’s death was a tragedy, and our prayers continue to be with the Marcano family. I am proud to act on their behalf to help prevent a tragedy like that from happening to another Florida tenant.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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