Housing Update Series: Tenant Bill of Rights Overview
By: Anne Bailey, Stetson Law Volunteer
This blog post is the first of several that provide an overview of updates that apply to both landlords and tenants regarding the new Tenant Bill of Rights (Ch. 20, Art. VII of St. Petersburg’s City Code) in St. Petersburg, FL.
The Tenant Bill of Rights took effect on February 8, 2020, and since then, there have been two ordinances that enhance the Tenant Bill of Rights—Ordinance No. 500-H and 501-H—which took effect on December 16, 2021.
Purpose Behind the Tenant Bill of Rights
As a preface to the Tenant Bill of Rights, the City Council found that:
- Housing is an essential component of individual and community well-being.
- Rental units are an important part of the City’s available housing stock and renting continues to grow in popularity among City residents.
- Protecting renters from eviction, discrimination, and unreasonable late fees is important to the City’s social, economic, and environmental well-being. (Ch. 20, Art. VII, Sec. 20-302 of St. Petersburg’s City Code)
Key Changes from the Tenant Bill of Rights
The Tenant Bill of Rights has added three protections for tenants:
- Expanding the definition of protected classes against discrimination in housing to include:
- Marital status,
- Sexual orientation,
- Gender identity or expression, and
- Veteran or service member status. (Sec. 20-303)
- Adding a notice requirement from the landlord to the renter that discloses the renters’ rights before the renter occupies the rental unit. (Sec. 20-340)
- Adding a notice requirement from the landlord to the renter before the landlord charges a late fee. (Sec. 20-320)
Key Changes from Ordinance No. 500-H & 501-H
The two ordinances:
- Expand the required notice period for terminating month-to-month residential tenancies to no less than 21 days (formerly no less than 15 days) before the end of any monthly period of the lease. (Ordinance No. 500-H)
- Make it unlawful for landlords to discriminate against tenants’ “source of income”—how a renter acquires money to pay their rent, including the method in which it is paid to the landlord. This includes income from government-mandated programs such as:
- Housing choice vouchers,
- Veteran’s benefits,
- Social security, and
- Others that are not of limited and defined duration of less than 1 year. (Ordinance No. 501-H)
Filing a Claim as a Renter
The Tenant Bill of Rights and accompanying ordinances do not create a private cause of action, which means that only the city can enforce these sections of the City Code.
Community Law Program’s PEDP– with its dedicated staff may nonetheless be able to assist renters residing in St. Petersburg who believe their rights under these new laws have been violated. However, please note that the complaint must ultimately be submitted by the renter, and such complaints are public records.
For help, contact us at (727) 582-7475.