ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance Thursday that requires landlords to give tenants more notice about increases to their rent.
It is the latest move by a local municipality in search of solutions to the skyrocketing cost of renting a home.
“We do need more than incremental progress in this arena,” said William Kilgore, an organizer from the St. Petersburg Tenants Union.
Kilgore said residents and the union wanted a six-month notice requirement for landlords to inform tenants of rent hikes.
“That would have sent a signal to landlords, ‘hey, rent gouging is not acceptable in St. Pete’ but unfortunately, they took the safe route,” he said. “They took the side of the landlords.”
The ordinance that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023, says if landlords raise the rent by more than 5 percent, they have to give 60 days’ notice for a year lease, 30 days’ notice for a 3-month rental and three weeks’ notice for month to month renters.
Landlords will face a $300 fine for the first violation of the ordinance and $500 fines for subsequent violations.
“We wanted to put something in place that at least gives them a chance when rents are going up to make plans, work something out,” City Council Chair Gina Driscoll said.
Kilgore said the tenants union is still demanding a universal right to counsel for renters facing eviction, regardless of income level.
“We’re gonna keep fighting to wrest control back from landlords and have tenants have more control and more of an even playing field,” Kilgore said.
While Kilgore said many residents support the city implementing rent control, Driscoll said state law is standing in the way of rent stabilization measures.
“I am hoping that is something our state legislature will fix so that we have an easier more legal path to look at different ways to help renters in our area,” she said.
Driscoll said the 60 days’ notice is just a start and it could be extended in the future.
Pinellas County and the City of Tampa recently approved similar rent increase notification ordinances.