Tenants seek a “tenant’s rights document”

SANFORD, FL – For Elton Lassiter, home and work are two similar places.

He said, “I work from home.” “It’s quiet and peaceful, and I really enjoy living here.”

Happy in this one-bedroom apartment in Sanford, Florida, Lassiter wanted to stay and knew his rent would likely go up.

However, the amount he would rise came as a shock to him when he found his lease renewal in the door earlier this year: his monthly rent would rise by more than $300.

“Thirty days is not enough time to decide whether you can get out of here,” he said. “I didn’t have time to have another option. So, I am forced to pay the extra rent. And I mean, I’m not going to lie – it’s a struggle.”

It’s also completely legal.

Across the country, there are a few places where renters are protected from rising rents. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, only the District of Columbia and two states — California and Oregon — have rent control. Only a handful of other states, especially in the Northeast, have their own enacted cities or counties.

“Protection options are very limited,” said Marcos Segura, a staff attorney with the National Housing Act.

He added that even places that have control over rents are not immune to rent increases.

“They just handcuff them,” Segura said. “So, for example, in California, there is a limit on rent increases, but it’s 10 percent or 5% bigger, plus inflation. So, there’s room for an increase, for sure.”

He said there has never been a national rent control law, mainly because the problem is complex and housing costs vary widely by location.

“They need some sort of judicial feature that might not be there here,” Segura said. “On a practical level, federal legislation would offset hundreds of local rent control regulations, and I don’t think a legislator would want to step in the middle of that.”

More than 100 million people in America live in a rented apartment or house.

According to a new study from Florida Atlantic University, the University of Florida Gulf Coast and the University of Alabama, the average monthly rent is approaching $3,000 in some communities. Six of the 10 most rated cities for rent are in Florida, with Miami leading the way. Experts say those numbers are 14% to 20% higher than they normally would, based on historical price increases.

Back in Sanford, Florida, Elton Lasseter and others are now working to try and get the Tenant Rights Bill adopted by their local county.

“We wanted to make sure that tenants had 60 to 90 days’ advance notice,” he said. “We also want them not to be able to raise the rent by more than 3% to 5% at a time, or a year, because that’s usually how it was before the pandemic.”

He would know. Lassiter job at a nonprofit that works to help people facing housing needs

“It’s a little different when you’re going through the same thing, too,” he said. “Don’t think you’re going to be affected by these things that you do for a living and help people.”

Now, though, Lassiter has a deeper understanding.

He said, “This is unfair.” “People get hurt.”

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