Attention Business Owners with Rental Properties in Pinellas County!!

New Ordinance for Pinellas County Landlords

If you own a rental property in Pinellas County, you need to know this information and put it into your practices and procedures.  As of October 3, 2022, County Ordinance 22-27, commonly known as the “Tenant’s Bill of Rights”, went into effect in Pinellas County, and you as a landlord have new obligations.  I’ll tell you up front that the penalty for non-compliance is $500 per violation.  So, don’t cut into your bottom line by missing one of these new requirements.

The first of these obligations outlined in the new article is regarding notifying your tenants of the “Tenant’s Bill of Rights” and states:

(a) It shall be unlawful for a landlord to allow a tenant to occupy a rental unit under said landlord’s control or authority without first providing the tenant with a copy of the Notice of Rights.

(b) For new tenants, the Notice of Rights shall be provided prior to the commencement of the rental term. For existing tenants already occupying a rental unit as of the effective date of this article, the Notice of Rights shall be provided prior to the commencement of a new rental term. For tenants with rental terms of 30 days or less, the Notice of Rights shall be provided prior to initial commencement of the rental term and thereafter no less than once per year. Notices are not required for short-term rentals with non-recurring rental terms of 30 days or less.

(c) The contents of the Notice of Rights shall be approved by the County Administrator, or his or her designee, but it shall generally include information on tenants’ rights under federal, state and local law and contact information for organizations available to provide assistance to tenants.

(d) There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a landlord has complied with this section if the landlord can provide a written, dated and signed affirmation from the tenant stating that the tenant has received the Notice of Rights. The signed affirmation shall be retained for at least one (1) year after the tenant vacates the rental unit.

(e) For a landlord’s first violation of this section, the Pinellas County Code Enforcement Department and/or Pinellas County Office of Consumer Protection shall have the discretion to provide a reasonable time period, not to exceed 30 days, within which the landlord must correct the violation.

(f) This section does not create any private causes of action and may only be enforced as provided herein.

The next section deals with discrimination based on public assistance. It reads:

(a) It shall be unlawful and is hereby prohibited for any landlord:

(1) To refuse to rent, show or lease, to refuse to negotiate for the rental of, or otherwise to make unavailable or deny, a rental unit to any tenant because of that tenant’s lawful source of income, or because of the tenant’s status with regard to a public assistance program, or because of any requirements of a public assistance program.

(2) To discriminate against any tenant in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the rental or lease of a rental unit, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection there with, because of that tenant’s lawful source of income.

(3) To use a financial or income standard in assessing a tenant’s eligibility for a rental unit based on a total dollar amount that is greater than the portion of the rent to be paid directly by the tenant in instances where a lawful source of income will be used to pay for the remainder of the rent for the rental unit. This paragraph shall not be construed as requiring a landlord to: (a) reduce the amount of rent normally charged for a rental unit; or (b) waive any security deposit, fee or similar charge required from all tenants renting rental units from that landlord.

(4) To represent to any tenant because of the tenant’s lawful source of income that any rental unit is not available for inspection or rental when such rental unit is in fact so available.

(5) To make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published, any notice, statement, or advertisement with respect to the rental of a rental unit that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a lawful source of income, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination.

(6) To induce or attempt to induce another person, for profit, to rent any rental unit by representations regarding the entry or prospective entry into the neighborhood of a tenant with particular lawful sources of income.

(b) This section does not require a landlord to alter a rental unit to meet any requirement specific of a lawful source of income if such alteration is not otherwise required by laws applicable to the rental unit.

(c) It shall be a defense to the prosecution of a violation of this section if a landlord can provide evidence demonstrating that an inspection required by a government grant, loan or housing assistance program was requested in writing by a landlord or tenant and said inspection was not performed within ten (10) business days through no fault of the landlord.

(d) The County Administrator, through his or her designee, is authorized to report violations to any local, state or federal authority. Investigation and enforcement by the County may occur concurrently with any investigation and enforcement actions by local, state or federal authorities.

(e) This section does not create any private causes of action and may only be enforced as set forth herein.

(f) This section does not apply to short-term rentals with non-recurring rental terms of 30 days or less.

Those Lawful Sources of Income include:

(1) A lawful profession, occupation or job;

(2) Any government or private assistance, grant, loan or housing assistance program or subsidy, including but not limited to Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Vouchers, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income;

(3) A gift, an inheritance, a pension or other retirement benefits, an annuity, trust income, investment income, alimony, child support, or veteran’s benefits; or

(4) the sale of property or an interest in property.

Tenants who accrue late fees must now be notified as such:

(a) It shall be unlawful for any landlord to assess a late fee against a tenant without first providing written notice to the tenant, against whom the late fee is assessed, for each late fee assessed.

(b) This written notice shall be separate from any notice requirements provided for in a rental agreement and shall be required each time a new late fee is assessed. Only one (1) notice shall be required if the same late fee continues to accrue after delivery of the notice.

(c) A written notice, for purposes of this section, shall include a statement informing the tenant that:

(1) A late fee has been incurred;

(2) The justification for the late fee;

(3) The amount of the late fee which is due at the time of the notice, and if late fees will continue to accrue, a statement explaining the rate at which such fees will continue to accrue; and

(4) A reference to the language in the applicable rental agreement which establishes the amount of late fees to be assessed.

(d) A written notice, for purposes of this section, may be delivered:

(1) In an email to an email address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement or subsequent written agreement for receiving notices;

(2) On paper, and delivered via certified mail to an address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement;

(3) On paper, and posted securely on the front door of the rental unit subject to the late fee; or

(4) On paper, and hand delivered to the tenant.

(e) There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a landlord has complied with this section if the landlord can produce one of the following, which was sent or posted on the day the late fee was assessed:

(1) A copy of an email, with the required information set forth above, sent to an email address for the tenant that is provided for as a contact method in that tenant’s written rental agreement or subsequent written agreement; or

(2) A copy of a written and dated letter, with the required information set forth above, and either:

a. A dated certification from the USPS of delivery of the letter to an address for the tenant that is provided for as a contact method in that tenant’s written rental agreement; or

b. A time-stamped photograph of the letter clearly posted on the front door of the rental unit subject to the late fee; or

c. A signed and dated affidavit by the delivery person certifying hand delivery of the notice to the tenant on the date delivered.

(f) This section does not create any private causes of action and may only be enforced as set forth herein.

(g) This section does not apply to short-term rentals with non-recurring rental terms of 30 days or less.

Lastly, there is a new provision requiring landlords to give tenants notice when an increasing rent by 5% or more.  The ordinance states:

(a) A landlord must provide a tenant with a Notice of Rent Increase in accordance with the timeframes set forth below, for each increase in rent in an amount more than 5% higher than the amount or rent charged to the same tenant:

(1) 60 days prior to the effective date of such new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a term for one (1) year or longer; or

(2) 30 days prior to the effective date of such new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a term of three (3) months or greater, but less than one (1) year; or

(3) 15 days prior to the effective date of such new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a month-to-month term.

(b) This Notice of Rent Increase shall be in writing and for purposes of this section may be delivered:

(1) In an email to an email address provided by a tenant in a rental agreement or subsequent written agreement for receiving notices; or

(2) On paper and delivered via certified mail to an address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement; or

(3) On paper and posted securely on the front door of the rental unit subject to the increase in rent.

(c) There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a landlord has complied with this section if the landlord can produce one of the following, which was sent or posted according to the timeframes contained in this section:

(1) A copy of an email, with the required information set forth above, sent in an email to an email address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement or subsequent written agreement for receiving notices; or

(2) A copy of a written and dated letter, with the required information set forth above, and either:

a. A dated certification from the USPS of delivery of the letter to an address for the tenant that is provided for as a contact method in the written rental agreement; or

b. A time-stamped photograph of the letter clearly posted on the front door of the rental unit subject to the increase in rent.

(3) A copy of a written rental agreement which provides a specified increase in rent will occur at a specified time or upon a specified condition.

(d) This section does not apply to short-term rentals with non-recurring rental terms of 30 days or less.

As you see, there are many new obligations for landlords under this new ordinance.  If you need assistance with updating your leases or need notices that you’re able to give to your tenants, call us as 813-480-2106.

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