State Law Preempts Many Local Rental Rules

Published on September 4,2023 by Chris Thompson

Effective July 1, 2023, a sweeping change occurred: the regulation of residential tenancies, the landlord-tenant relationship, and all other matters encompassed by the Act became subject to state-level oversight. Section 83.425 explicitly states that this new law supersedes local government regulations under the Act. These encompass various aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship, such as the screening process for tenant approval, security deposits, rental application fees, rental agreement terms and conditions, rights and responsibilities of both parties, premises disclosures, fees charged by landlords, and notice requirements.

In recent years, local governments in Florida had been increasingly enacting ordinances that imposed additional obligations on landlords and tenants, extending beyond the provisions outlined in the Act. These often involved requirements for parties to provide advanced notice for various actions, such as rent increases or the termination of month-to-month tenancies. Some even mandated the distribution of a “Tenant’s Bill of Rights” during the rental period.

Over 30 counties had introduced such ordinances, leading to a lack of consistency across the state. These local requirements varied in terms of timeframes, specifics, and accessibility, making them challenging to navigate.

Section 83.425 aims to supersede these local government regulations on matters covered under the Act. While certain areas, like landlord fees, are explicitly addressed, questions arise concerning areas not explicitly listed and not covered by the Act, such as fair housing.

Some counties in Florida had extended fair housing protections beyond the federal Fair Housing Act, adding provisions related to source of income, gender identity, and protection against dating violence, among others. The Act itself only briefly mentions fair housing, primarily in the context of retaliatory actions by landlords if tenants assert their rights under local, state, or federal fair housing laws. However, this seems to apply to established landlord-tenant relationships.

This raises a critical question: In counties with additional fair housing protections, can landlords refuse Section 8 applicants, citing 83.425’s preemption of local regulations governing the tenant approval process?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer at this point. The resolution may come from the courts or the Florida Legislature in the future. Until then, it’s prudent to adhere to existing local fair housing rules to avoid potential complications during transactions. The principle of “better safe than sorry” should guide your approach.

While clarity on this potential conflict is eagerly awaited, it’s advisable to stay mindful of local fair housing ordinances in your area to ensure smooth transactions in the evolving landscape of Florida’s rental laws.

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