Democrats want special session expanded to consider protections for renters

By: - April 28, 2022 11:25 am

Developers may be responsible for Florida’s high number of lead water feeds. Shown is Bonita Springs. Google Earth

A group of legislative Democrats have asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to expand the call of his special session on property insurance to consider protections for renters beleaguered by skyrocketing rents.

“In the interest of saving taxpayer dollars, we are calling on you today to expand the call for this special session to include legislation that will provide real relief to renters throughout Florida,” says the letter, circulated by Anna Eskamani of Orange County and signed by 27 other House members and senators.

Eskamani provided a list of 11 bills proposed by Democrats during the recent regular session of the legislature to protect tenants, but which died in committee.

HB 1335, for example, would require landlords to stall evictions for at least three months if a tenant is pregnant. HB 933 would protect tenants against toxic mold.

The letter notes that Democrats supported efforts by Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of Pinellas County to call a special session on property insurance; DeSantis ultimately called a special session during the week of May 23 on his own initiative.

“While it is truly disappointing that an issue of such great importance to our constituents took a back seat to numerous culture war fights during our regular session, we stand ready to get to work on finding real solutions to lower rates for homeowners and bring stability to this volatile market,” the letter says.

“It is our sincere hope that the proposals put forward will prioritize lowering costs for everyday Floridians and not any special interest groups who have created this market on the verge of collapse.”

The letter notes that rents have increased by 20 percent during the past year in Central Florida, by 31 percent in Tampa, and by more than 57 percent in South Florida.

“Today, Miami, Orlando and Tampa have the fastest-growing rents in the country. Thousands of Floridians continue to struggle to access funds through Our Florida, leaving families facing eviction and children homeless while promised funds from the state fail to arrive. It is clear that Floridians are in need of relief,” it reads.

Burdened by underwriting losses of $1 billion in each of the past two years, insurers have been going insolvent or leaving the Florida market, DeSantis noted in calling the special session.

Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s insurer of last resort, has had to assume nearly 400,000 policies since early 2020 because of insurer insolvencies, cancellations, or flight from Florida, he said.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.