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Collier County Commission

After an ordinance failed Tuesday that would have required local landlords to provide a 60-day notice if residential rents are proposed to be increased by more than 5%, the Collier County Commission will reconsider reworked legislation on this topic at its next meeting in two weeks.

As proposed, enforcement of the Fair Notice to Tenant Ordinance would be complaint-driven. Upon receipt of a complaint, an investigation would be conducted to determine if a violation has occurred. If a violation occurs, the landlord would be issued a notice of the violation with a specified time to correct the issue. If not corrected in time, a citation will be issued with fines of $105, $255 and $405 for first, second and third violations, respectively.

The ordinance as presented Tuesday failed 3-2 with only commissioners Burt Saunders and Penny Taylor voting yes. Commissioners Rick LoCastro, Bill McDaniel and Andy Solis were vocal in their opposition.

“My question is how is any of this going to make any difference that there’s not enough affordable housing and the rents are going up too fast? I think we need to figure out how we can get the funds out of our hands into the people’s hands who need it as fast as we can do that,” said Commissioner Solis, referring to millions of dollars in federal funding available for emergency rental assistance through the Collier Care community program.

Solis thinks landlords simply will terminate leases instead of providing notice regarding rent increases. “It seems to me we’re focusing on something that doesn’t accomplish what we need to accomplish. There’s not enough housing that people can afford—that’s one—and number two is that the existing housing is getting too expensive,” he said. “We need to figure out what it is that we can do to solve the problem.”

Commissioner LoCastro, chair of the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, said he is getting emails from people to pass the ordinance because rent is out of control and people are losing their residences. “This won’t stop all evictions,” he said. “It won’t lower rents. It won’t help citizens find a place easier. It won’t create more affordable housing.”

LoCastro and McDaniel strongly believe that the county should be doing more to promote and advertise the fact that government funds are available locally for rent assistance. “Let’s get some stuff out there,” LoCastro said. “Let’s start screaming from the mountaintops that we have money.”

Commission Chair McDaniel is not in favor of the 60-day notice ordinance because he feels it is in conflict with the ordinance the county already has on the books to manage landlord-tenant relationships. He said it doesn’t make a difference that Miami-Dade County and the city of Tampa have passed similar ordinances providing 60-day notices for rent increases greater than 5%. “Minimally, we should set this 60-day notice ordinance aside, do some further investigation and bring it back but, at the same time, get the money that we do in fact have available to our community to the people that need it,” McDaniel said.

The idea for the 5% rental increase came from the community and is something that is needed now and should not be further delayed, said Naples resident John Harney, a member of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. “This was a very well-thought-out idea as one of the few things that we could do right now that would help people. And we feel that it’s very important for us to go forward with this,” Harney said.

Guest speakers in favor of the ordinance included Elizabeth Radi, representing the Collier County Tenants Union, which is committed to advocating for local renters. “I do want to state for the record that no one could have anticipated the need and the backlog that would come as a result of all of the need in this county, but it can’t be ignored,” Radi said. “The elephant in the room can’t be ignored anymore.”

Radi said renters also need 60 days’ notice when homes they are renting are sold and they would be left without a place to live. Some renters are being displaced with less than a 30-day notice, she said. “They need this protection, too.”

“With everything that I have said, it is essential to give those that need the time through this ordinance to find and obtain safe and viable housing,” Radi said. “And I do believe we can do something, even with the month-to-month because that’s what’s happening with some of these sales. The new owners are putting people on month-to-month as a way of getting them out. That’s a problem, too. We can do this and together we can bring hope, even if it’s only for 60 days.”

The next regular county commission board meeting is scheduled for May 24.

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