Renters in unincorporated Hillsborough County cannot face discrimination based on their income, including tenants who use Section 8 housing vouchers. Landlords must also give tenants a list of housing rights and provide a notice for late fees.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – “Tenant Bill of Rights” is a hot topic in the rental industry, and Hillsborough County is one of the first in Florida to approve one. The new ordinance gives tenants new rights and new rules that landlords must follow, such as one banning denials based on lawful income. In general, the ordinance also requires landlords to present tenants a list of their housing rights and outlines how they must provide a notice of late fees. The ordinance takes effect on July 1, and all landlords must be in compliance by that date.

According to county commissioners, the new ordinance is a tool to address the area’s lack of affordable housing. They passed the ordinance in early March. It only applies to unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County – but over half the county’s residents live outside legal city limits.

Before the vote, dozens of landlords, economists and property managers objected to the new ordinance, according to FOX 13 News reporting. Some predicted the forced acceptance of renters using Section 8 vouchers would push some landlords out of the market.

But one county commissioner, Kim Overman, said the ordinance doesn’t require landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers – but in prohibiting denials based on lawful income, it does protect many at-risk groups, such as veterans supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Commissioner Mariella Smith agreed about the county’s affordable housing crisis but also suggested that it would help minorities, noting that 10,000 families rely on vouchers in unincorporated Hillsborough County, and two-thirds of those recipients are people of color.

Hillsborough County’s “Tenant Bill of Rights” is posted on the county’s website.

Source: FOX13, March 4, 2021, Catherine Hawley

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