TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida lawmaker has proposed a bill that could reduce the up-front cost of moving for some Florida residents, making the expense of finding a new place to live less of a hurdle for some tenants.
State Rep. Jim Mooney (R-Monroe) filed new legislation, House Bill 133, which allows some residents to pay fees over time instead of a security deposit when applying to, and living in, rented apartments or other housing options.
As written, HB 133 would let Florida landlords offer their tenants the option to pay a fee each month, either alongside the monthly rental payment or on a different schedule.
The fees paid instead of a security deposit must be agreed to voluntarily by both the potential resident and the landlord.
According to the bill’s text, paying the fee does not qualify as rental insurance, nor would it allow a tenant to be used in lieu of purchasing said insurance. If agreed to, a landlord must let the tenant know within 30 days what the costs will be.
The agreement to pay fees instead of a security deposit, once agreed to by both tenant and landlord, must be submitted in writing, according to the proposed bill.
Additionally, landlords must let the tenant know of any costs or fees resulting from unpaid rent, unpaid fees, or other obligations under a rental agreement, to include the costs of repairing damages to the premises beyond normal wear and tear.
Should the fees be used instead of a deposit, a landlord is not allowed to submit a claim to insurers to recover losses from unpaid rent, unpaid fees, or other obligations from a rental agreement, including costs for repair, until at least 15 days after informing a tenant of the damages and what they’ll cost.
As written in the bill’s provisions, damages and repair costs must be submitted to a tenant as an itemized list, including due dates and documentation supporting the costs. A copy of written objections or reports of any communications of those objections by a tenant must be included when contacting an insurer to submit a claim.
If an insurer does pay a claim submitted by a landlord, an insurer can seek reimbursement from a tenant within a year after the claim’s end. If reimbursement is requested, the insurer must give a tenant all documentation for losses that were submitted by the landlord, as well as a copy of a settlement showing the insurer’s payment to the claim, according to HB 133’s text.
Offering a fee option instead of security deposit does not mean paying a flat deposit is not still possible, according to the bill.
The proposed legislation says that if a landlord uses a portion of the fee to buy insurance, the tenant does not count as insured, and is not a beneficiary of that coverage. A tenant is still obligated to pay fees and rent.
Should the bill pass, it will take effect on July 1. No companion version has been proposed in the Florida Senate as of time of publication.