TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Family members of slain college student Miya Marcano are working with Florida lawmakers to prevent similar deaths from happening.
Marcano, a 19-year-old Valencia College student, went missing in late September. Her body was found in a wooded area in Orlando in October, about a week after she went missing. The man suspected of killing her, a maintenance worker at the apartment complex where Marcano lived, was found dead of an apparent suicide.
House Bill 577 and Senate Bill 898, “Miya’s Law,” are designed to change the security, communication and privacy requirements of housing facilities and apartment buildings that are catered to at least a 60% student population. The effort to make those changes began in November.
As proposed, both versions of the legislation would require expanded background checks, to include searches of sexual predator and sexual offender registries in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The background checks must also be performed by a consumer reporting agency “in accordance with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act” and must check for criminal history.
Under the legislation, if it passes, landlords would be able to disqualify a person from being hired if they’ve ever been convicted or found guilty of, or entered a guilty plea or did not contest, several offenses. Those offenses, while not all explicitly listed, include a broad classification, such as felonies or first-degree misdemeanors committed in Florida, or what would be a felony or first-degree misdemeanor in Florida if committed elsewhere.
Any criminal offense involving violence, including “murder, sexual battery, robbery, carjacking, home-invasion robbery and stalking” would also disqualify job applicants seeking to work at a “nontransient or transient apartment” where there are at least 15 units and 60% of the tenants are enrolled at an accredited college or university.
Additionally, when a rental agreement or renewal is completed, the landlord must tell the tenants in writing whether any of their current or potential employees are required to go through a background screening. The notice must include if the check was performed, if the landlord has chosen to hire the individual, that state law does not disqualify someone with a record from working at public lodging establishments and must provide every tenant a list of employees or contractors with access to a master key.
Even if the business or lodging has fewer than 15 units, if it advertises itself as a student apartment, the bill’s proposed changes would apply.
As proposed, with amendment, Miya’s Law would also require student apartments to maintain a log of “the issuance and return of all keys for each dwelling unit,” along with the name, date and time that a student apartment employee or contractor entered a unit. The log must be kept for two years.
Should Miya’s Law pass both chambers and be signed into law, the list of those with access to a master key must be placed “in a conspicuous place on the grounds of the student apartment” and tenants would have to be given 24 hours notice that someone will be entering their apartment. Current law only requires 12 hours notice, according to legislative analysis.
While built on good intentions, the legislative analysis reports the bill is not without its potential hurdles. The third-party background checks to explore potential records in all 50 states may be an issue. The analysis said “landlords will be responsible for finding a third-party company that can meet the screening criteria” of Miya’s Law, but that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was “unaware of the existence of a vendor with this capability.”
Additionally, the bill does not clarify when existing apartment employees must undergo the screening process, and the legislation does not state when its provisions must “operate in concert,” specifically the sections for background checks and key logs.
The bill also does not contain a provision for including “electronic programmable key cards” in addition to a more traditional physical key, as it pertains to the access logs and list of people with master key access.
If it becomes law, the legislation takes effect July 1.