BAYPASS available for unlimited on-site team learning for $75! Learn more.

Advisory: City of St. Pete changes via the Tenant Bill of Rights

Posted By: Eric Garduño Advocacy News , Industry News ,

Advisory: City of St. Pete changes via the Tenant Bill of Rights.

Urgent Information that will affect how you manage your properties!

Recently the City of St. Petersburg approved major changes to requirements for landlords through the recently passed Tenant Bill of Rights (see attached for a copy of the ordinance). These changes will take effect Feb 8, 2020, cover Protected Classes and Late Fees, and will affect ALL properties within the city limits.

Below is a summary of these changes for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. It is imperative that you reach out to your corporate office and/or legal department for guidance on these changes.

Protected Classes – How This Affects You:

The Tenant Bill of Rights expands protected classes beyond the seven Federally protected classes. Classes now also protected include age, marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, and veteran or service member status. As such, it is unlawful to refuse to rent to, offer different rental terms to, advertise a preference for/against, or direct other actions/inactions (see below) based on these protected classes of people.

Late Fees - How This Affects You:

Properties are now required to send a notice to all residents when their rent is late. The Three- Day notice does NOT cover this requirement; a separate notice must be sent out. The ordinance provides details on what information must be included, and how and when it should be delivered (see below).

Protected Classes

In addition to the seven Federally protected classes (color, disability, familial status, national origin, race, religion, sex), the City of St. Petersburg now also recognizes age, marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, and veteran or service member status as protected classes. As such, it is unlawful to:

1) refuse to rent after making a bona fide offer, refuse to negotiate for the rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny a rental unit based on these classifications.

2) discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the rental of a Rental Unit, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of a Discriminatory Classification.

3) represent to any person because of a Discriminatory Classification that any dwelling is not available for inspection or rental when such Rental Unit is in fact so available.

4) make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published, any notice, statement, or advertisement with respect to the rental of a Rental Unit that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a Discriminatory Classification, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination, or

5) induce or attempt to induce, for profit, any person to rent any Rental Unit by a representation regarding the entry or prospective entry into the neighborhood of a person or persons distinguished by a Discriminatory Classification.

Failure to comply with this portion of the ordinance will result in a $500 fine for a first offense, and a $500 fine for any subsequent offenses.

Late Fee Notice

The ordinance makes it unlawful to assess a late fee against a renter without first providing written notice to the renter. The written notice must contain a statement that:

1) a late fee has incurred,
2) justification for the late fee,
3) the amount of the fee and if it accrues, an explanation of the rate at which the late fee will accrue, and
4) a reference to the language in the applicable rental agreement that establishes the amount of the fee.

The ordinance requires the late fee notice to be delivered in one of four ways:

1) by email (provided the renter’s email was provided in the lease),
2) through certified mail,
3) on paper and posted to the renter’s door, or
4) on paper and hand delivered to the renter.

To establish a rebuttable presumption that the notice was delivered, a landlord will have to produce one of the following sent/delivered on the date the late fee was assessed:

1) a copy of the email sent to the renter,
2) a copy of a letter to the renter with a USPS dated certification,
3) a copy of the letter with a time-stamped photograph of the letter posted on the renter’s front door, or
4) a signed and dated affidavit by the delivery person certifying delivery to the renter.

The ordinance defines late fee as “a charge of any kind, levied against a Renter, associated with the time or date on which a Renter pays their Rent, pursuant to a Rental Agreement.” This means that charges that may be designated as rent in the three day notice above the normal rental amount would likely be classified as a late fee by ordinance and should be listed as such in the late fee notice required by the ordinance.

Failure to comply with this notice requirement will result in a $300 fine for a first offense, and a $500 fine for any subsequent offenses.

If you have questions regarding this advisory, please contact Government Affairs Director Eric Garduno at GAD@baaahq.org.