Your Rights as a Renter

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Tenants Bill of Rights

In August 2022, Pinellas County adopted a new Tenants Bill of Rights to protect vulnerable renters with the following protections:

  • Prohibits discrimination against renters based on their source of income, including housing vouchers.
  • Requires landlords give advance notice of late fees and rent increases of more than 5%.
  • Requires landlords to provide tenants with a Notice of Rights.

County staff will be actively reaching out to tenant groups, landlords and other stakeholders to educate them about this new ordinance before it goes into effect on October 3, 2022. 

Enforcement

Pinellas County’s Code Enforcement Division and the Office of Consumer Protection will be responsible for enforcement of the ordinance. The ordinance will apply countywide unless a city formally opt-outs or adopts their own ordinance inconsistent with the County’s ordinance. The City of St. Petersburg has an ordinance in place which applies within city limits.

Reporting issues

A tenant may file a complaint for a violation of the ordinance as follows:

  • Issue with receiving notice of rights, notice of late fees, or notice of rent increase – you may file a complaint through the Pinellas County Citizen Access Portal or by calling (727) 464-4761.
  • Issue with source of income discrimination – you may file a complaint through the Pinellas County Citizen Access Portal, or call Consumer Protection with any questions at (727) 464-6200.

Questions about the ordinance? Staff will add answers to Frequently Asked Questions to this website. You can submit questions about the ordinance via email.

Resources

Notice of Rights (English/Spanish)

Webinar for Landlords (English)

Webinar for Landlords (Spanish)

Learn More

What Tenants Need to Know

The ordinance is designed to make sure that tenants are aware of their rights and receive notice of late fees and rent increases above 5%.  The ordinance also prohibits discrimination based upon source of income.

Required Notice of Rights  

Landlords are required to provide tenants with a written Notice of Rights

Upon renting or renewing a lease, a landlord is required to provide a tenant with a written a Notice of Rights under Federal Law, Florida Law and County Code. The Notice of Rights may be in the form of a printed, paper copy, available in both English and Spanish, in font 12-point or larger and on paper of eight and one-half by 11 inches or larger. If a tenant has consented to receiving and signing documents via electronic means, then the Notice of Rights may be provided electronic form rather than as a printed, paper copy.

Notice of Late Fees & Rent Increases

Landlords are required to provide advanced written notice of late fees and rent increases of more than 5%

Late Fee Notices 

A landlord is required to provide a tenant to provide a written notice of late fees to let the tenant know that a late fee has been incurred. The notice should include the reason for the late fee and the amount of the late fee which is due at the time of the notice.  If the late fees will continue to accrue, the notice must include information explaining the rate at which such fees will continue to accrue.

How It’s Delivered

The Notice of Late Fees must be in writing and may be delivered:

  • In an email to an email address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement or subsequent written agreement for receiving notices;
  • On paper, and delivered via certified mail to an address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement;
  • On paper, and posted securely on the front door of the rental unit subject to the late fee; or
  • On paper, and hand delivered to the tenant.

Rent Increase Notices 

A landlord is required to provide a tenant with a notice of rent increase if rent is to increase by more than 5% based on the following time frames:

  • 60 days prior to the effective date of the new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a term of 1 year or longer
  • 30 days prior to the effective date of the new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a term of 3 months or greater, but less than 1 year
  • 15 days prior to the effective date of the new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a month-to-month term.

How It’s Delivered

The Notice of Rent Increase shall be in writing and may be delivered:

  • In an email to an email address provided by a tenant in a rental agreement or subsequent written agreement for receiving notices; or
  • On paper and delivered via certified mail to an address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement; or
  • On paper and posted securely on the front door of the rental unit subject to the increase in rent.

Discrimination Based Upon Source of Income

The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on a lawful source of income such a public assistance through housing vouchers. 

This means that:

  • A landlord cannot refuse to rent, show or lease, negotiate for a rental, or otherwise make unavailable or deny a rental unit to any tenant because of that tenant’s lawful source of income, or because of the tenant’s status with regard to a public assistance program, or because of any requirements of a public assistance program.
  • A landlord cannot tell a tenant using public assistance who is looking for housing that any rental unit is not available for inspection or rental when such rental unit is, in fact, available.

To Report An Issue

A tenant may file a complaint for a violation of the ordinance as follows:

  • Issue with receiving notice of rights, notice of late fees, or notice of rent increase – you may file a complaint through the Pinellas County Citizen Access Portal or by calling (727) 464-4761.
  • Issue with source of income discrimination – you may file a complaint through the Pinellas County Citizen Access Portal, or call Consumer Protection with any questions at (727) 464-6200.

What Landlords Need to Know

Under the ordinance, landlords are responsible for providing tenants with a Notice of Rights, late fees, and rent increases more than 5%.

Notice Requirements for Landlords

Notice of Rights

Landlords are required to provide tenants with a Notice of Rights. Pinellas County’s Office of Consumer Protection will provide the approved Notice of Rights document, approved by the County Administrator.  Notices are not required for short-term rentals with non-recurring rental terms of 30 days or less.

  • When to Provide Notice of Rights: For new tenants, the Notice of Rights must be provided prior to the start of a new rental term. For existing tenants already occupying a rental unit as of the date the ordinance goes into effect, the Notice of Rights must be provided prior to the start of a new rental term. For tenants with rental terms of 30 days or less, the Notice of Rights must be provided prior to initial start of the rental term and, after that, no less than once per year.
  • Notice of Rights Document Requirements:  The Notice of Rights may be in the form of a printed, paper copy, available in both English and Spanish, in font 12-point or larger and on paper of eight and one-half by 11 inches or larger, provided by the Pinellas County Office of Consumer Protection. If a tenant has consented to receiving and signing documents via electronic means, then the Notice of Rights may be provided to the tenant in electronic form rather than as a printed, paper copy. 

Notice of Late Fees

A landlord must provide written notice to the tenant before assessing a late fee for each late fee assessed, as follows:

Separate Notice Required – This written notice is separate from any notice requirements provided for in a rental agreement and is required each time a new late fee is assessed.

Information Required – The written notice must include a statement informing the tenant that a late fee has been incurred; the justification for the late fee; the amount of the late fee which is due at the time of the notice, and if late fees will continue to accrue, a statement explaining the rate at which such fees will continue to accrue. The notice must also include a reference to the language in the applicable rental agreement which establishes the amount of late fees to be assessed.

How It’s Delivered

The written notice of late fees may be delivered in a number of ways:

  • In an email to an email address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement or subsequent written agreement for receiving notices;
  • On paper, and delivered via certified mail to an address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement;
  • On paper, and posted securely on the front door of the rental unit subject to the late fee; or
  • On paper, and hand delivered to the tenant.

Notice of Rent Increase

A landlord must provide a tenant with a Notice of Rent Increase in accordance with the following timeframes for each increase in rent in an amount more than 5% higher than the amount or rent charged to the same tenant:

  • 60 days prior to the effective date of the new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a term of 1 year or longer
  • 30 days prior to the effective date of the new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a term of 3 months or greater, but less than 1 year
  • 15 days prior to the effective date of the new rental rate if the rental agreement is for a month-to-month term.

How It’s Delivered

The Notice of Rent Increase shall be in writing and for purposes of this section may be delivered:

In an email to an email address provided by a tenant in a rental agreement or subsequent written agreement for receiving notices; or

On paper and delivered via certified mail to an address provided by a tenant on a rental agreement; or

On paper and posted securely on the front door of the rental unit subject to the increase in rent.

A landlord may also demonstrate compliance with the notice requirements through a copy of a written rental agreement which provides a specified increase in rent will occur at a specified time or upon a specified condition.

Discrimination Based Upon Source of Income

The ordinance prohibits a landlord from discriminating against tenants based upon their lawful source of income, such as public assistance.  These provisions include:

  • A landlord cannot refuse to rent, show or lease, negotiate for a rental, or otherwise make unavailable or deny a rental unit to any tenant because of that tenant’s lawful source of income, or because of the tenant’s status with regard to a public assistance program, or because of any requirements of a public assistance program.
  • A landlord cannot tell a tenant using public assistance who is looking for housing that any rental unit is not available for inspection or rental when such rental unit is, in fact, available
  • A landlord cannot use an income standard to assess tenant eligibility not based on portion of rent paid by tenant if using subsidy.
  • A landlord is not required to reduce the amount of rent normally charged for a rental unit or waive any security deposit, fee or similar charge required from all tenants renting rental units from that landlord.
  • Any inspection required by a government grant, loan or housing assistance program requested in writing by a landlord or tenant and must be performed within ten (10) business days.
  • A landlord is not required to alter a rental unit to meet any requirement specific of a lawful source of income if the alteration is not otherwise required by laws applicable to the rental unit.

Enforcement
  • Responsibility for enforcement of the ordinance is assigned to the Pinellas County Code Enforcement Division and the Office of Consumer Protection.  Violations of the ordinance are punishable by a fine of $500.00 for a first offense and any subsequent offenses.  For more information regarding the Notice of rights, notice of late fees, or notice of rent increase, you may call Code Enforcement (727) 464-4761. For more information regarding source of income discrimination, you may call Consumer Protection at (727) 464-6200 or email consumer@pinellascounty.org.

Other Renter Tips

  • You have the right to a safe living space with structures such as a roof, walls and windows in reasonably good condition.
  • You have a right to functioning facilities for heat during the winter, running water and hot water.
  • You have the right to not be discriminated against.

Protect Yourself

  • Have a written lease.
  • Before you sign the lease, make sure you read and understand the terms of the agreement. For help on what to look for in a lease, see Tenant Tips for Lease Agreements from Gulfcoast Legal Services.
  • Notices to and from a landlord must be in writing.
  • Keep copies of all documents for your records.
  • Before you move in and prior to moving out, conduct a walk-through with the landlord and document any damage with photographs.
  • If your rent was paid monthly, and your lease ends, and you do not sign a renewal but remain on the property with the permission of the landlord, you are now living month-to-month. If you are on a month-to-month lease, Florida law says you must receive at least a 15-day notice before your rent can be raised or the eviction process can begin.
  • If you do not pay your rent on time and you get a 3-day notice to pay or vacate, pay your rent immediately or get help. This is the first step in the eviction process.
  • When you get ready to move from a rental unit, regardless of the duration, be sure to give advance notice as specified in your lease, settle all accounts, understand the conditions of the security deposit, provide a forwarding address and leave the premises in a clean condition.
  • Watch out for signs of a scam. Learn more…
  • View our Quick Tips for Renters Flyer for additional guidance and a list of resources in the community.


Renter PSAs

Reach Out For Help

Legal Aid

Seek legal help as soon as you know you will not be able to pay rent. Find legal help before you receive a notice from your landlord. If you do get a “3‑day notice” or any written notice that you have to pay or leave, reach out to legal aid the same day you get that notice. Your possible solutions depend on how soon you get legal assistance. Visit our Help with Housing page for legal services in the community.

Consumer Protection

Rental opportunities that sound too good to be true probably are. Beware of any situation where the listing details are vague, you are asked to sign a lease without seeing the property, or you are told to wire money or pay via an online payment app. These are red flags! Contact Consumer Protection at (727) 464-6200 to determine your best course of action.

Fair Housing

If you feel you have been discriminated against on basis of your race, gender, ethnicity, etc., document the incident(s) and contact the Office of Human Rights at (727) 464-4880.

Florida Landlord-Tenant Law

Before you rent, know your rights and responsibilities under the law.

Pinellas County does not have rent control.

Florida Statute 83, Landlord and Tenant, Part II, Residential Tenancies: www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes