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Raquel Regalado talks rental assistance via the “Tenant Bill of Rights” and how it helps

Raquel Regalado smiling for the camera.

Raquel Regalado has always advocated for community members rights, but this time it is for the tenants and landlords of Miami-Dade County who need rental assistance

As the District 7 County Commissioner of Miami-Dade County, Raquel Regalado has continued to raise her voice for the rights of community members. She sat down with us to talk about the latest developments on rental assistance via the Tenant Bill of Rights, which was passed on May 3, 2022. Keep reading to learn how the bill empowers tenants and landlords in Miami-Dade County to exercise their rights and protect their homes.

The motivation behind the Tenant Bill of Rights

There were many examples that came up which created the need for a Tenant Bill of Rights. Most of these examples manifested and were exacerbated during Covid. When it comes to public housing many people believe that the county owns the land a property sits on.

Federal laws govern how a person gets an apartment, the state they receive that apartment in, their location, etc. The county is only the landlord for the namesake. So, when people came to county commissioners with their complaints related to public housing, and requests for rental assistance Regalado found that there was very little they could do to help in many cases.

Regalado brought the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners and The Florida Bar together to curate a solution for these complaints. She wanted to make sure tenants could find all the laws and documents that protect them in one place. This is how the Tenant Bill of Rights came to be something that people will use as rental assistance moving foward.

Many of the rights covered by the Tenant Bill of Rights were already a part of federal and county law. But while attorneys know where they can find the forms and laws needed to exercise tenant rights, the average person doesn’t. Facilitating the information for both tenant and landlords is much easier now since all the resources, forms, and documents tenants need are on a single forum.

Rental assistance via the Tenant Bill of Rights

The Tenant Bill of Rights provides rental assistance in many form. For example it gives notice to tenants if there are to be any major changes scheduled in their building. Providing people notice when the building is being sold or if rents are going up is a good idea.

This became incredibly important after a situation that happened in Hialeah. The building was sold to a new owner, and the residents got a letter telling them their rents were going up. This is the kind situation that warranted the establishment of a Tenant Bill of Rights including information you won’t find in your lease agreement.

Another example Regalado talked about was of Crestview Towers. Tenants had no idea that the building had structural issues and that the city had flagged the building as unsafe. The owners knew but didn’t inform the tenants and kept collecting rents. Tenants felt helpless and alarmed when the county asked people to evict their homes.

The Tenant Bill of Rights provides rental assistance because it prevents tenants from facing such disposition by giving them the right to receive notice of any upcoming inspections in their building. It makes sure that tenants rights are protected in many cases disclosing and preparing them for the issues they could be facing in their building.

For instance, if your balcony was taped up when you got your apartment, the owner has to tell you about the structural issue that led to this decision. If there’s an electrical or roof maintenance issue that could affect your comfort and safety, the owner has to tell you about it.

Why the Tenant Bill of Rights is important for landlords

The Tenant Bill of Rights isn’t only for the tenants’ benefit. Many landlords are unaware of these laws and rights. This bill also helps landlords be more responsible when renting out property. It protects them from potential lawsuits and costs if they fail to maintain transparent communication with renters.

Many landlords landlords needed rental assistance because they had to deal with squatters during the pandemic. Before the TBR, landlords would have to hire an attorney or go to court to deal with squatter problems. Many people do not know that Florida statute allows you to dispense of a squatter with a simple affidavit and without going to court.

It will also have rental assistance guidance like how to rent out a room (for co-living, Airbnb, etc.) without violating the Miami-Dade County property appraiser rules. It helps the renters make sure financial burdens are legally and fairly distributed among the property’s occupants, which is especially important for co-living arrangements.

So, the bulk of the bill is a curation of existing laws and the resources to effectuate them. The rest of the bill focused on addressing events in Miami Dade county and lessons learned during the pandemic and surfside. It also led to creating an office, the Office of Housing Advocacy, where people can get the rental assistance and efficient support they need.

Raquel A. Regalado is currently working on translating the bill into Spanish and Creole. You can check out her website to learn more about this inspiring schoolboard member-turned-county commissioner.

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