Is Florida’s controversial Landlord-Tenant Act a harbinger for Kentucky’s housing future?

LEXINGTON, Ky. — As the KY Tenants organization continues its persistent efforts to advocate for a “Tenants’ Bill of Rights” in Lexington, a different storm is brewing further south that could hold a mirror up to Kentucky’s future. The recent “Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act” spearheaded by Governor Ron DeSantis, which critics say strips local tenant protections, may serve as a harbinger for Kentucky if similar legislation was to pass in the Republican supermajority state.

The Florida legislation, enacted in late June, has been hailed by proponents as a necessary step toward streamlining regulations in the rental industry. By overriding local ordinances and replacing them with statewide rules, the bill’s supporters argue that it brings uniformity and clarity to the rental market. However, it is this very consolidation of control at the state level that has critics alarmed.

Central to the opposition’s concern is the erosion of local authority to enact and enforce tenants’ protection laws. The bill affects various aspects of tenant protections, including local fair notice requirements and “tenant’s bill of rights” ordinances, which critics argue were vital in addressing specific housing issues unique to different localities.

This Florida act might serve as a cautionary tale for Kentucky, where grassroots movements like KY Tenants have been advocating for local tenant protections. If similar legislation were adopted in Kentucky, it could stifle local initiatives and transfer much of the control over tenant protections to the state, which might not always align with the specific needs and challenges of communities like Lexington.

So, what can Lexington and other Kentucky communities learn from Florida’s trajectory? Firstly, the engagement of local communities in policymaking is critical. It’s important for constituents to make their voices heard by reaching out to their representatives in the state legislature. Town hall meetings, letters, and calls can ensure that representatives are aware of the community’s stance on tenant protections.

Furthermore, alliances between various stakeholders, including tenants’ associations, housing advocates, and local government officials, can be instrumental in mobilizing support for or against state legislation that impacts local control. Collaborative efforts may yield more substantial results than isolated initiatives.

Finally, the role of the media and public opinion cannot be discounted. By staying informed and participating in the discourse through op-eds, social media, and public forums, citizens can shape the narrative surrounding housing and tenants’ rights.

Florida’s new bill could very well be a bellwether for similar initiatives in other states with Republican supermajorities like Kentucky. The consolidation of control at the state level may streamline regulations, but at what cost? As KY Tenants wage their ongoing campaign for tenant protections, Kentucky would do well to keep one eye on the happenings in Florida. The state’s experience could provide valuable lessons and perhaps a blueprint for action, or caution, as Kentuckians consider the future of tenant protections in their own backyard.

Photo: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) speaks during a convocation at Liberty University’s Vines Center in Lynchburg, Va., on Friday, April 14, 2023. by Tom Williams (Public Domain)