How can renters be protected? Hillsborough, Pinellas take a closer look at tenants' rights

Rent prices have been soaring, and commissioners in both Hillsborough County and Pinellas County are strengthening their ordinances to make sure landlords are playing by the rules and tenants are protected.

Hillsborough County already has a tenants' bill of rights in place, however, on Wednesday, commissioners will be taking a closer look at the current ordinance. The biggest change would involve making sure landlords are unable to blindside their tenants by suddenly raising rent prices.

Changes to the ordinance would involve requiring landlords to provide tenants with a 60-day notice if the rent increase is more than 5%. Commissioners are also considering adding a rule to the ordinance that would require landlords to give renters a 30-day notice of lease termination if tenants pay month-to-month or a 60-day notice of lease termination for scheduled payments that are longer than a month.

The proposed changes are very similar to Tampa’s tenants' bill of rights that was put in place to protect renters in March.

READ: Report shows rent prices leveling-off around Tampa Bay, but residents still struggle

In Pinellas County, commissioners decided to enact the first county-wide tenants' bill of rights at their meeting Tuesday.

It requires a 60-day notice if rent increases more than 5% for a yearly lease. If tenants are on a three-month to one-year lease, landlords would be required to give a 30-day notice or a 15-day notice for month-to-month leases. Landlords would also be required to notify tenants of any potential late fees or charges before actually slapping them with that fee.

The city of St. Petersburg already has its own ordinance in place, and the two are almost identical aside from one key difference regarding housing vouchers. Pinellas County has made it clear landlords can’t discriminate and deny housing vouchers, however, St. Petersburg’s ordinance currently does allow landlords to deny those vouchers if the voucher would impact insurance rates.

Hillsborough County commissioners will meet Wednesday to discuss potential changes.