A group of landlords, apartment managers and real estate agents want to stop voters from deciding on a measure that would implement rent control for a year in one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S.
Orange County voters will go to the polls in the fall to decide on an initiative aimed at limiting how much landlords can increase rents. If passed, it would be the first such measure in decades in the Sunshine State.
The Florida Apartment Association and the Florida Association of Realtors last week sued in an attempt to invalidate the initiative.
The associations say that Florida law prohibits rent control ordinances except in an emergency, and the current situation doesn't rise to that standard.
The associations also argue it could have the unintended consequence of discouraging the construction of new apartment buildings and other housing.
The county is said to have a shortage of as many as 26,500 housing units.
Orange County includes the city of Orlando which is the amusement park hub of the state.
Orange County grew from 1.1 million residents to 1.4 million residents during the last decade, according to the 2020 census.
"It is adverse and antagonistic to the public interest and to the interests of the Plaintiffs and their members to allow the Rent-Control Ordinance to be placed on the ballot or enforced by Orange County where the Ordinance is unlawful and invalid," the associations said in court papers.
The rent control ordinance was narrowly approved earlier this month by Orange County's Board of County Commissioners.
It calls for limits on rent increases in multiunit buildings to the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index. The ordinance doesn't apply to luxury units, single family homes or vacation rentals.
"For years, renters have been asking this commission to do something about the upcoming emergency we are in right now," Stephanie Porta, a co-founder of the social justice group Florida Rising. "Corporate landlords, real estate investors and developers are raising prices and making record profits while hardworking Orange County residents are priced out of their communities."
Violators would face fines of up to $1,000 per day for a first violation, with fines not exceeding $15,000 per offense. Landlords would be able to request an exception to the limits under certain conditions.
According to the measure passed by commissioners, the asking-rent-per-unit in Orange County has grown from $1,357 in 2020 to $1,697 in 2021,
In July, the median asking rent nationwide rose 14% year-over-year, reaching $2,032, according to Redfin.
Cincinnati, Ohio, had asking rents jump as high as 31% year-over-year, which is the largest jump among the U.S. metros tracked by Redfin.
Nine other metros saw asking rents increase over 20% year-over-year including Nashville, Tennessee: 26%, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: 24%, and New York, New York: 23%.
The city of Miami Beach in the 1960s and 1970s imposed rent control measures before the Florida law limiting them was passed.
Rent control measures have passed in California and Oregon, as well as in metro areas like St. Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon.
The Associated Press contributed this report.