Tampa City Council may give tenants rights ordinance another look

City Council member Luis Viera said the city needs protection for tenants in a city beset by skyrocketing rents.
Tampa City Council member Luis Viera says he will resurrect a Tenants Bill of Rights ordinance after it was voted down last week.
Tampa City Council member Luis Viera says he will resurrect a Tenants Bill of Rights ordinance after it was voted down last week. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Feb. 9, 2022|Updated Feb. 10, 2022

TAMPA — Luis Viera had left the Tampa City Council chamber last week just before a quick discussion and surprising vote on a tenants rights ordinance defeated the measure on its final reading.

Viera, who left six hours into the meeting to attend a friend’s judicial swearing-in, was shocked to see the measure fail by a 4-2 vote after it had passed the first reading 6-1.

On Thursday’s evening council meeting, Viera plans to ask his six colleagues to reconsider the ordinance at their Feb. 17 meeting.

“I don’t know what made people change their minds,” Viera said Tuesday. “But I think we can pass it. People can have a change of heart.”

The ordinance would require landlords to provide tenants with a list of their rights under local, state and federal law and would bar landlords from discriminating against tenants who receive housing assistance such as Section 8 vouchers.

The failed vote comes amid rapidly rising rents in Tampa that has led council chairperson Orlando Gudes, who voted in favor of the measure, to call for the city to consider enacting rent stablization measures, which will be discussed later this month.

Related: Tampa City Council chairman eyes temporary rent controls

In January, only Charlie Miranda voted against the ordinance. When it came back on Feb. 3, Miranda voted no again, saying he didn’t think the city can control rental conditions much like presidents can’t control the price of gasoline.

But this time, John Dingfelder, Bill Carlson and Joseph Citro joined in opposition, leaving only Gudes and Guido Maniscalco in favor.

“I’m very disappointed. But it is what it is,” Gudes said after the Feb. 3 vote.

The city ordinance mirrors a tenants bill of rights that was approved last year by the Hillsborough County Commission.

Related: Hillsborough approves tenant bill of rights

At the February vote, Dingfelder said he was concerned about whether the ordinance would be effective.

“No landlord has to take Section 8,” he said, adding that he thought the city could put similar information on its website “instead of creating ... another bureaucracy.”

Maniscalco said this week that he was also surprised at the vote.

“That came out of nowhere. There was really no discussion,” he said. “I don’t know if they were lobbied. I never got anything on it. We have an affordable housing crisis. People are struggling to pay rent. I don’t want to see people on the street.”

Citro, who voted yes on first reading before switching his vote, told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that he planned to vote in favor of the measure if it came back.

His concern had been about the state preempting the city ordinance. But, he said, he’s learned that those efforts have fizzled in the Legislature.

“Now the door is open to do what we want,” Citro said.