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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

St. Petersburg begins process of repealing its own Tenant Bill of Rights

 Vehicles are parked in front of City Hall in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Gabriella Paul
WUSF Public Media
Vehicles are parked in front of St. Petersburg City Hall.

Effective July 1, a new Florida law forbids municipalities from regulating tenant-landlord relationships, including ordinances that carve out stronger protections for renters.

St. Petersburg officials recently began the process of repealing its own Tenant Bill of Rights to comply with state law.

On July 1, Florida's new landlord-tenant law went into effect, preempting all regulation of "landlord-tenant relationships" to the state and requiring cities and counties to strikeout existing local rules.

St. Petersburg is one of an estimated 35 localities across Florida that carved out stronger protections for renters in recent years — and are now tasked with removing them. The city's Tenant Bill of Rights included expanded protections like protecting a renter's source of income, familial status and sexual orientation from discrimination by a landlord.

Since state tenant laws now supersede local rental rules, many tenant advocates are wary of the fallout in Florida communities, and some are bracing to shift their advocacy efforts toward the statehouse.

READ MORE: Florida bills awaiting approval would repeal local tenant laws and allow monthly fees for renters

On Thursday, city council members voted 6-0 during a first hearing to formally repeal the rental protections in St. Petersburg. Council member Richie Floyd was not present at the time of vote and council member Lisette Hanewicz did not attend the meeting.

"You know I hope we can continue to have a discussion about how we can protect tenants, but I'm disturbed by the situation that we're in right now," Floyd said.

Before the vote, council members asked the city attorneys whether the Tenant Bill of Rights — in its entirety — must be removed under the new state law.

City attorney Jackie Kovilaritch advised that, "from a legal standpoint ... the repeal has to happen as soon as possible."

Assistant city attorney Brad Tennant agreed and indicated that the Tenant Bill of Rights, as written, is entirely preempted.

Council members then discussed what legal avenues might remain for local governments in Florida to draft protections for renters.

"I want to make sure that we're not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater with this move today by repealing and taking out those things [protections], knowing that they're not somewhere else — [making sure] that we do have something that's unique and specific to what we're experiencing in our community as it relates to discrimination," council member John Muhammad said.

Tennant explained that the aspects of the Tenant Bill of Rights that cite Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes, referring to landlord-tenant relationships, are off the table.

However, discrimination remains unlawful in Florida, more broadly, under the Florida Fair Housing Act in Chapter 760.

"So because of that kind of idea, there are some opportunities to look at where we can use our 'home-rule power' to be more specific to discrimination, as opposed to the Tenant Bill of Rights, which is very specific to the landlord-tenant relationship," Tennant said.

A public hearing and final vote are set for Aug. 3, the next step in formally repealing the Tenant Bill of Rights.

Floyd also introduced a new business item for the next council meeting to request further discussion about drafting local discrimination protections.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.