Florida Legislature considers bill allowing security deposit alternative for renters

House voted 89-22 in favor of the bill

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature is considering a bill that could give renters the option to pay a monthly fee instead of a larger security deposit upfront.

The House voted 89 - 22 to approve the bill, with an amendment that would allow landlords and renters to agree on installment plans to pay a security deposit, on Thursday. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Mooney, said it will put “guardrails” on existing processes ongoing in the state.

“This is just another hand on deck that is probably going to help somebody get where they need to be at that moment,” said the Republican representing District 120 after the bill’s third reading.

Mooney was asked a series of questions during the debate, including if there is a cap on the fee and if renters would still be on the hook for damage claims.

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“These fees allow a landlord to purchase an insurance policy or a bond or self-insure, but you’re still responsible,” Moody said.

The bill would authorize landlords to offer tenants the option to pay a fee in lieu of a security deposit. Tenants would decide whether to pay a fee or the larger deposit. Mooney added renters would also be able to opt in or opt out at any time, and although there are no caps on the fees, they would be set for the term of the lease agreement.

Rep. Angie Nixon, who opposes the bill, calls it a tax on the poor. She referred to the fees as “perpetual junk fees.”

“There is no cap on security deposits, no cap on this fee, no real insurance, they are still liable for damages,. This is a poor tax plain as day,” said the Democrat representing District 13.

News 6 spoke to Florida Rising, a voter’s rights group, about the existing housing crisis in Central Florida.

Cynthia Laurent said that over 2,500 evictions were filed in Osceola County alone in October 2022.

“Folks are unable to afford to relocate, and so this seems like an attractive option,” Laurent said. “Folks will say, ‘OK, I have perhaps a low monthly payment instead of that deposit upfront,’ but instead of that low fee they end up facing greater charges.”

Laurent calls the bill a bait-and-switch.

“Unfortunately, there is no protections for tenants in the case of damages, and that allows landlords to come back at the end of the tenancy and pursue a lawsuit against individuals if there are damages,” Laurent said.

Supporters of the legislation said it’s a choice that families in Florida can make for themselves.

Rep. Robin Bartleman shared a personal story about how her mother struggled to pay a large security deposit upfront when she was a child.

“This is an option for someone. The fee is capped when you sign that dotted line,” said the Democrat who represents District 103. “If you cannot get a roof over your children’s head, and this is your choice—between a car and a roof over your head—you’re going to choose that roof.”

There is a similar bill, SB 494, that is working its way through the Senate.

Both pieces of legislation still have several hurdles to clear before they could make it to the governor’s desk.

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About the Author:

Catherine, born and raised in Central Florida, joined News 6 in April 2022.