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'Renters Are Being Taken Advantage Of': Fried Says State Should Investigate Predatory Landlords

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Renters describe living in fear of homelessness as rents increase

Jennifer Holton reports

TAMPA, Fla.Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wants to make one thing clear: “Renters are being taken advantage of… Not just in Tampa, but statewide.”

Tuesday morning outside a Tampa apartment complex, several of those renters said the constant struggle to make rent is exhausting and frustrating.

“In many cases, rent in East Tampa has increased from $1,000 to $2,000,” said Earlishia Oates.

“I can no longer afford to live in the house I’m renting,” said Sundea LaRocca.

“I don’t know what more to do,” said another renter, Vonessa King. 

“I’m tired,” she said through tears. “I’m tired.”

Some said they live in fear of homelessness.

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“I was one paycheck away from that,” said LaRocca. “Everything in Tampa, the rising cost of a house, food, gas, everything. And it seemed like the landlords jumped on the bandwagon and said, ‘Let’s just start raising everyone’s rent.’”

A study by Florida TaxWatch shows median rent in Florida is $1,760 a month. In Tampa, Commissioner Fried says the cost of rent has gone up at least 28% in the last year.

If she is elected governor, Fried says there are a few changes she would make on day-one.

“I will immediately direct the attorney general to target predatory landlords who put rent increases well beyond the rate of inflation,” she said.  

She also plans to veto any attempt to raid the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, also known as the Sadowski Fund.

“This money… is a revenue source meant to fund Florida’s affordable housing programs,” she said. “Why do we have an affordable housing crisis? I think, in part, the answer is the fact that we have gutted over $2.3 billion over the last 25-plus years that could have been used to build more affordable housing across our state.”

Meanwhile, residents want to know what can be done now for those who no longer can afford their rent. 

“What I recommend is that we actually engage my Consumer Affairs Division and see what we can be doing inside the Department of Agriculture,” she said. “And see if there’s things we can do now.”

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