LANDLORDS INCREASING MONTHLY TENANTS’ RENTS IN ISLAMORADA MUST GIVE 60-DAY NOTICE, PER NEW ORDINANCE

Landlords who raise a monthly tenant’s rent by more than 5% must give more notice time, per an ordinance Islamorada council members approved on Aug. 4. 

In June, the dais directed the village’s attorney firm to draft an ordinance that mirrors Miami-Dade County’s new law requiring landlords to give advance notice. For month-to-month tenants, landlords must give 60 days written notice. As of now, landlords only need to give 15 days notice to a tenant paying month to month. 

Councilman Mark Gregg brought forth the proposal. He said there’s limited opportunities for people to find a new place to live on such short notice. 

“It’s only fair to the folks who work here and take care of us to be given a fair opportunity to seek alternative housing arrangements and get 60 days to do that,” Gregg said. 

Before the dais gave its approval, several Islamorada residents who are monthly renters took to the podium to express their support of the measure. Emma Haydocy has lived in the Keys for three years. 

“I think this is good public policy that protects the most vulnerable and arguably those who contribute the most,” she said. 

Casey King is an Islamorada resident and a Florida Bay biologist. In the past three years, she said she’s moved three times. She’s spent $15,525 for moving expenses, first and last month’s rent and security in that time. 

“I have been stretched completely thin and depleted primarily all of my savings,” she said. 

Last May, King was given a 15-day notice after her landlord sold the place. King acknowledged that it was hard to get a new place. She found somewhere to go just three days before she needed to move out.

“The amount of stress that brings onto you, especially families, to find a place to live in 15 days with this lack of housing inventory. … And to come with $5,000 or more is unfathomable,” she said. I have seen close friends and family leave because they cannot afford to stay here under the circumstances.”

Mayor Pete Bacheler said the whole issue is the direct result of not enough affordable housing. 

“It’s like a ski resort out west where all the workers are outside and they have to come from the mountain to go to work. We’re getting into the very same thing right here,” he said.

John Quick, interim village attorney, said the ordinance provides a defense for tenants whose landlords give them less than 60 days notice of the rent increase.

“If landlords gave 15 days notice, and they (the tenant) didn’t move out because they knew about the 60 days notice, and the landlord issued eviction proceedings, that would be a defense that the landlord did not comply with Islamorada code,” he said. “As a result, the termination would be invalid and the landlord, I believe, would need to start all over again.”

Vice Mayor Henry Rosenthal voted in favor of the ordinance. But he said month-to-month renters facing increases will still get displaced with no place to go. Rosenthal went on to say that there should be something available to compensate for the problem.

“I can’t help but revert back to the TDC (Tourist Development Council) and the amount of money they raise is astronomical,” he said. “It’s true it (the money) doesn’t come out of our pockets. But what do they do with it? Do they make any effort to compensate for these people?” 

Quick said the ordinance won’t impact a landlord’s right to evict the tenant should they breach their lease agreement for not paying rent or conducting illegal activity. 

In other matters, the dais voted 4-1 on the second reading of an ordinance related to a proposed council pay hike. Council members are currently paid $1,000 a month, or $12,000 a year. In November, voters will be asked whether they support upping the pay to $2,000 a month, or $24,000 a year.

Gregg, who proposed the ordinance, said current council members aren’t given themselves a raise. 

“This would take effect after the next election for the benefit of the next council,” he said. 

Councilman David Webb voted “no” on the ordinance. 

Council members also approved a resolution to hire McFarland Johnson Inc. to conduct a feasibility study for installation of bus shelters along U.S. 1 in Islamorada. 

Bus shelters in Islamorada. DAVID GROSS/Keys Weekly

In 2019, new benches, signs and trash receptacles were placed at 12 bus stop locations in Islamorada. Now, the council wants to construct bus shelters for workers who come into the Keys via the Miami-Dade bus. 

During the last budget cycle, the dais allocated $100,000 to install bus shelters. A feasibility study that will come up with various bus shelter designs wouldn’t exceed $27,533.

Gregg said he would like to see shelters have cell phone chargers, lighting, shade and some screening to protect people from the rain and wind. 

“I’d like it to be as comfortable as it can for the people who work hard to take care of us. They deserve to have that,” he said.

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).