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    Fronting thousands of dollars in move-in expenses can be challenging for working families or a single person needing a place to live sooner than later. 

    In the Florida Keys, a required first and last months’ rent — seemingly rising by the year as housing costs increase — on top of a security deposit can seem insurmountable.  

    State Rep. Jim Mooney’s House Bill 133, which passed through the House on April 20, seeks to address some of those issues through an option for a monthly fee in lieu of a security deposit that the landlord can offer a tenant. 

    Mooney’s bill, which failed to pass through the state legislature last session, doesn’t require a landlord to provide a tenant the option to pay a nominal, monthly fee. Per Mooney, those fees can be as low as $11 a month or upward of $25 monthly. It’s the landlord’s sole choice to offer such an arrangement for a tenant to pay a monthly fee to secure occupancy without dipping into their savings to pay a full security deposit upfront. 

    Tenants would still be required to pay the full security deposit once they have the means, as the monthly fee wouldn’t go toward that expense. Funds paid monthly by the tenant can be used by the landlord at their discretion, such as for insurance or a surety bond. 

    Following a serious accident involving his fiancée just a week before, Mooney traveled to Tallahassee to present his bill before the full House on April 20. Mooney told fellow members that the bill places guardrails on a process that’s already occurring in Florida. His proposal was met with opposition by House Democrats claiming the bill was a “junk fee” and a tax on the poor renter, as Jacksonville-based state Rep. Angela Nixon stated. 

    Some 16 amendments were filed by Democrats to expand the bill and add what some Republican bill supporters referred to as rent control language. Mooney passionately responded to those remarks in his closing. 

    “There’s nothing in perpetuity here. When you sign a lease, it is clearly stated that you may opt out of that fee at any given time,” he said. “If you get a bonus three days after you sign and you want to give the landlord $2,000, $1,000 or whatever the amount is, give it to them and opt out of the fee.”

    “I think it’s wrong for your constituents to not have the opportunity to make the decisions themselves,” he continued. “This gets you and your family where you need to be at that moment.”

    Per the bill, landlords who offer the monthly fee in lieu of security deposit arrangement must provide the option to all tenants renting dwelling units on the premises.

    The House passed Mooney’s bill via an 89-22 vote. A similar Senate Bill 494, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Nick DiCeglie, is moving through several committees following favorable rulings. 

    Jim McCarthy
    Jim McCarthy is one of the many who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures in Western New York. 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 5-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club. When he's not working, he's busy chasing his son, Lucas, around the house and enjoying time with family.