Slap at Florida's renters

Published May 17, 2007

The Legislature didn't do a thing about property taxes or auto insurance before it left Tallahassee, but it rallied behind a gratuitous slap to Florida's renters. Pushed by Tampa Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who represents one of the state's most impoverished districts, the legislation allows landlords to charge tenants up to two months' rent if they break a lease. It doesn't matter even if somebody else already is lined up to take the apartment.

This is a legalized shakedown. People break leases for many reasons, including legitimate ones - moving for a job, family or other factors outside a renter's control. And the law already gives landlords the right to recover monetary losses. This bill merely bullies people living close to the bone into making more difficult financial choices. One lawyer who has sued over the scam of double rent estimates it could affect 10 percent of Florida's renters, or about 450, 000 people.

Allowing landlords to double-dip at the expense of Florida's poorest families shows the Legislature's cold heart. This idea was a bad one that died last year, and it didn't get any better this year even though it has landed on the governor's desk. It is a predatory scheme that deserves the governor's veto.