BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Rent increases are nothing new these days in Central Florida, but one municipality in Brevard County is working to ensure these price hikes don’t come as a surprise to renters.

On Tuesday, the Cocoa City Council unanimously approved a motion to study how they can craft an ordinance that would ensure that landlords need to give a certain amount of heads up to tenants before raising the price of rent by 5% or more.

What You Need To Know

  • Cocoa is researching an ordinance that would require a timeline for notification before increasing rent by five percent or more

  • A public hearing will be held in July to hear from tenants and landlords

  • The city council is taking some preliminary cues from ordinances in places like Tampa and Miami-Dade, but a Cocoa-specific ordinance has not yet been crafted

Cocoa Deputy Mayor Lavander Hearn brought the proposal to the rest of the council after he said one of his constituents told him that she only received a two-week notice before her landlord bumped up her rent by $500.

“To many in my district, that is crucial. That could be the difference between someone being homeless and not having a roof over their head. So, it’s big,” Hearn said.

He noted that not only is that short of a window highly problematic for many renters, but it can also make things extremely difficult for organizations designed to help people transition from one housing situation to another.

“They need time to process what’s going on and try to find out a solution for these people,” Hearn said.

During Tuesday’s discussion, Hearn said he and his staff had looked at ordinances on the books in places like Miami-Dade and others that are still in the works, like over in Tampa. 

He said after the issue was brought to his attention, he went to look for how the City of Cocoa normally handles these cases, but discovered that there wasn’t a policy in place.

“Initially, I thought there was some kind of ordinance already on the books that would pertain to a notice of the tenants as far as rent increases. When I found out that there wasn’t, that’s what prompted me to do my research,” Hearn said. “And immediately, I said to myself, we gotta at least do something. We have to do something that’s protective of the landlords as well as the tenants.”

He suggested that one way to approach this would be to have a 30-day minimum notice for renters in a month-to-month agreement and 60 days for those with a year-long lease agreement. 

Carl Guettler, a real estate broker and landlord in Brevard County, said he thinks that suggestion would be good and thinks it strikes an appropriate balance for notification that’s not punitive against landlords.

“Especially with the inventory being so low on rentals and resales, you need time to be able to find suitable housing and a week or two or three, honestly is not fair to the tenants and not fair to anyone in this particular market,” Guettler said.

He said it was good that the city isn’t looking at language that would cap rent prices, but acknowledged that Brevard County is in a challenging situation. The county is the growing at the third fastest rate in the State of Florida, with newcomers often more easily able to snatch up new rental opportunities, regardless of the rent price. 

“We are having absolutely zero issues finding tenants that are willing to pay more, that are willing to move into these houses,” Guettler said. “The downside is that leaves some of the current tenants that are there now maybe on the outs with the unbelievable increases in rent.”

“That’s why this notice then could be helpful to them.” 

He said that the continuation of high inflation is helping to push rents higher, since it’s costing landlords more to maintain properties. Both Guettler and Hearn agree that adding more affordable housing options in places like Cocoa is a needed step and one that the city is actively working to accomplish. 

Hearn said he would like to see more action at the state and federal level that can help address the housing crisis. 

“This is an issue we’re not only seeing in Cocoa and Brevard County, this is what we’re seeing all over the United States,” Hearn said.

The City of Cocoa is planning on holding a public workshop in July to discuss more of the details regarding a rent hike notification ordinance before the specific language is created and brought before the city council. A specific date is being determined and will be published at a later time.