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Fla. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Rent Control Case

On Oct. 27, an appeal court ruled that a “housing emergency” did not exist in Orange County disallowing rent control. Mon.’s Supreme Court move lets that ruling stand.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On Monday, the Florida Supreme Court declined to take up a case involving rent control efforts in Orange County. As a result, an Oct. 27, 2022, decision by the 5th District Court of Appeal stands that blocked the county’s rent-control measure.

It was a court win for Florida Realtors® and the Florida Apartment Association. As is common, the Supreme Court did not explain its decision.

The issue stems from an Orange County Commission decision in August to pass an ordinance that put the rent-control proposal on the November ballot. However, a panel of the appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling, said the ordinance’s findings did not illustrate an “existing housing emergency” as required by law. The court pointed, in part, to a 1977 state law designed to prevent rent controls and said Orange County had not met requirements to justify its proposal.

“While we do not minimize the evidence supporting a complex, multifaceted issue affecting renters in Orange County, it was insufficient under the law to support a rent control measure,” the 34-page appellate court majority opinion said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a wide-ranging housing bill (SB 102) last month that prohibits local rent controls.

The late-October ruling came as voters were already casting ballots in the November election, with the appeals court saying that, at a minimum, it anticipated “the results of the ballot initiative will not be certified.” The measure appeared on the ballot and received support from 59% of voters, according to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website.

Orange County took the case to the Supreme Court, disputing the appeals court’s interpretation of the 1977 law and urging justices to resolve the dispute.

“The Fifth District has interpreted the statute in such a restrictive manner that even findings of a genuine and grave housing emergency will never be sufficient to present rent control measures to the voters,” Orange County attorneys wrote in a December brief. “Respectfully, the (Supreme) Court should exercise its jurisdiction to ensure local governments maintain the ability to address housing emergencies through rent control measures under appropriate circumstances.”

But in a January brief, attorneys for the rent-control opponents made a series of arguments about why the Supreme Court should not hear the case, including that the “Fifth District issued a thorough and well-reasoned opinion providing clear guidance to the trial court and to the parties.”

Five of seven Supreme Court justices take part in decisions about whether to hear cases. Justices Charles Canady, John Couriel, Jamie Grosshans and Renatha Francis agreed the court should not take up the case, according to Monday’s decision. Justice Jorge Labarga supported hearing arguments.

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