AAGO has a long history of effective local government advocacy on a variety of issues that impact rental housing. AAGO staff and Legislative Committee members closely monitor the actions of the municipal governments in the region to identify any local policy proposal that may help or challenge your business. Since local governments often move a lot more quickly as compared to the federal or state legislative bodies, it is critical that the industry responds rapidly to local government actions.
Results are best achieved through cultivating relationships long before we ever need to call upon our local elected leaders for assistance in supporting our industry. Below is just a sampling of issues that have risen over the past few years.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and local code enforcement on occasion enforce the Florida state law that requires permits to be pulled for many standard maintenance functions such as HVAC replacement, water heater replacement, etc. These inspections can be triggered by a complaint, randomly, or as a matter of routine. Most often violations or “unlicensed maintenance activity” result in civil citations, cease and desist orders, or fees. However, in certain circumstances, criminal charges can be levied by DBPR or law enforcement for particularly egregious violations (especially incidents with a negative environmental impact). Although this is a state law, the local government is the enforcement agency.
Many local governments around the state have been instituting landlord registration or permitting programs. In several cases, the impetus for the registration program is the prevalence of reluctant, absentee landlords in the single family market who have rented their home because they were unable to sell it after the recent recession. Unfortunately, we have seen local governments drastically overreach and create permitting programs with an inspection component that is onerous and redundant. For example, some cities have attempted to require individual inspections for health and life safety, despite being done by other government agencies, for an exorbitant fee per unit. Florida state law prohibits local governments from regulating the rental housing industry through a statewide preemption.
In an effort to go green, many municipalities have proposed mandatory recycling ordinances for commercial properties. The ordinances vary from simply encouraging commercial property owners/managers to have recycling on site to proposals that would fine property owners who had non-recyclables commingled with recyclable material. The industry has successfully lobbied on these issues explaining there is no reluctance on our part to recycle, but that the industry is unable to fully police what residents choose to recycle and how.
AAGO closely works with NAA and FAA to review the revised building code and fire code standards. As these are later adopted by individual local governments, they are interpreted and enforced by local government agents. It is critical for industry members to maintain positive and professional working relationships with local government code staff to be sure our properties are maintained to code and not at risk for fines or penalties.
The City of Orlando is one of 10 municipalities / metropolitan areas across the country participating in the City Energy Project (CEP). The CEP is funded by a nonprofit that focuses on achieving better energy efficiency for large commercial and public buildings, paying special attention to electricity usage, heating and cooling costs. In an effort to achieve this goal, the project funds a staff member at the city level who works to implement a policy plan to reduce the city’s overall energy consumption. This plan typically includes mandatory energy benchmarking (also known as energy usage reporting) and in some extreme cases mandatory retrofitting. Mandatory retrofitting involves making energy efficient improvements to the property such as installing new windows, switching to LED light bulbs, or installing new appliances with lower energy consumption rates.
Under the benchmarking model, energy usage reporting is conducted on an annual basis using the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Portfolio Manager System. Here in Orlando, the City Energy Project is part of Orlando’s Green Works program, which aspires to make Orlando a leader in energy efficiency for new and existing real estate. AAGO is working with the City to ensure the interests of the multifamily industry are taken into consideration as the City Energy Project and the Green Works initiative takes shape in Orlando.
For more information about the City Energy Project and Green Works, please click on the links below.
In recent years, local governments throughout Central Florida have started using Fire Assessment Fees as an additional revenue stream to fund new fire equipment, operational costs, and sometimes to mitigate budget shortfalls. These fees are a very attractive funding source for local governments because they are not dependent upon property values, which can fluctuate from year to year. Typically when a Fire Assessment fee is instituted, the city proposes the same per unit fee for single family homes and apartment homes, but this is not an exclusive rule. Fire Assessment Fees in central Florida typically range from $50-$200 . Additionally, some of the fees are instituted with sunset provisions, while others remain in effect until further action is taken by the local municipality to remove the fee.
AAGO recognizes the need for fire resources at the local level but is concerned that Fire Assessment Fees are often unfairly burdensome for a multifamily property. Please know that AAGO is continuing to monitor the development of Fire Assessment Fees in central Florida as well as other areas around the nation and will share updates with members on this important issue as they arise.
Below are a few recent Fire Assessment Fee examples in central Florida:
In 2015, Mount Dora passed an ordinance that imposed a $50 per unit fire assessment fee for residential units. AAGO attended the public hearing in June 2015 to voice concern regarding the structure of this new fee. Unfortunately, the fee passed and properties in Mount Dora will be responsible for paying the per unit fee on their upcoming tax bill.
On June 22, 2015, the City of Leesburg held a public hearing on the city’s proposed Fire Assessment Fee at the rate of $155 per residential unit. Under the original proposal, an AAGO apartment community with 252 units would be responsible for over $39,000 in Fire Assessment Fees in addition to the property’s current tax obligations.
AAGO attended the public hearing on June 22nd to express the association’s firm opposition to the proposed assessment on the grounds it was unjustly burdensome for apartment communities. AAGO is pleased to report that after receiving our feedback on the proposed fee, the City Commission voted to decrease the fee to $58 per residential dwelling unit. This policy change resulted in a collective cost savings of over $75,000 for member communities in the City of Leesburg.
Unlike other cities in Florida, Clermont explored Fire Assessment Fee options that would charge a multifamily property slightly less than a single-family dwelling. Under the original proposal, multifamily would be assessed $50 per unit, while a single-family dwelling would be responsible for $113.
AAGO attended the City Council’s public meeting on August 25th to voice the industry’s concerns regarding this tax and is pleased to report the Council voted 4-1 to oppose this new fee. As a result, member communities in Clermont saved over $100,000 collectively in additional taxes.
For more information on AAGO's local advocacy efforts, please contact Chip Tatum at Chip@AAGO.org.