SANFORD, Fla. — For Elton Lassiter, home and work are two places that are one and the same.
“I work from home,” he said. “It’s quiet, peaceful, and I really enjoy living here.”
Happy in this one-bedroom apartment in Sanford, Florida, Lassiter wanted to stay and knew his rent would likely go up.
Just how much it would go up, though, came as a shock to him when he found his lease renewal tacked to this door earlier this year: his monthly rent would be jumping by more than $300.
“Thirty days is not enough time to make a decision as to whether you can move out of here,” he said. “I didn't have enough time to get another option. So, I'm forced to pay the additional rent. And, I mean, I'm not gonna lie - it's a struggle.”
It’s also perfectly legal.
Across the country, there are few places where tenants have protections from skyrocketing rents. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, only the District of Columbia and two states – California and Oregon – have rent control. Just a handful of other states, mainly in the Northeast, have cities or counties that have enacted it.
“Options for protections are very limited,” said Marcos Segura, a staff attorney with the National Housing Law Project.
He added that even places that do have rent control aren’t immune to rent increases.
“They only limit them,” Segura said. “So, for example, in California, there's rent increase limitations, but it's the greater of 10% or 5%, plus inflation. So, there's room for an increase, for sure.”
There’s never been a national rent control law, he said, mainly because the issue is complex and housing costs vary widely by location.
“They need some sort of jurisdictional hook that may not exist here,” Segura said. “On the practical level, federal legislation would offset hundreds of local rent control regulations, and I don't think a lawmaker would want to step in the middle of that.”
More than 100 million people in America live in a rented apartment or home.
According to a new study from Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Alabama, the average monthly rent is approaching nearly $3,000 in some communities. Six out of the top ten most overvalued cities for rentals are located in Florida, with Miami leading the way. Experts say those numbers are 14% to 20% higher than they would normally be, according to historic pricing increases.
Back in Sanford, Florida, Elton Lassiter and others are now working to try and get a tenant bill of rights adopted by their local county.
“We wanted to make sure that tenants get 60 to 90 days advance notice,” he said. “We also want them to not be able to raise the rent more than 3% to 5% at a time, or a year, because that's normally what it has been prior to the pandemic.”
He would know. Lassiter’s job is at a nonprofit that works to help people facing housing needs.
“It's a little different when you're actually going through the same thing as well,” he said. “You don't think you'll be affected by these things that you do for a living and help folks with.”
Now, though, Lassiter has an even a deeper understanding.
“It's unfair,” he said. “People are hurting.”