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New Florida Law Strengthens Apartment Safety Regulations

In 2021, 19-year-old Orlando student Miya Marcano was tragically killed in her apartment by a 27-year-old maintenance employee with access to her apartment complex’s master key fob. In response to this tragedy and a growing trend of violence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 898, known as “Miya’s Law,” at the end of June 2022. (sources 1, 2)

 

The number of Florida renters grew from 1,816,452 to 2,594,967 households between 2000 and 2017. Source 7

The new law took effect July 1, 2022, and seeks to strengthen renter safety measures by requiring background checks for all prospective employees of property management companies or apartment complexes as a condition of employment. Miya’s Law requires expanded criminal background checks, including searches of sex offender registries in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. The background checks must also be performed by a consumer reporting agency in accordance with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.4 Prospective employees can be disqualified from hiring if they’ve ever been convicted of, entered a guilty plea for, or failed to contest felonies or first-degree misdemeanors committed in Florida, or what would be considered a felony or first-degree misdemeanor in Florida, even if committed elsewhere. Disqualifying criminal offenses include, but are not limited to, those that are violent or demonstrate a disregard for the safety of others such as robbery, murder, carjacking, sexual battery, home invasion, or stalking.4

Moreover, landlords or licensees of rental complexes are required to maintain an accurate log for the issuance and return of each unit’s keys along with the name, date, and time that an apartment complex employee or contractor entered a particular unit. Key logs must be kept for two years and be made accessible to law enforcement as needed, to a tenant only with respect to that tenant’s specific dwelling unit, or as part of discovery in a civil action.5 In addition, the list of those allowed access to a master key should be placed in a clearly visible location on the complex grounds.4 Miya’s Law also expands the reasonable notification time period for unit maintenance or repairs from 12 hours to 24 hours and prohibits operators of public lodging establishments from offering hourly rates for accommodation.2 The newly signed act doesn’t apply to residency or detention facilities providing medical, geriatric, educational, counseling, religious, or similar services, occupancy of a dwelling or unit under a contract of sale, transient public lodging establishments, or mobile home parks. The law also excludes those with a proprietary lease in a cooperative apartment and owners of condominium units.5

POTENTIAL ISSUES TO WATCH

Rental complex landlords, owners, and managers should be aware that failure to comply with these regulations could open them up to increased liability or result in non-covered claims. When creating renewal submissions for Florida properties, it will help streamline the underwriting process to affirm in writing whether or not each real estate risk with Florida locations is fully compliant with all Miya’s Law provisions. Insureds should also provide a copy of the key log as well as information about protocols in place for returning all keys. It’s possible that new policy exclusions related to Miya’s Law could start to pop up on the General Liability (GL) side, which would subsequently impact excess coverage. Thoroughly reviewing GL policies can help ensure that effective excess coverage remains in place.

Some markets have already advised that they will be seeking confirmation that submissions are compliant with the new law and will decline to quote accounts unable to confirm adherence. Because the Florida habitational sector has limited markets available, maintaining compliance can help ensure available coverage isn’t further reduced by the failure to meet the new standards.

Florida will need almost 700,000 new apartments by 2030 to meet growing housing needs in the Sunshine State. Source 6

Typically, there isn’t a notice requirement for law changes like those found in Miya’s Law. It’s generally expected that the affected parties have a duty to stay current with any changes to the law, and ignorance of a change is not a viable excuse for failing to adhere to the law. Policyholders should also be aware that Miya’s Law doesn’t expressly state when existing apartment complex employees must undergo the updated screening process, or when its individual provisions must “operate in concert,” specifically when it comes to background checks and key logs. The bill also doesn’t contain a provision specific to electronic programmable key cards in addition to traditional physical keys, as it pertains to access logs and master key access lists. The expanded third-party background checks searching for potential records in all 50 states may also prove to be an issue as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has indicated it is unaware of a vendor with that level of capability.4 It’s up to insureds to partner with legal counsel and qualified risk management specialists to navigate grey areas that can result in exposure gaps and ensure compliance with the new provisions.

BOTTOM LINE

Miya’s Law is intended to make it safer to live in a rental unit and give Florida renters more peace of mind in their homes.2 However, law changes can create new areas of exposure if property owners, managers, and landlords are unaware of, or fail to comply with, all of the law’s provisions. Florida rental property owners and managers would be wise to review compliance requirements with their legal counsel, engage background check vendors in alignment with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA), and implement hiring, key handling, and maintenance notification processes to comply with Miya’s Law as quickly as possible to help address their potential liability.3 Retail agents with questions should contact their local CRC Group producer today to discuss how we can help protect your habitational clients in the face of changing legal requirements.

Contributors

  • Corey Friedman is a Broker with CRC Group’s Boca Raton, Florida office where he specializes in Real Estate and Habitational risks.
  • Brent Tredway is President of Brokerage with CRC Group and a member of the Casualty Practice Advisory Committee.

END NOTES

  1. Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Miya’s Law to Strengthen Renter Safety, June 27, 2022. https://www.flgov.com/2022/06/27/governor-ron-desantis-signs-miyas-law-to-strengthen-renter-safety/
  2. Miya’s Law Strengthens Renter Safety, WTVY News 4, June 27, 2022. https://www.wtvy.com/2022/06/27/miyas-law-strengthens-renter-safety/
  3. Florida Renters Made Safer Under Miya’s Law—Landlords Required To Background Check Workers, Forbes, June 30, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alonzomartinez/2022/06/30/florida-renters-made-safer-under-miyas-law--landlords- required-to-background-check-workers/?sh=b0df6f8626c2
  4. Miya’s Law: Bill to Strengthen Student Tenant Security in Honor of Slain Orlando Woman Progresses, NBS News Channel 8, February 28, 2022. https://www.wfla.com/news/politics/miyas-law-bill-to-strengthen-student-tenant-security-in-honor-of-slain-orlan- do-woman-progresses/
  5. House of Representatives Staff Analysis, Florida Senate. https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/577/Analyses/h0577a.JDC.PDF
  6. Here’s How Many Apartments Florida Needs for Affordable Housing, Orlando Business Journal, August 13, 2019. https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2019/08/13/heres-how-many-apartments-florida-needs-for.html
  7. 2019 Rental Market Study, Shimberg Center for Housing Studies University of Florida, May 2019. http://flhousingdata.shimberg.ufl.edu/2019-rental-market-study.pdf