Renters: Know Your Rights in Hillsborough County
Just as tenants have responsibilities under Florida law and through lease agreements - including paying rent, keeping the unit clean and in working order, and not disturbing the peace - landlords have certain requirements and restrictions as well, such as providing a clean and safe property by maintaining the major systems and the building structure.
Landlords in unincorporated Hillsborough County are also required to provide notice to tenants informing them when a late fee has been incurred.
In 2021, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners passed the Tenant's Bill of Rights, Source of Income Anti-discrimination and Notice of Late Fee Ordinance, also known as the Tenant's Bill of Rights Ordinance.
The ordinance was enacted to provide additional protections to residential tenants in unincorporated Hillsborough County, including protection from income discrimination. As a result, tenants are provided more affordable housing opportunities and offered more protection from homelessness.
What you need to know
Here are a few things to know if you are a renter in incorporated Hillsborough County:
Know the law
- Tenants in Florida can have either a written or an oral lease agreement. Because misunderstandings are more likely with an oral lease, if possible, tenants should have a written lease agreement with the landlord. Prior to entering into a lease, tenants should review their lease regarding their responsibilities and should also be familiar with Florida's Landlord/Tenant Law in Florida Statute Chapter 83, Part II.
The state of Florida provides a free brochure with an overview of Florida's Landlord/Tenant Law that is available online or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español.
All residential rentals must be fit for habitation
- Rental units must generally include plumbing and heating that is compliant with all applicable codes, be reasonably free from pests, and have fully-functioning and locking doors and windows, among other requirements. Structures in unincorporated Hillsborough County must also meet all applicable building, housing, and health codes. If there is an issue with your unit that you are not responsible for in your lease, contact your landlord as set forth in your lease. If your landlord does not address the issue within a reasonable timeframe, you may be able to report it.
Certain issues, such as lack of operable sanitary facilities or water or leaking roofs, can be reported to Hillsborough County Code Enforcement at (813) 274-6600.
Discrimination and retaliation are illegal
- A landlord may not raise your rent or threaten to evict you because you reported a health or safety violation or filed a fair housing complaint. A landlord cannot treat you differently because of your race, nationality, disability, religion, or sexual orientation, or because you pay your rent with Section 8 vouchers or any other governmental assistance, among other criteria.
If you feel you have been discriminated or retaliated against, you can contact the Equal Opportunity Administrator's Office at (813) 272-6554 or Hillsborough County Consumer Protection at (813) 635-8316.
You have the right to challenge an eviction and other unlawful action
- A lease does not prevent you from challenging an eviction. If the landlord is violating the lease agreement, you can always seek relief through the courts. If you cannot afford an attorney, you can contact Bay Area Legal Services at (813) 232-1343 to see if you are eligible for free legal assistance.
Financial assistance may be available
- If you face eviction and/or homelessness, financial assistance may be available. There are many local organizations that can help. Contact Hillsborough County Social Services at (813) 301-7341.
Note: This article provides a general overview of rental rights and related resources for tenants in unincorporated Hillsborough County, but is not intended to provide legal advice by the County.