Landmark County-Wide Tenant Bill of Rights Will Expand Protections Against Displacement and Build Tenant Power
By Vanny Veras, Tenant Organizer, Miami Workers Center
The Miami Tenant Bill of Rights is a set of policies born out of the collective determination of hundreds of renters and families across Miami to stand up and fight back for our homes and our communities. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, members and organizers with the Miami Workers Center knocked on hundreds of doors to connect with tenants facing evictions. In a moment of profound crisis, many large corporate landlords chose to take advantage of vulnerable neighbors. They often harassed families to accept uninhabitable living conditions or leave their homes when millions of workers faced unemployment. After months of holding community meetings and legal clinics and identifying the urgent issues tenants were experiencing, it was clear we needed to fight for more legal protections for renters and accountability for abusive landlords in Miami. We studied the successful model of KC Tenants, a union of renters who fought and won their Tenant Bill of Rights in Kansas City in 2019, and we got to work building our own. We are organizing to make safe and dignified housing a reality for all of us who call Miami home. This campaign was one step in a much longer road and purpose.
Some of the demands that Miami renters agreed on to form the Miami Tenant Bill of Rights included (1) the ability to deduct out-of-pocket expenses from their rent to repair or fix uninhabitable conditions that their landlord refused to fix; (2) that landlords be required to inform tenants of their rights upon initiating a lease agreement; (3) the establishment of a new county office where tenants can seek support against landlord abuses and resources for their housing needs; (4) that renters have more notice if their rent was being raised or leases were poised to be terminated after their building was purchased by another owner; and (5) that tenants not be required to disclose if they have previously been evicted on a rental application.
We pieced together the lived experiences and demands of tenants into legislation that would help protect us and our families. Once we had our demands together, we requested meetings with elected officials who had the power to give us what we wanted. Tenant leaders and organizers from Miami Workers Center met with county commissioners and the county mayor’s office, sharing their testimonies and urging for elected officials to do the right thing and support our Tenant Bill of Rights. We held meetings, staged direct action protests to bring attention to our campaign demands, and supported renters organizing in their apartments against abuse and displacement.
In May of 2022, we won our campaign. The Tenant Bill of Rights was officially signed into law in Miami Dade County. The struggle for housing to be a human right across Miami continues, but we hope this example will teach renters across the South and beyond that, as Ericka, one of our tenant leaders said, “All of us together can win.”