TALLAHASSEE — Less than two weeks before Election Day, a divided appeals court has rejected an Orange County ballot measure aimed at imposing rent controls.
A panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision Thursday, sided with the industry group Florida Realtors and the Florida Apartment Association, which sought a temporary injunction to block the measure.
With voters already casting ballots by mail and at early voting sites, the appeals court said that, at a minimum, it anticipates “the results of the ballot initiative will not be certified.” The court pointed, in part, to a 1977 state law designed to prevent rent control and said Orange County had not met requirements to justify its proposal.
The Orange County Commission in August passed an ordinance that put the measure on the ballot. But the court said, in part, the ordinance’s findings did not illustrate an “existing housing emergency” as required by law.
“While we do not minimize the evidence supporting a complex, multifaceted issue affecting renters in Orange County, it was insufficient under the law to support a rent control measure,” said the 34-page majority opinion, written by Judge Dan Traver and joined by Judge Meredith Sasso.
Also, the majority said the ballot summary — the wording that people see when they vote — did not adequately describe the measure.
“The summary is misleading not because of what it says, but because of what it does not say,” Traver wrote “Critically, the ordinance purports to control rent in two ways. The first restricts the frequency of rental increases to one time per twelve-month period. The second limits the amount of these increases by tying them to the Consumer Price Index. The ballot summary, however, only advises the voter about the amount of rent control, but not its frequency. This omission is confusing because the chief purpose of the initiative is rent control, but the ballot summary misleads on how the ordinance will effectuate this purpose. It does not, in other words, accurately advise a voter about the ordinance’s scope.”
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