Residential ordinance lawsuit brought by realtors against city of Gainesville to continue
A lawsuit by local realtors challenging an amendment to the city of Gainesville's energy efficiency standards will continue following a ruling at a court hearing on March 23. The city of Gainesville wanted the lawsuit dismissed. The lawsuit, filed in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court for Alachua County, comes after the city of Gainesville adopted a new rental ordinance in April 2021 that introduced efficiency guidelines and random mandatory inspections for rental properties in Gainesville to ensure standards were being followed. Efficiency guidelines included requiring low-flow showerheads, faucets and toilets as well as sustainable HVAC systems and water heaters. In addition to compliance inspections, the city also introduced a new, cheaper permit for rental units. In the lawsuit, filed on Dec. 1, the realtors said, “The city’s landlord ordinance is illegal, facially unconstitutional and must fall.” After the establishment of the city's rental subcommittee in 2018, changes to ordinances have increased. But Jamie Williams, the property management chair for the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors and the owner of JTW Properties, LLC, said the ordinances are difficult to adhere to.
She said each property cost some realtors $3,000 to $5,000 to meet the city’s new energy efficiency standards. Landlords must raise rent to meet the energy demands, which contradicts the city’s affordable housing initiative, Williams said. The focus of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors over the past several months has been on navigating the inspections, said Williams. After the city submitted a 30-page document dismissing the claims of the realtors to the court, an amendment to the ordinance was passed on March 2.
By then, Childers law firm, which is representing the realtors in the case, had already filed a response to the court on their behalf.
Jeff Childers, the president of Childers law firm, said the inspections are taking away a constitutional right to privacy. “The city is unfairly targeting realtors for a social experiment,” he said. The realtors have since requested an emergency motion for a continuance of the hearing because they view “the newly amended version of the ordinance may materially impact the issues of the case,” according to court records.
In other words, the case will continue following the new information on the city’s amendment of the ordinance.
Following the realtors being made aware of the new ordinance, the city chose not to object to the motion and the case will continue.
Next, the realtors will likely submit a new response according to the new material in the amended ordinance. Another hearing will likely occur after that .
Krish Talati, a 21-year-old renter in Gainesville, said he hopes the court sides with the city. He said he thinks the ordinance is a good thing. Renters like Talati said they support the ordinance because it allows the city to support renters with things that aren’t in the lease agreement, he said.
“It allows for some sort of check towards the owner,” he said.
The lawsuit is filed under a complaint for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” University of Florida law Professor Bill Hamilton defines declaratory relief in this context as the realtor's desire for the court to interpret the fairness of the residential ordinance. The court can make a declaratory statement as to the legal obligations of the landlords to permit these inspections. Injunctive relief, according to Hamilton, would make it so that the court could halt the ordinance altogether. In other words, injunctive relief means the court can force action upon either party. The ordinance caused an uproar among realtors who criticized what they describe as the invasiveness of the inspections and the ability of the city to dictate guidelines for rental properties. The realtors said they view “the newly amended version of the ordinance may materially impact the issues of the case,” according to court records.