Appeals court rules against rent control ordinance that is already on the ballot

The ruling effectively nullifies the vote of Orange County residents on rent control

A Florida appeals court has taken the side of Florida realtors and landlord groups, issuing an injunction against an Orange County ordinance that would have placed a 9.8% cap on year-over-year rent hikes on some apartments.

The rent control ordinance ballot measure was approved by the Orange County commission after several contentious months of debate. Orange County has seen some of the highest relative spikes in rent and housing costs in the nation over the last several years.

The ordinance asked to cap rent hikes on 104,000 rental units. This is less than half of the 230,000 rental units available in Orange County. Even this half-measure was a bridge too far for the Florida Apartment Association and Florida Realtors. They sued to block the ballot initiative, losing in circuit court. On appeal, the Fifth District Court ruled 2-1 in favor of the housing interests.

In their ruling, they noted that the trial judge said that the ordinance might run afoul of established Florida law. He opted to let the ballot measure proceed. The appellate court struck down this reasoning, calling the ordinance "unconstitutional" and the ballot language "misleading."

"The trial court correctly concluded that the Association had a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of its... challenge to the County’s rent control ordinance and the corresponding ballot summary,” the court shared in a ruling written by Judge Dan Traver. “But it erred by allowing the matter to remain on the ballot for the people of Orange County to vote on an unconstitutional ordinance described by a misleading ballot summary."

The appeals court issued an injunction against the ordinance, that has already been voted on by early voters. They left the manner of enforcement of the injunction up to Orange County's election supervisor. Ultimately, they expect them to toss out the results of the election on this ballot measure. 
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