‘Corporate invasion’: Firms flock to Florida, buy up apartments because of weak tenant-protection laws, study finds

72% of multifamily properties like apartment complexes are owned by real estate and investment firms

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A University of North Florida study found that Duval County is the eviction filing capital of the state, and corporations are behind a majority of eviction filings in the Jacksonville area.

Florida is one of the most attractive states for investors because of weak tenant-protection laws, a recent study found.

MORE: Jax Rental Housing Project Study

Lynett Mitchell visited the Jacksonville Housing Authority for help on Tuesday morning.

“What money we’re making is not really enough to cover my rent,” Mitchell said. “I had to get me an extra job.”

She’ll soon be threatened with eviction because the cost of her long-time apartment is just too high for her to keep up with. She said her rent has gone up about $400 in the last few years.

Mitchell’s story is sadly not unique.

A recent study by the JAX Rental Housing Project shows a “corporate invasion” of Duval County with 72% of multifamily properties like apartment complexes owned by real estate and investment firms that are often based out of state.

That’s in part leading to rents rising and a high number of eviction filings. It’s also leading to an increased need for help.

James Tyer is a housing attorney at the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid office, and he said his office has been at capacity since about 2020.

Tyler said he’s seen a gradual increase in the number of people that need help with evictions, but there’s not a whole lot they can do.

“I think we’ve seen that people’s income hasn’t really kept up with the rising rental rates around the city,” he said. “And so people can’t afford rent a lot of times, and when they can’t afford rent, and they fall behind on their rent, there’s not often a whole lot that they can do.”

A 2023 preemption law significantly impacted tenant protections in Florida. The state law limits the passage of local policies like rent control and source-of-income ordinances.

Now that local ordinances regulating tenant-landlord relations are prohibited, the Sunshine State is an ideal place for landlords to do business.

So, what happens when corporations run apartment complexes with the goal of turning profit and with little regulation from the state? Often, regular maintenance is ignored.

“I think what these larger companies often do, is they try to make their business more efficient. And what that means on a large scale is largely cutting costs,” Tyler said.

The UNF study indicates that the most common place tenants turn to for help with deteriorating living conditions in Jacksonville is local media.

News4JAX has seen this firsthand.

Most recently, the I-TEAM reported on extreme health and safety issues at Colonial Forest Apartments on the Westside, Cascade Apartments in Grand Park, and at Red Bay Apartments in Arlington.

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Red Bay is considered an “eviction hotspot” with 143 evictions filed in 2022.

The JAX Rental Housing Projects supports the creation of an Office of Housing Resources and the establishment of a Landlord Registry in Duval County to help with these issues.

About the Author

Tiffany comes home to Jacksonville, FL from WBND in South Bend, Indiana. She went to Mandarin High School and UNF. Tiffany is a former WJXT intern, and joined the team in 2023 as Consumer Investigative Reporter and member of the I-TEAM.

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