In an issue overshadowed by high rental costs statewide, the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday passed a highly controversial bill that could see landlords charging monthly fees instead of security deposits to tenants.

The House voted 89 to 22 to pass HB 133, which supporters say would provide an option to help tenants get into apartments without having to invest potentially thousands of dollars up front.

But opponents said the charges would not be capped and tenants would ultimately not be able to recover the money as they would for security deposits.

“This is a poor tax, plain as day,” said Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville.

Proponents disputed these characterizations, saying the fees would be optional for landlords and tenants.

The bill’s sponsor, Jim Mooney, R-Islamorada, also said such pricing arrangements are already in use and the bill would put “safeguards” into practice.

“It’s not a tax for the poor,” said Rep. Tiffany Esposito, a Republican from Fort Myers. “It’s an option for them, so that everyone has access to housing.”

A similar Senate bill (SB 494) passed the Rules Committee on Wednesday and is expected to go to the full Senate.

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