Senate Bill 214 passes the Criminal Justice committee during Mondays state Senate meeting.
The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Nancy Detert of District 28, heightens the felony or misdemeanor degree of an assault, battery or sexual battery committed against a “broker,” “broker associate,” or “sales associate” while in the act of showing a property or holding an open house.
Before debate was opened on the bill amongst the committee Detert opened with the amendment to the bill. In her explanation of the bill there were very chilling statistics on crimes reported against realtors.
“… There have been a string of nationwide attacks including murders and sexual assaults on realtors who are holding open houses … there have been recent attacks in St. Pete and Sarasota, which included an armed robbery in one instance and a kidnapping and ransom demand in another… ” Detert said.
According to the National Realtor board data, attacks against realtors are up 500 percent in the past three years and 70 percent of the victims are female nationwide.
The state of Florida is known for its rich real estate. CNNmoney named six metro areas in Florida in their top 10 housing markets.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of District 27, opened the debate on the bill with his concerns of creating a new felony and singling out one profession for special protection.
“… We really aren’t interested in creating any felonies where we don’t see a really clear need … aside from the fact that there are more of the crimes being committed give me the sense of why this particular profession needs more protection,” Clemens said.
Detert explained that in the case of realtors the crime is premeditated. Offenders are making appointments with victims to assault or kill them.
The bill clearly states that the offender will only be charged with the heightened offense if the assault occurs during the open house or scheduled tour.
The risk that realtors are taking when they are meeting various strangers at empty houses warrants heightened security for these professionals explained Detert.
Committee chairman Republican Sen. Greg Evers of district 2 questioned if the proposed bill would include caterers who are working the open house who may happen to be assaulted as well.
The proposed bill doesn’t cover those individuals because the offender didn’t set the appointment up with them. The bill is aimed towards protecting brokers who were most likely stalked and are at risk of being preyed on while working.
After much deliberation on SB 214, the committee was still hesitant about voting on the bill reclassifying the current charges to felonies. The committee firmly believed Detert would work out the kinks along the way since this was her first stop.
Detert was elated to receive “yeas” from the entire committee and waive of support from the Florida Realtors. This is the first stop of three stops for SB 214 and Detert is hopeful that her bill will pass all the way through.