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Miya’s Law – A Great Start, But We Can Do Better

Miya's Law
One Year After Her Tragic Death

It’s been one year since the tragic death of Miya Marcano. Miya was a 19-year-old college student, with a bright future ahead of her. Miya lived and worked in an apartment complex in Orlando, Florida, while she attended Valencia College. It was at this complex that a maintenance worker used his master key to access her apartment, and then kidnap and murder her.

The maintenance worker had a history of past complaints from female residents of other complexes, and even one arrest. But the complex had never run a comprehensive background check on him. Miya’s family subsequently sued the apartment complex, claiming it did not conduct a thorough background check before hiring the man, and, as a direct result, Miya was killed. If the complex had run the check, the managers would have learned about his prior arrest and, with an employment verification, would have learned that a female resident of another complex raised concerns over the man’s behavior in the past.

The negligence of the apartment complex and the preventability of their daughter’s death led the Marcano family to form the Miya Marcano Foundation. As its first priority, the foundation pushed for stricter apartment security standards to prevent tragedies like their daughter’s. Soon thereafter, Florida lawmakers passed “Miya’s Law” unanimously in both houses, a law intended to improve apartment safety.


Miya’s Law

Miya’s Law,” codified under Fla. Stat. § 83.515, was signed into law on June 27, 2022. Portions of the law went into effect on July 1, 2022, with the remaining portions taking effect on January 1, 2023. The new law requires Florida landlords to run background checks on all employees using a background screening company in accordance with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, effective January 1, 2023. The search must include a screening of criminal history records and sexual predator and sexual offender registries of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Further, the law allows landlords to disqualify applicants convicted of certain crimes. Specifically,

A landlord may disqualify a person from employment if the person has been convicted or found guilty of, or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of

adjudication, any of the following offenses:

(a) A criminal offense involving disregard for the safety of others which, if committed in this state, is a felony or a misdemeanor of the first degree or, if committed in another state, would be a felony or a misdemeanor of the first degree if committed in this state.

(b) A criminal offense committed in any jurisdiction which involves violence, including, but not limited to, murder, sexual battery, robbery, carjacking, home-invasion robbery, and stalking.

“Miya’s death is an awful tragedy – one that has put a spotlight on problems with apartment safety and security. We’ve heard too many horror stories,” Florida Sen. Linda Stewart, of Orlando, said.

In addition to requiring background screenings, “Miya’s Law” mandates that landlords maintain a log for all keys for each unit and establish protocols for issuing, returning, and storing unit keys. It also doubles the notification requirement for “reasonable notice” to enter a unit for maintenance and repairs from 12 hours to 24 hours. Finally, every landlord must provide proof of either the background screening or the key log procedures should Florida’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants request it.

“Every tenant deserves to be safe in their own home,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “By signing this legislation, we are making it safer to live in a rental unit and giving renters more peace of mind in their homes. Miya’s death was a tragedy, and our prayers continue to be with the Marcano family. I am proud to act on their behalf to help prevent a tragedy like that from happening to another Florida tenant.”


Is Miya’s Law Enough?

There is no doubt that Miya’s Law is a great step forward in protecting the safety of Florida renters; however, many have begun to question if it truly goes far enough in safeguarding innocent individuals. Compliance with a law is one matter, but actually understanding who you are hiring, including their character, integrity, and reliability, is something entirely different. There is potential harmful information lurking right outside the perimeter of those state mandates, such as serious issues with past employers, including harassment or violence toward others, stolen identities, falsehoods concerning information provided on a job application or resume, drug abuse, and financial or credit problems – all of which can lead to questions regarding the integrity and even dangerous propensities of the person being hired. The criminal background check alone as required by this law simply won’t provide the protection necessary.

Additionally, apartment complexes and landlords are not the only ones who hire workers for positions that require access into other people’s homes. Take the case of Sue Weaver. Sue’s home was broken into by a man who had come to clean her air ducts six months before. She was assaulted and left for dead in her house, which was then set on fire. The company employing the man, knowing that he would be entering the homes of customers, had never even bothered to run a background check.


The Sue Weaver CAUSE

The murder of Sue Weaver led to the creation of the Sue Weaver CAUSE (Commit to Always Using Screened Employees). CAUSE is dedicated to encouraging organizations to run comprehensive background checks for service workers whose jobs provide access to individual’s homes and their family members.

With the premise that Sue’s murder, like so many others, was wholly preventable with a screening requirement, the Sue Weaver CAUSE foundation has recommended a minimum screening requirement of the following:

  • Name and Address Trace
  • SSN Validation
  • National/State Sex Offender Registry
  • Local Criminal Court Searches
  • Multi-Jurisdictional Criminal Record Database

A spokesperson for the Sue Weaver CAUSE has been noted with saying, “Everyone has the right to work, but not all jobs are for everyone.” Additionally, with labor shortages afoot, it can be appealing for employers to hire whoever may be willing to work. However, as these cases demonstrate, this line of action could come with grave consequences.


Going forward

While both of these tragedies coincidentally occurred in Orlando, similar cases sadly can, and do, occur everywhere employers, landlords, and other organizations fail to do enough to keep others safe. Anyone who employs service workers with access to our homes and family members should consider, at a minimum, the screenings recommended by CAUSE. And while “Miya’s Law” only applies in the state of Florida, this new background check standard is instructive to all employers wrestling with how to make legal and business-appropriate post-offer decisions relating to someone’s criminal convictions in today’s highly sensitive environment.

It’s also important to point out that CAUSE, like Miya’ Law, is a recommended minimum screening requirement. Depending on the specific line of work, or if the position involves a vulnerable population or access into an individual’s home, landlords and employers need to consider adding additional screenings, including identity checks, employment and education verifications, drug testing, financial and credit checks, and additional criminal checks at the local, state, and federal levels. Simply, a more comprehensive search will uncover a more comprehensive picture of who is being hiring.

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