Over 44 million households, or roughly 35 percent of the U.S. population, live in rental housing. But our nation’s rental market is defined by a patchwork of state and local laws and legal processes that leave far too many renters with little recourse when housing providers fail to comply with the law or the lease agreement. President Biden believes every American deserves access to safe, accessible, and affordable housing, reflected in the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which outlines principles and best practices at the federal, state and local level that would strengthen tenant protections and increase fairness in the rental market.
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is building on this framework and announcing a series of new, concrete actions to protect renters, which include:
- Ensuring all renters have an opportunity to address incorrect tenant screening reports;
- Providing new funding to support tenant organizing efforts; and
- Ensuring that renters are given fair notice in advance of eviction.
Today’s announcements build on a record of action and progress on behalf of renters. In response to the pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration deployed unprecedented tools to keep Americans housed, including delivering nearly 11 million emergency rental assistance payments, and establishing a first-of-its-kind national eviction prevention infrastructure that kept eviction filings below pre-pandemic levels for 1.5 years after the eviction moratorium ended. However, many of the systemic inequities in rental markets that existed prior to the pandemic persist today and are compounded by our nation’s housing affordability challenges. That is why the Biden-Harris Administration has taken bold action to address issues of housing supply and lower costs through its Housing Supply Action Plan, including actions also announced today, and is announcing new actions on renters protections here.
Today’s actions include:
Ensuring fair tenant screening practices. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and three independent agencies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA) are each releasing guidance or best practices to landlords, operators, and stakeholders who rely on tenant screening reports when evaluating applications from renters. This guidance communicates the Administration’s expectations on informing renters of what information in their screening report is responsible for their application being denied. This information will help renters by giving them an opportunity to correct errors in their reports and address issues that impact their applications.
Funding tenant education and outreach. HUD is announcing $10 million in new funding for tenant education and outreach in properties it supports. This funding will support capacity building efforts that enable tenants who live in HUD’s project based rental assistance housing to engage with property managers and help sustain safe, decent, and affordable housing. Under the program, funding can be used for training and technical assistance, as well as establishing and operating tenant organizations.
Providing more time for tenants to avoid eviction. HUD has committed to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require that tenants of public housing and properties with project-based rental assistance receive a written notice at least 30 days prior to lease termination for nonpayment of rent. This proposed rule would curtail preventable and unnecessary evictions by providing tenants time and information to help address nonpayment violations. Tenants in public housing and properties with project-based rental assistance are already entitled to receive a 30 day notice in cases of non-payment of rent. However, if finalized, the proposed rule would permanently memorialize this requirement in HUD’s regulations, allowing the agency additional latitude to effectively communicate and implement these protections. As part of the rulemaking process, tenants and other parties will also be able to provide their comments and perspectives to help HUD make sure this rule assists with preventable evictions.
Increasing resident engagement requirements. This week, HUD published new guidance for public housing authorities and multifamily housing owners participating in the Rental Assistance Demonstration, strengthening resident protections through updated resident engagement requirements and enhanced HUD oversight tools, including active monitoring of additional information that demonstrates resident engagement. These new requirements will help ensure residents have more opportunities to provide feedback on the preservation of their homes.
Ensuring renters have a seat at the table. The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized engagement with tenants, tenant organizers and advocacy organizations, including in the creation of its Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights. These engagements ensure renter voice and expertise inform the government’s understanding of challenges that exist in the rental market, and that solutions increase fairness. This week HUD hosted the National Conversation at The Community Table, to hear directly from hundreds of renters on federal policy. In addition, FHFA, FTC and CFPB have each issued requests for information that will inform their respective policymaking; Treasury is hosting quarterly tenant listening sessions on individuals’ experiences with emergency rental assistance; and USDA will host a convening with renters in rural areas this fall.
Announcing major private sector and state and local action. In January, the White House announced its Resident-Centered Housing Challenge, a call to action to housing providers and other stakeholders to strengthen practices that improve quality of life for renters. Since then, over 100 public and private sector entities have pledged to align with the principles in the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Right. The Administration continues to rally the private and public sector, and welcomes additional actions from housing providers and others to meet this call. Several commitments were announced at the launch of the challenge; examples of new actions include:
- Zillow, next year, will launch the ability for its nearly 28 million average monthly unique visitors to search for affordable rental units, including listings that may meet requirements for programs like the Housing Choice Vouchers and income restricted affordable housing. Zillow will offer a one-stop-shop for renters to find affordable rentals and easy to understand information about local laws that will help ensure users know their rights related to leasing and remaining housed with or without rental assistance.
- AffordableHousing.com will, this year, deploy “Clear and Fair” digital leases that advocate the principles outlined in the White House Blueprint for a Renter Bill of Rights. Property owners who use these “Clear and Fair” leases will be acknowledged on the site, which receives more than 100 million property searches each year.
- Last week, Zillow, Apartments.com, and AffordableHousing.com announced they will provide consumers with total, upfront cost information on rental properties, which can be hundreds of dollars on top of the advertised rent.
State and Local Governments
- Colorado enacted House Bill 23-1120, which requires landlords and tenants to go through mediation in eviction proceedings if the tenant qualified for some forms of financial assistance, and House Bill 23-1095, prohibiting rental agreements from including a certain waiver that limit a renter’s legal recourse.
- Connecticut enacted Senate Bill 998, which increases fines on landlords to $2,000 for breaking housing code violations, bans landlords from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, puts new limits on the amount landlords can charge in fees for overdue rent, offers protections against certain evictions and rent increases to a protected class, and removes online eviction records of cases that were withdrawn, dismissed, or decided in favor of the tenant within 30 days.
- Jersey City, NJ announced a “Right To Counsel” program in April 2023, as did Westchester County, NY in May 2023, and St. Louis, MO in July 2023. These programs offer legal assistance to qualified renters facing an eviction.
- Los Angeles, CA and Santa Ana, CA each released a series of renter protections. Los Angeles’ ordinances include “just cause” eviction protections, a timeline for paying rental debt accrued during the pandemic, and require landlords to pay relocation fees in some situations, amongst other protections. Santa Ana’s new rental registry will ensure tenants and landlords know their rights and responsibilities and will compliment an eviction prevention program providing rental assistance and supports to qualified households.
These actions come on the heels of other Biden-Harris Administration actions since creating the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights. CFPB and FTC, both independent agencies, issued a Request for Information seeking public comment on how background screening may shut renters out of housing. FHFA, also in independent agency, initiated a process to solicit feedback on ways to advance renter protections in its financing programs. All three agencies have committed to using those responses to inform potential policy action. HUD released a notification for public comment on ways it can improve its regulations and accessibility standards to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to all HUD-assisted programs, activities, and facilities. In addition, the White House announced first-of-its-kind funding for legal services for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness in June. Just last week, President Biden announced new actions to address unfair and hidden fees in the rental housing market. Congressional action could bolster these efforts by codifying renters’ rights into law, and to passing the President’s budget proposal, which includes historic investments to lower housing cost and protect renters, expand housing supply and affordability, including funding for eviction prevention.