Biden administration unveils 'Renters Bill of Rights,' but what exactly does it include?

An aerial photo shows the 35 Degrees North Apartment Homes, 2800 NW 192.
An aerial photo shows the 35 Degrees North Apartment Homes, 2800 NW 192.

The White House recently released a "Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights" in an effort it says will "increase fairness in the rental market."

With nearly 35% of the U.S. population living in rental housing, according to the Biden administration, the Blueprint lays out a set of principles to drive action by the federal government, state and local partners, and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections and encourage rental affordability.

But what exactly are those principles? And how does the Biden administration plan to accomplish its goals and increase fairness?

The Oklahoman pulled together the key points from the Blueprint to address both questions, and sought input from industry experts about the efficacy of the plan.

Principles laid out in White House Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights

Directly from a White House fact sheet, outlining the key principles included in the Blueprint:

  • Safe, Quality, Accessible and Affordable Housing: Renters should have access to housing that is safe, decent and affordable.

  • Clear and Fair Leases: Renters should have a clear and fair lease that has defined rental terms, rights and responsibilities.

  • Education, Enforcement and Enhancement of Renter Rights: Federal, state and local governments should do all they can to ensure renters know their rights and to protect renters from unlawful discrimination and exclusion.

  • The Right to Organize: Renters should have the freedom to organize without obstruction or harassment from their housing provider or property manager.

  • Eviction Prevention, Diversion, and Relief: Renters should be able to access resources that help them avoid eviction, ensure the legal process during an eviction proceeding is fair, and avoid future housing instability.

White House actions to improve quality of life for renters

Excerpts from the White House fact sheet on how it plans to accomplish its principles laid out in the Blueprint:

  • The Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will collect information to identify practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing. This will inform enforcement and policy under each agency’s jurisdiction. This is the first time the FTC has issued a request for information exploring unfair practices in the rental market.

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced it will issue guidance and coordinate enforcement with the FTC to ensure accurate information in the credit reporting system and to hold background check companies accountable for having unreasonable procedures.

  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency will launch a new public process to examine proposed actions promoting renter protections and limits on egregious rent increases for future investments. The FHFA also will increase affordability in the multifamily rental market by establishing requirements that encourage the financing of multifamily loans that guarantee affordable housing.

  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will publish a notice of proposed rule making that would require public housing authorities and owners of project-based rental assistance properties to provide at least 30 days’ notice before terminating a lease due to nonpayment of rent.

  • The Biden Administration will hold quarterly meetings with tenants and tenant advocates to ensure they continue to have a seat at the table and can share ambitious ideas to strengthen tenant protections.

Why the Oklahoma Association of Realtors thinks a Renters Bill of Rights could end up hurting renters in the long run

From Jessica Hickok, CEO of the Oklahoma Association of Realtors:

"Realtors believe in many of the core principles espoused by the White House’s blueprint for renters including strengthening protections and encouraging affordability. Even last year, the Oklahoma Association of Realtors worked with a bipartisan group of legislators and tenant advocate groups to make changes to the Oklahoma Landlord Tenant Act which would provide more leeway for renters to make emergency repairs to their rental when a landlord fails to do so.

"With the Biden administration’s recent announcement, the National Association of Realtors has committed to educate the more than 1.5 million Realtors across the country on renter assistance and other programs, as well as to create resources to help Realtors incorporate tenant-centered practices in property management.

"However, the Biden administration’s proposal advocates for many policies which would end up hurting renters in the long run. The so-called Renters Bill of Rights proposes regulations which would be crushing to mom-and-pop landlords – those rental property owners who own smaller than a handful of rental properties, who make up 40% of the rental supply in America, and who statistically charge less. This would result in a cause-and-effect situation of tenants facing increased rents as landlords seek to keep up with the proposed regulations.

"Such regulations would also not affect the root cause of the housing issue in America, which is inventory. A recent report commissioned by NAR found an 'underbuilding gap' of at least 5.5 million homes since 2001, and the effects of that gap have only been exacerbated by the market conditions for the past three years.

"Until inventory shortages are addressed in a significant manner, efforts to provide attainable housing for renters and buyers will be unlikely to have the desired effect. To truly provide housing opportunity, the White House and Congress should focus their attention on spurring the construction of new inventory and spend less time trying to regulate mom-and-pop landlords, who are already well-regulated at state and local levels across the country."

The Oklahoma Home Builders Association says the Blueprint is a misfire

From Mike Means, executive officer of the Oklahoma Home Builders Association:

"We have a tale of two cities. On one hand, we stress the need for affordable housing. Then on the other hand we erect barriers to building that affordable housing.

"Our objective is to move renters to home ownership. Home ownership is foundational to cresting wealth. Not rich, but stable financially, which creates stable homes and communities."

Complex housing policy is a 'state and local issue' according to the National Apartment Association

The Apartment Association of Central Oklahoma provided this statement from Bob Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association:

“For months the National Apartment Association worked with the White House in good faith. We stand by our commitment to promote industry resident services and practices. NAA also made clear the industry’s opposition to expanded federal involvement in the landlord/tenant relationship. Complex housing policy is a state and local issue and the best solutions utilize carrots over sticks."

'The wrong strategy,' and what the National Association of Home Builders would do instead

The National Association of Home Builders provided this statement from Jerry Konter, chairman and a home builder and developer from Savannah, Georgia:

“While not as bad as it could have been, the White House rental executive order is the wrong strategy, centering on rental protections instead of market-based solutions that will truly ease the nation’s housing and rental affordability crisis by spurring the production of badly needed affordable housing. Strengthening successful programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is the right way to proceed if we are to bring down rising home and rental prices.

“And while a key part of the Biden plan focuses on ensuring landlords help tenants who are behind in their rents, it is important to note that millions of small-business multifamily property owners have already been working together with their tenants to keep them in their homes and make sure they are not evicted. And they were doing this during the height of the pandemic when renters were most vulnerable."

Senior Business Writer Richard Mize has covered housing, construction, commercial real estate and related topics for the newspaper and since 1999. Contact him at Sign up for his weekly newsletter, Real Estate with Richard Mize.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: White House Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights hits with a thud