Renter Protection: White House Issues ‘Renters Bill of Rights’ — What It Means for Tenants (and Landlords)

svetikd / Getty Images
svetikd / Getty Images

In what it terms a “renters bill of rights,” the Biden administration has unveiled a new plan of action to protect American renters from unfair housing practices and steep rent increases.

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Officially dubbed “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights,” the plan outlines 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.

The initiative aims to tackle a number of issues facing renters, many of whom have been priced out of housing in markets with sky-high rental rates.

Among the Biden administration’s goals are to improve access to safe and affordable housing, ensure that landlords offer clear and fair leases, educate renters on their rights and ensure those rights are enforced, and give renters the freedom to organize without obstruction or harassment from their housing providers or property managers.

The program has won support from tenant rights advocates, who have spent years urging the U.S. government to take action to help curtail rising rental rates and inequitable access to decent housing.

“Having the federal government and the White House talk about the need for and endorse a renters’ bill of rights is really significant,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told CNBC.

More than 44 million U.S. households, or about 35% the population, live in rental housing, according to the White House. Many are struggling to pay the rent as a larger chunk of their income goes toward skyrocketing consumer prices. Nearly half of renter households in the U.S. must direct more than 30% of their income toward rent and utilities each month, CNBC reported.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to numerous new renter protections and financial aid packages — including assistance for those who fell behind on their rent — but most of those measures are no longer around. One fear is that evictions will return to pre-pandemic levels, when an estimated 900,000 evictions occurred every year in the United States.

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A White House Fact Sheet published on Jan. 25 outlined the following key actions to help address the problem:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will collect information to identify practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing.

  • The CFPB will issue guidance and coordinate enforcement efforts 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 (FHFA) will launch a new public process to examine actions that can promote renter protections and put limits on “egregious rent increases” by landlords. As announced in November, the FHFA will also promote more affordability in the multifamily rental market by establishing requirements that encourage the financing of multifamily loans that guarantee affordable housing.

  • A U.S. Department of Justice workshop will develop guidance around anti-competitive information sharing, including in rental markets.

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

  • The administration will meet quarterly with tenants and tenant advocacy groups to ensure their concerns are heard, and to let them share ideas to strengthen tenant protections.

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This article originally appeared on Renter Protection: White House Issues ‘Renters Bill of Rights’ — What It Means for Tenants (and Landlords)