Biden administration unveils rent protections

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Washington City
CNN

In response to rising rents across the country in recent years, the Biden administration announced new actions Wednesday to protect renters, make rentals more affordable and improve fairness in the rental housing market.

Many agencies should be involved in improving the situation of tenants by working alongside a set of principles defined by the administration that focus on tenants’ rights.

This plan guides future actions by the federal government, state and local entities, and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections and promote affordable rents.

It follows one of the strongest federal supports for renters in history, where the government provided an unprecedented $46 billion in emergency rent funds to renters affected by the pandemic.

Relevant agencies include the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Justice.

More than a third of the American population – 44 million households – rent their homes. Before the pandemic, there were more than 2 million deportation requests and nearly 900,000 deportations each year, disproportionately affecting black women and their children.

At the height of the pandemic, the federal government’s moratorium on evictions and the historic exit from rental subsidies have provided shelter to at least one million at-risk renters. But rents have risen over the past year, and some big business owners have expanded their holdings and increased their profits.

The actions announced Wednesday will focus on landlord practices, financing for rental housing and ways to support tenants who may be unfairly excluded from renting.

Here’s what some agencies do:

The FTC reviews a number of practices that affect the rental market, including the use of tenant background checks, the use of algorithms to screen tenants, and the provision of notices of adverse behavior by landlords and property management companies; and how the applicant’s source of income affects the housing decision. This is the first time the FTC has issued a request for information investigating unfair practices in the rental market.

The CFPB provides guidance and coordinates enforcement actions with the FTC to ensure that renters have accurate information on their credit reports and to hold background check companies accountable for their procedures.

FHFA will begin the process of reviewing proposals for excessive rent increase restrictions and tenant protections for future investments. This is in addition to measures announced in November to encourage financing of multifamily affordable housing loans.

HUD recommends that public housing authorities and rental service providers require landlords to give at least 30 days’ notice before terminating a tenancy for nonpayment of rent. DOJ plans to review anticompetitive information sharing, including in rental markets.

The administration also laid out its guiding principles in the Tenant Bill of Rights, which, while not enforceable, is intended to outline the protections the administration believes every tenant deserves.

Access to safe, quality and affordable housing; clear and fair hiring, eviction prevention to stay in permanent housing, and access to rental assistance resources. The plan also directs federal, state, and local governments to ensure that tenants know their rights and are protected from unlawful discrimination, and to protect tenants’ rights to organize.

Wednesday’s announcement also includes a call to action asking private business and housing advocates to step up their practices and make independent commitments to improve the lives of tenants.

Some of the participants include Realtor.com, which appears in rental searches for landlords who accept Housing Choice coupons; and the National Association of Realtors, which will provide resources on tenant-focused best practices, such as providing rental assistance information to property managers and using alternative credit scores for applicants without a detailed credit history.

The Biden administration has made several statements regarding housing. In May of last year, the administration released a housing action plan with a goal of closing the housing supply shortfall in the United States within five years. And last summer, the government announced a plan to reduce discrimination in housing.

Housing advocates celebrated the administration’s announcement, but it did not provide stronger protections for tenants than they would have liked.

“Strengthening and implementing tenant protections is critical to addressing the broader housing crisis,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “There is a huge power imbalance in our housing system that favors landlords at the expense of low-income and other marginalized tenants, increasing families’ risk of housing instability and homelessness. and incites racial inequality.”

Yentel said that while the administration’s announcements were an important step toward fulfilling President Joe Biden’s commitment to create a tenant rights bill, they missed an opportunity to tie tenant protections to homeowners receiving federal loans and other assistance.

“The unfortunate omission from the White House plan is any administrative action to hold business owners accountable for their egregious, predatory and often illegal behavior during and after the pandemic,” Yentel said.

Last year, the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released the results of a year-long investigation into the eviction practices of large business owners. A Democratic investigation found that some businesses used bullying tactics to force tenants out of their homes during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, others in the housing industry argue that this type of federal involvement in housing policy serves to drive up housing costs.

“Rental housing policies are heavily regulated at the state and local level,” said Kenny Parcell, president of the National Association of Realtors. making rental housing more competitive and therefore more expensive for tenants.

Additionally, he added, “The federal government’s expanded role in rental policy will place an even greater burden on marital housing providers.”

NAR is participating in an industry challenge proposed by the administration to promote tenant-centric practices, but said rent increases are more about supply and demand.

“Rents are going up because of inflation and because of the housing shortage,” Parcell said. “We urge the administration to take a deeper look at how to address the root causes of rental affordability, specifically affordable housing.”

With more than 95,000 members who own and manage more than 11.6 million apartments worldwide, the National Apartment Association is committed to promoting residency programs and practices such as helping tenants build and improve credit by reporting positive rental payments to the credit bureaus. their website, industry events and other content channels.

But the community still expressed displeasure with the outcome and resisted further intervention.

“The National Apartment Association has been working diligently with the White House for months,” said Bob Pinnegar, NAA president and CEO. “We will continue to promote the services and experience of industry residents. The NAA also expressed industry opposition to increased federal involvement in landlord-tenant relationships. Comprehensive housing policy is a national and local issue, and the best solutions use carrots, not sticks.

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