Here are five principles in the proposed renters bill of rights and while it does not carry any mandate, landlords still need to be aware of what it contains.
By Scot Aubrey
Depending on where you live in the country, as a landlord you operate under a varying set of rules and regulations. Those who occupy your properties also are entitled to their own set of rules and regulations, and to quote Kipling, “never the twain shall meet.”
Regardless of your location, there will always be a perceived or actual inequality when it comes to who the rules favor, an inequality which the Federal Government appears poised to throw their efforts at to resolve.
Enter “The White House Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights,” a white paper which does not create an official policy and carries no mandate for policymakers or individuals. This Bill of Rights identifies five basic principles and associated best practices that the Biden administration believes, if implemented, would decrease tenant exploitation, create a more equitable rental market, and help ensure fair housing practices are more closely adhered to by landlords.
Since rules put in place to protect renters become the responsibility of the landlord, it is critical to understand what could be proposed in the near future. The Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights is comprised of the five following principles and their application as follows:
- Access to Safe, Quality, Accessible and Affordable Housing: At the heart of this principle is the suggestion that a renter should pay no more than 30 percent of their household income on housing costs. This puts the onus on owners to provide habitable properties, with functioning appliances, and to utilize fairly priced on-boarding practices and fair rental rates.
- Clear and Fair Leases: The majority of landlords already subscribe to the model of having clear and fair leases; that’s why they find success and longevity as an investor. In this principle the government is looking to somehow normalize the actions that you and I already do as part of managing our portfolio: a) use clear and simple language, b) use transparent policies related to security deposits, and c) provide reasonable notice of actions relating to the property.
- Education, Enforcement, and Enhancement of Rights: Emphasizes that all governments should ensure that renters know their rights so they can be protected against discrimination. In addition to the standard protected classes covered under the Fair Housing Act, their proposal is that “source of income” should be added to the list of protected areas. Again, most landlords have adhered to these principles and practices as part of their successful management style.
- The Right to Organize: Renters would have the “freedom to organize without obstruction or harassment from their housing provider” without jeopardizing their housing. Per the research behind this paper, organizing by tenants “has been met with retaliation” like prohibition of use of public spaces and the threat of eviction, resulting in tenant fear to approach their landlord.
- Eviction Prevention, Diversion and Relief: A renter’s access to resources to avoid eviction, a fair and legal eviction process, and a proposal to immediately seal eviction cases so they can’t be used by potentially future landlords are all part of the final principle. Efforts proposed in this blueprint would have immediate and far-reaching effects into your business as a landlord, even if only partially adopted.
As stated before, this is only a white paper published by the White House Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council, and while it is not in place now, it can and will have an impact on the development of policies in our state and local governments. As a landlord you should dedicate the time to read it in its entirety to see what could be coming your way in a future legislative session near you. You can also listen to a thorough analysis of each principle on the Rent Perfect channel on YouTube.
About the author:
Scot Aubrey is Vice-President of Rent Perfect, a private investigator, and fellow landlord who manages short-term rentals. Subscribe to their weekly Rent Perfect Podcast (available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts) to stay up to date on the latest industry news and for expert tips on how to manage your properties.