The Biden Administration recently announced it was considering several executive actions to expand protections for renters. But in most cases, states have some degree of protection in place.
The proposals on the table from Pennsylvania Avenue include standardized rental leases; grace periods for late rents; a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction; the sealing of eviction records; and a federal campaign to end discrimination against affordable housing voucher holders based on the source of income, according to Bloomberg. The measures came in response to a letter from Sen. Elizabeth Warren signed by 50 members of Congress calling for the president to issue an executive action ordering a cap on rent hikes in properties backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But according to recent research from Freddie Mac Multifamily, seven states already have laws prohibiting a landlord’s use of certain information, like a tenant’s criminal history, when screening tenants, while three states have state-wide limits on rent increases. Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia prohibit or restrict the use of certain criminal history. And some state governmental agencies have recommended landlords follow such restrictions even when not required by state law.
Three states have statewide limits on rent increases, including California (where rent cannot be increased by more than 5% plus the percentage change in cost of living or 10%, whichever is lower, in a calendar year), the District of Columbia, and Washington, D.C. And in New Jersey, newly constructed units are exempt from rent control ordinances for 30 years. Twenty states have ordinances requiring landlords to give notice to tenants prior to rent increases, though notice requirements vary.
Twenty-one states have regulations banning discrimination based on source of income, including Delaware, Maine, and Minnesota. Forty-four states require landlords to give tenants notice of rent payment defaults before the landlord can begin the eviction process, and the same number have laws prohibiting eviction or other forms of retaliation by a landlord in response to a tenant’s exercise of their legal rights. Three states also grant certain tenants a right to counsel in an eviction proceeding.
The findings align with calls from industry groups following the Biden proposals: in response to the so-called Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, the National Apartment Association made a short statement opposing “expanded federal involvement in the landlord/tenant relationship,” while the National Multifamily Housing Council expressed disappointment that the administration would pursue “potentially duplicative and onerous regulations that are already appropriately addressed under state and local law,” adding that “these efforts will do nothing to address the nation’s housing shortage and could discourage much-needed investments in housing.”