Advocates Call on Biden Administration to Increase Tenant Protections as Evictions Climb

Tenant protections must increase as Evictions climb

Credit Image: © Paul Kitagaki Jr./ZUMA Press Wire

Advocates are calling on the Biden-Harris administration and a sundered Congress to improve federal protections for renters at a time when eviction rates are increasing in several cities nationwide.

The calls come at a time when 2.4 million Americans say they are either “somewhat” or “very” likely to be evicted within the next two months, according to data from the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, advocates say few legal mechanisms are available for renters to hold negligent landlords accountable.

“Landlords can engage in abusive and predatory behavior with few consequences,” National Low Income Housing Coalition CEO Diane Yentel said during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee meeting on Oct. 24.

“Renters facing exorbitant rent increases or excessive fees have little to no ability to move to a new home. Instead, renters can face retaliation for reporting unsafe housing conditions or illegal actions by landlords, and because so few renters have access to legal representation, many are unable to assert their legal rights,” she added.

The Biden-Harris administration has taken multiple steps toward making the rental market fairer for renters. For example, the administration increased federal funding for homelessness services programs by 10%, launched initiatives to end unsheltered homelessness, and released a blueprint for a national Renters Bill of Rights.

However, advocates have noted that these efforts have yet to produce meaningful results as eviction rates climb nationwide.

As of September, data from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab shows more than 1 million evictions were filed in the ten states and 34 cities it tracks over the last year. Places like Denver, Colorado, and Maricopa County, Arizona, also continue to tally record-high eviction filings month-over-month.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said during the Oct. 24 subcommittee meeting that part of the issue is that landlords obscure the cost of housing by hiding fees. The Biden-Harris administration announced new protections against junk fees in mid-October.

“Families are being boxed out of the market by institutional investors…and unlike ‘mom and pop’ landlords, these absentee owners are more likely to charge junk fees, evict families, and increase instability in our communities,” Klobuchar said.

To tackle the issue, Yentel said in her prepared remarks that the Biden-Harris administration should begin by fully funding federal housing programs “at the scale needed.” That includes ignoring political brinksmanship from Republicans who want to cut housing programs, she added.

Mayors from some of America’s largest cities have also been calling on the Biden-Harris administration to preserve federal funding for housing and homelessness programs.

Mayors from 20 cities across the country said during a U.S. Conference of Mayors on Nov. 9 that federal funding for homelessness programs must also be protected, the San Bernadino Sun reported.

The administration could also take several administrative actions like directing the Federal Housing Finance Agency to enforce renter protections for households living in homes backed by federal mortgages and prohibit landlords from “rent-gouging,” Yentel added in her testimony.

Congress should also re-enact many of the pandemic-era programs that prevented more than 1.55 million renters from being evicted. Some examples include expanded emergency rental assistance programs and eviction moratoriums, Yentel said.

“Strengthening and enforcing federal renter protections is a critically needed solution to America’s housing crisis, along with eliminating restrictive local zoning laws to increase supply, increasing investments in solutions to address the underlying shortage of affordable, accessible homes for people with the lowest-incomes, and preventing evictions and homelessness,” Yentel added.

How You Can Help

The pandemic proved that we need to rethink housing in the United States. It also showed that providing additional support and protections for renters is a clear-cut way to reduce future increases in homelessness.

That’s why we need you to contact your officials and representatives. Tell them you support keeping many of the pandemic-related aid programs in place for future use. They have proven effective at keeping people housed, which is the first step to ending homelessness.

Robert Davis

Robert Davis

Robert is a freelance journalist based in Colorado who covers housing, police, and local government.

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