Policies to Protect Security of Tenure and Access to Housing 

Protection of Tenants in Foreclosed Properties 
Renters may fall victim to abrupt evictions when their rental homes are foreclosed upon. In twenty-one states, tenants – even those that have faithfully paid their rent on time and abided by the terms of their leases – are subject to legal eviction upon 5 days’ notice or less when their rental homes are foreclosed on. The federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, which provided for survival of bona fide lease agreements post-foreclosure and a minimum of 90 days’ notice to vacate, expired in 2014. Several states, however, have passed similar protections at the state level to ensure the housing stability of renters affected by foreclosure. In addition, Representative Ellison and Senator Blumenthal have recently reintroduced PTFA through H.R. 1354 and S. 730, respectively. For more information on the foreclosure crisis and implementation of the PTFA, please see “Eviction (Without) Notice,” a report produced by the National Law Center on Homeless & Poverty.
Violence Against Women Act 
VAWA 2005 ensures that one’s status as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking may not be used as a basis for denying federal housing assistance.  It also establishes an exception to the federal “one-strike” criminal activity eviction rule for public housing tenants who are victims.  Furthermore, it amends federal housing planning requirements to ensure that the needs of victims are considered in local planning processes. These protections were expanded to nearly all federal housing in the 2013 VAWA reauthorization, although they still only apply to federally-funded rental housing. At least 13 states have expanded these protections to privately rented properties as well. In 2010, HUD released its final rule regarding the 2005 reauthorization of VAWA. In order to implement VAWA 2013, HUD proposed rules and sought comment ending June 1, 2015. Beyond VAWA, many states have enacted laws that protect the housing rights of survivors, including at least 13 states that have expanded these protections to privately rented properties. For a review of these laws, please see the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s report, “There’s No Place Like Home.”

Tenant Screening Consolidation 
Such a policy can establish a process to consolidate tenant screening reports so that tenants are required to pay for just one report that can be provided to all prospective landlords. This makes the tenant screening process more affordable and fair for both tenants and landlords. 
  • In 2007, Minnesota State Representative Lesch introduced HF 166, a bill that would have required uniform residential tenant reports.  
  • More recently, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and Representative Walkinshaw spearheaded a campaign to pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act in Washington. This Act would have allowed prospective tenants to purchase and use a single tenant screening report on any housing applications submitted over a 30 day period. The Senate version of the bill, SB 5123, passed the House with bipartisan support but failed in committee.
  • Although neither the Minnesota nor Washington legislation was ultimately adopted into law, these efforts represent potential avenues for reform that could be viable in the future.
  • In addition to making the application process more affordable through consolidated reporting, several other groups have launched initiatives to improve the tenant screening process. For example, The Landlord Liaison Project of King County, Washington partners with the YWCA to provide incentives and continuing support to landlords who agree to rent units to formerly homeless individuals. Another Washington initiative, the Truth in Evictions Reporting Act, would have limited disclosure of eviction proceedings only when the tenant had been found guilty.
  • Several state-level legislative reforms are currently pending, including Massachusetts Senate Bill 840 (capping screening fees), Minnesota House File 126 (prohibiting criminal background checks until after the rental unit is offered), and New York Senate Bill 02798 (prohibiting landlords from rejecting applications due to prior housing court proceedings).

Source of Income Protection 
Such legislation prohibits landlords from categorically denying housing to tenants whose sources of income include a housing subsidy or other sources of legitimate income. For a regularly updated list of State, Local, and Federal Laws Barring Source-of-Income Discrimination, please see the Poverty & Race Research Action Council’s 2015 Report, “Expanding Choice: Practical Strategies For Building A Successful Housing Mobility Program.”