Four Ways Lawmakers are Trying to Fill the Vacuum Left by Deflated Eviction Moratoria

| Updated

3 minute read

Keep an eye out for these policies in 2022.

State and local lawmakers are working quickly to introduce legislation that they believe will stave off a pending “eviction tsunami” – a prediction that has yet to materialize. While well-intentioned, the proposed solutions vary in the adverse impact placed on the rental housing industry. However, these solutions consistently limit the rights and abilities of property owners to manage and provide safe, quality and affordable housing. Moreover, no solution addressed below tackles the root causes of housing displacement: the financial insecurity experienced by renters and the shortage of available housing.

Good Cause Evictions
Commonly implemented at the municipal level, though adopted statewide in places like New Hampshire, New Jersey and Washington, good cause evictions or just cause evictions (JCEs) limit the circumstances under which a housing provider can pursue an eviction. Local lawmakers in Kington, NY recently passed a JCE ordinance that outlines nine legal causes for eviction or termination of tenancy. The new law does define nonpayment of rent as a good cause, but does not allow termination if the inability to pay rent stemmed from an increase of more than five percent of the annual rent. The New York State legislature is pushing a similar bill, re-introduced 10 days before the state’s eviction moratorium terminated. In this version, eight good causes are defined and “unreasonable” rent increases are capped at three percent. Read more on that legislation here.

Right to Counsel
This is a policy supported at virtually every level of progressive lawmaking. Last November, the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced $20 million in funding to support and promote legal services to renters at risk for housing displacement through the pilot Eviction Protection Grant Program. More than 20 states and municipalities passed or considered right to counsel legislation in 2021. The effort to mandate a renter’s access to legal representation when facing housing displacement appears to be losing no steam in 2022.

Increased Filing Fees
The Office of the Attorney General for Maryland reiterated its support for increasing the state’s filing fee for summary ejectment actions when it released its 2022 legislative priorities. Proposals for this measure would raise the financial barrier for housing providers to access the judicial system in response to unpaid rent and prevent recovery of the fee. The proposal is unconscionable to the rental housing industry as no other jurisdiction prohibits a housing provider from recovering filings fees when the court finds in their favor.

Opportunity to Purchase
Providing residents the first opportunity to purchase their rental units when listed for sale is becoming an increasingly popular policy tool in several California cities. The proposal is reemerging outside of the state, most recently being lobbied in Minneapolis after a failed attempt to consider the policy in 2019. Right of first refusal, as it is commonly referred to, is positioned to prevent housing displacement for established renters, but is not a policy that can be applied broadly to all types of property owners, particularly mom-and-pop landlords. Smaller property owners are unlikely to sustain during the delayed sales process and keep much-needed housing off the market.  

As adverse policies like these arise around the country, NAA and its network of affiliated apartment associations will robustly advocate against them, instead working to advance solutions that boost housing supply, remove critical barriers to development and actually address resident financial insecurity.

For more information on eviction policy, please reach out to Sam Gilboard, NAA’s Senior Member of Public Policy.