Can the White House's 'Renters Bill of Rights' ease crisis for tenants? Here's what to know

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The federal government will soon collect information to pinpoint unfair practices that prevent tenants from finding housing and announced Wednesday a slew of other efforts to further protect renters.

Also new? The White House has announced a challenge for housing providers to enhance current policies, as well as a “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights.”

Here’s what to know about the Biden administration’s recent efforts to help renters.

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What is the ‘Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights’?

The blueprint sets guidelines for the government, state and local partners and the private sector aimed at protecting tenants and making rentals affordable, the White House said in a news release.

The “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights” argues renters should:

  • Have access to housing that is safe, decent, and affordable.

  • Have a clear and fair lease that has defined rental terms, rights and responsibilities.

  • Know their rights and be protected from unlawful discrimination and exclusion.

  • Be able to organize without harassment from housing providers or property managers.

  • Have access to resources that help them avoid eviction and avoid future housing instability.

The document, which was published by the White House Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council, is not a set of laws. Rather, it’s a list of principles “intended to support the development of policies and practices that promote fairness for Americans living in rental housing.”

Where is the government getting information on renting?

Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will look into factors such as tenant background checks, algorithms in tenant screenings, adverse action notices by landlords and property management companies and how an applicant’s source of income factors into housing decisions.

It’s the first time the FTC has requested information looking into unfair practices in the rental market, the White House said in a news release.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency also plans to launch a new public process with suggested renter protections such as limits on “egregious rent increases for future investments,” the Biden-Harris administration said in the release.

Other agencies named in the program include:

  • U.S. Department of Justice: Will hold a workshop to help with potential guidance updates surrounding anti-competitive information sharing.

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Will publish proposed rules that would require public housing authorities and owners of some rental assistance properties to provide at least 30 days’ advanced notice before terminating a lease due to nonpayment.

And the president’s administration says it will host quarterly meetings with a diverse group of tenants and tenant advocates to make sure they can provide their own input.

What is the Resident-Centered Housing Challenge?

The president’s administration also announced a new challenge: the Resident-Centered Housing Challenge.

According to the release, it’s a push for housing providers and other stakeholders to “strengthen practices and make their own independent commitments that improve the quality of life for renters.”

The spring 2023 challenge will push governments at the state, local, Tribal and territorial levels to “enhance” policies and come up with new ones that help increase fairness and transparency in the rental market.

Some agencies have already pledged to participate, such as the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which have capped annual rental increases to 5% per year for federally or state-subsidized affordable housing.

Members of the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, which owns or manages 145,000 housing units across the U.S., have promised to offer payment plans for residents with unpaid rent who have worked with property management.

The members have also agreed to give renters:

  • At least 30 days’ notice to vacate for nonpayment of rent,

  • At least five days to cure a missed rent payment,

  • And 60 days’ notice of any proposed sale or closure of a property.

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia the 757 and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at sdmartin@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden administration’s ‘Renters Bill of Rights’ to curb housing crisis