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Ask McEnearney: What is the Blueprint for a Renter Bill of Rights?

This week’s Q&A column, sponsored and written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria, is a bit of a departure from our usual format. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact us at 703-549-9292. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What is the Blueprint for a Renter Bill of Rights? New federal guidelines aim to bring fairness to the rental market.

Answer: It has been a tense few years for renters and landlords, with rising housing costs due to shrinking inventory and inflation running headlong into the Covid-19 pandemic and federal and local moratoriums that prohibited landlords from evicting tenants.

Adding complicating factors like the rise of short-term rentals such as AirBnB and VRBO, and private equity investors — many from outside of the United States — who are buying up starter homes, apartment buildings and the land beneath trailer parks, the roughly 35 percent of population — approximately 44 million people — navigating the U.S. rental market may feel like it’s the Wild, Wild West with few places to turn for help.

Enter the White House’s Blueprint for a Renter Bill of Rights.

Released on January 25, 2023, this policy paper areas that the Biden Administration wants to see implemented at state and local levels to follow the lead of “the new commitments by federal agencies to advance a stronger, more equitable rental market.” Included in the new Blueprint is the Resident-Centered Housing Challenge, which seeks input from stakeholders and community leaders and “encourages states, local, Tribal, and territorial governments to enhance existing policies and develop new ones that promote fairness and transparency in the rental market.”

These are not new laws but instead are a set of principles that the White House and participating agencies — including the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Defense (involved on behalf of military personnel) and Department of Justice — say will “support the development of policies and practices that promote fairness for Americans living in rental housing.”

According to the White House announcement, the Blueprint “sets out five common-sense principles that create a shared baseline for fairness for renters in the housing market,” including access for renters to:

  • Safe, Quality, Accessible, and Affordable Housing
  • Clear and Fair Leases: Lease with defined rental terms, rights, and responsibilities
  • Education, Enforcement, and Enhancement of Renter Rights: Federal, state, and local governments should do all they can to ensure renters know their rights and to protect renters from unlawful discrimination and exclusion.
  • The Right to Organize: Renters should have the freedom to organize without obstruction or harassment from their housing provider or property manager.
  • Eviction Prevention, Diversion, and Relief: Renters should be able to access resources that help them avoid eviction, ensure the legal process during an eviction proceeding is fair, and avoid future housing instability.

However, without judicial consequences behind this effort, what the Blueprint means for the local Washington-Metro market is still to be worked out. But rising eviction rates in all jurisdictions makes this an issue that local leaders are being pressed to address.

For more information about rental assistance in a specific local area, please visit these resources for additional information:

Virginia

Maryland

Washington, D.C.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria