Evictions are a troubling experience for all parties involved. However, they are a necessary part of managing an apartment community. Rental housing providers engage in the eviction process as their only legal remedy to remove a resident who has breached the lease and lawfully regain possession of their property. While most eviction complaints are premised on non-payment of rent, other causes include lease violations and criminal activity. Where possible, property owners seek to mitigate evictions by working with affected residents on payment plans and connecting them with social services.
Lawmakers at all levels of government have tried to address the ongoing financial challenges of cost-burdened renters through legislation, but in many cases the proposed policies end up harming the very populations they are trying to serve. These proposals often come in the form of increased restrictions on the eviction process and rental history screening practices that have severe unintended consequences for renters and owner-operators alike. Examples of adverse eviction policies include increasingly burdensome eviction notice requirements, increasing the cost to file an eviction, expanded right of redemption for residents in default, restrictions on the ability of owners to screen an applicant's criminal and rental histories, abolishing the right of owners to non-renew a resident's lease through just cause eviction provisions, and funding government sponsored right to counsel programs.
NAA opposes adverse policy changes to eviction laws that impede housing provider's ability to manage the risks associated with defaulting renters and fail to resolve the underlying issues that leave cost-burdened renters at risk for eviction.
Just Cause Evictions
Under a just cause (JCE, also known as "good cause") eviction regime, a housing provider is permitted to evict a resident only for reasons as explicitly stated under law. Reasons currently allowed under current JCE laws include: nonpayment of rent; lease violation that remains uncorrected after notice is given by the owner; engaging in criminal activity on the property; nuisance or causing substantial damage to the property; interfering with the safety or enjoyment of the owner or other residents; or because the owner seeks to demolish, substantially rehabilitate or remove the unit from the rental market.
NAA opposes the adoption of just cause eviction laws. Such requirements adversely shift the balance in the landlord and tenant relationship to the detriment of other residents and the community as a whole. These policies put good residents at-risk by limiting the ability of housing providers to manage their properties and act quickly to remove problem residents.
Just as evictions are unfortunately a necessary part of doing business, eviction screening is an essential function which helps owners and operators mitigate risk and ensure the safety and security of residents and community staff. Limitations on the ability to review pending or previous filings would be a significant detriment to the owners’ review process.
NAA opposes all efforts to seal records or limit property owners and managers’ ability to screen applicants for evictions.
As an Owner or Operator, How Does this Affect My Business?
General Eviction Policy
Adverse policies interfere with rental housing providers' use of the only legal remedy available to remove renters who violate the lease agreement, preventing them from effectively managing the risks associated with defaulting renters. While policymakers implement these changes with the intention of making the eviction process more fair to renters, they ultimately fail to resolve the core issues that leave cost-burdened renters at risk for eviction while increasing administrative and legal costs. These costs are eventually passed through to residents, which results in higher housing costs overall. Moreover, the burdensome bueaucratic requirements these policies create discourage housing providers from accepting applicants for housing who may have adverse credit, criminal or eviction history, while also preventing them from swiftly addressing resident's minor financial hardships by making reasonable payment plans unfeasible.
NAA supports the following strategies to mitigate the impact of evictions on renters as an alternative to adverse changes to eviction policy:
- Prescribe an annual cap on right of redemption;
- Establish optional, government-funded [nonbinding] mediation programs in lieu of mandated right to counsel;
- Spread the cost of legal defense programs across all taxpayers instead of placing the financial burden squarely on rental property owners;
- Invest in and promote emergency resources for those who are hardest hit by financial hardships;
- Address financial challenges that leave cost-burdened renters at risk for eviction;
- Promote financial literacy programs;
- Increase funding and improve delivery of existing federal, state and local programs for low-income households;
- Engage in voluntary public-private partnerships that improve housing choice and opportunity; and
- Support policies that increase the supply of housing.
Eviction Screening Policy
Apartment owners and operators require full access to a complete and accurate eviction history of an applicant without limitation on evaluating previous court records. The full and accurate record gives owners and operators the most comprehensive picture of the applicant to determine his or her ability to pay rent.
Legislation placing limitations on the ability to review an applicant’s eviction court records would be a significant detriment to housing providers as they utilize these records to assess applicants’ capacity to pay rent or fulfill other responsibilities under a lease. Owners and operators provide safe, professionally maintained housing of good quality to community residents. In exchange, providers depend on responsible renters to run their business. They must fulfill their own financial obligations, including, but not limited to, maintenance, capital improvements, mortgage payments, utilities, insurance premiums, payroll and property taxes.
Such limitations on screening would also have unintended consequences that would adversely impact low-income residents, such as greater reliance on financial records and credit scores.
Just Cause Eviction Policy
The passage of just cause eviction laws eliminate a property owner or operator’s right to serve a nonrenewal notice on a resident at the end of the lease term. It would require an owner to "show cause" and obtain a court order to terminate a lease. This process also pits neighbor against neighbor. Under JCE laws, owners and managers would have to rely on crucial evidence to evict problem residents including resident testimony. Residents are unlikely to testify in opposition to harassing or even dangerous residents as this would place them in harm’s way.
These policies foster an adversarial relationship between rental property owners and their residents as they become frustrated with the inability of property owners to act on their complaints and remove problem residents. When issues arise, community residents are subjected to living on the property without relief while the investigative and judicial process to convict an individual of a crime takes time. The outcome is good residents move out.