What is the White House’s Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights and What It Means to You
By Taylor Dougherty
What is the White House’s Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights and What It Means to You
By Taylor Dougherty
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What is the White House’s Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights and What It Means to You – By: Taylor Dougherty

     On January 25, the White House released their “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights.” This document was prepared by the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council and identifies five principles the Biden administration desires to shape the residential rental landscape.

     The White House concedes in the Legal Disclaimer to the blueprint that it is nonbinding (it does not carry any legal power and should not be used for any purpose in any legal proceeding) and is not officially U.S. government policy. It even goes so far as to admit the suggestions the Blueprint makes might be in direct contrast to current law. How much this document will affect a renter’s rights is yet to be seen.

The blueprint centers around five key principles.

                1. Access to Safe, Quality, Accessible and Affordable Housing
                2. Clear and Fair Leases
                3. Education, Enforcement, and Enhancement of Rights
                4. The Right to Organize
                5. Eviction Prevention, Diversion, and Relief


     Each principle is accompanied by an explanation of the policy and the steps that are being taken, or planned to be taken, to align current practices with the current administration’s policies. For example, under the first principle, the White House defines affordable housing “mission driven” loans as those that restrict rents at levels affordable to households with incomes between 80 and 120 percent of Area Median Income. One way the White House is putting principle into practice is the Blueprint announces the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) will require at least 50% of all Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae purchases of multifamily loans to be Mission Driven loans.

     Other notable points from the Blueprint include:

– The United States Department of Agriculture is developing a model lease, a tenant FAQ, and a Tenant Rights and Responsibilities brochure to meet the policy of clear and fair leases. 

– The Treasury Department will meet with residential housing stakeholder groups to discuss additional tenant protections including source of income protection.

-The White House suggests, as a policy, that eviction hearings should include a written record, the ability to conduct discovery, and that a tenant may appeal an eviction judgment without bond requirements.

– The Biden administration recommends the States align with sealing eviction filings, even for nonpayment of rent, until a judicial determination is made. The purpose would be to protect a renter’s subsequent lease application from being denied before a judge grants an eviction.  

– The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development will award $20 million in funding non-profit and government legal assistance to low-income tenants at risk of eviction.

     At least initially, many of the increased tenant protections contemplated in the Blueprint will be restrictions contained in and/or tied to government backed loans such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, USDA, etc., much the same way the CARES Act provided additional restrictions to those with many forms of government backed loans. These principles may further be implemented through possible changes to the Fair Housing Act at a federal level, but it also appears that the White House would like many of its principles to be taken up at a local and state level as well. We understand that the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council have engaged extensively with the White House to give housing provider input prior to the release of the Blueprint and are continuing to engage on these issues.