The Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky (HHCK), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, is leading the Healthy Homes Coalition, which is working to pass legislation that would extend Kentucky’s Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) to apply on a statewide basis.
First enacted by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1974, and based on a 1972 model bill drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on State Laws, the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) serves to “encourage landlords and tenants to maintain and improve the quality of housing” and clarify the “rights and obligations of landlords and tenants.”
URLTA provides important protections for tenants and landlords. The most important of these protections is a standard of habitability, which provides tenants legal recourse to remedy unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions. URLTA also protects tenants by requiring landlords to give 48 hours notice before entering a property and to provide documentation of damages before retaining security deposits. Moreover, the law protects tenants from retaliatory evictions.
For landlords, URLTA codifies industry best practices and provides a uniform and expedited eviction process. More generally, URLTA requires tenants to pay rent on time, maintain their unit, and abide by basic health, safety, and behavioral guidelines.
The original statute enacted in 1974 included a provision that limited the scope of URLTA to the cities of Louisville and Lexington, which fall into a category in Kentucky known as First Class Cities. In 1983, the Kentucky State Supreme Court struck down URLTA on the basis that it applied a general provision to specific jurisdictions. In 1984, the Kentucky State Legislature readopted URLTA with a provision that gave jurisdictions the choice to opt in to implementing the legislation.
To date four of the state’s 120 counties have implemented URLTA, and another six counties have some portion of the county applying ULRTA. There are 110 counties in Kentucky where no part of the county has any specific landlord-tenant law. In jurisdictions without URLTA or local laws establishing a standard of habitability, there is no legal recourse for tenants to address unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions. According to Curtis Stauffer, Executive Director of HHCK, “Tenants in many of these communities could literally have an open sewer flowing through their apartment and no legal protection.”
In order to expand the benefits of URLTA to all tenants and landlords in Kentucky, HHCK is undertaking a campaign known as the Healthy Homes Coalition to build support and pass legislation that will implement URLTA on a statewide basis. The Healthy Homes Coalition includes key statewide organizations such as the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, leading grassroots community organizers Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and many other state and local organizations.
This spring, HHCK and the Healthy Homes Coalition worked with legislators to introduce a bill (HB 368) that would implement URLTA on a statewide basis and prevent localities from enacting or retaining any ordinances related to the subjects encompassed by the bill. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Johnny Bell (D), Mary Lou Marzian (D), and Jim Wayne (D). Although the bill did not receive a hearing due to time constraints after being referred to committee, a hearing about the issue is scheduled for this fall. The Coalition hopes the legislation will be reintroduced in the next session.
In addition to receiving support from legislators, statewide implementation of URLTA was recommended by the Kentucky Housing Corporation in its Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, Our Right to Choose Where We Live. The AI identifies the limited footprint of URLTA as a barrier to fair housing choice and emphasizes the need to “have URLTA passed as the law in all jurisdictions across Kentucky.” Furthermore, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights issued a resolution supporting statewide implementation of URLTA on the basis that it is necessary to combat housing discrimination.
In the coming months, HHCK and the Healthy Homes Coalition plan to build their base of support and educate legislators about URLTA. They expect little or no opposition from major landlords, but they do anticipate resistance from landlords that have small portfolios. HHCK and the Healthy Homes Coalition hope to pass legislation for statewide implementation of URLTA in the spring 2016 session of the Kentucky State Legislature.
For more information contact Curtis Stauffer, Executive Director of HHCK, at firstname.lastname@example.org.