14-1 Advancing Tenant Protections: Introduction

By Brooke Schipporeit, NLIHC

The power imbalance that exists between renters and landlords puts renters at a greater risk of housing instability, harassment, and homelessness. Because racial inequities are rooted in our country’s deep history of housing segregation and discrimination, this prominent imbalance not only harms renters generally; it further fuels racial inequities.

Tenant protections are laws at the federal, state, and local levels designed to prevent discrimination against and other unfair treatment of tenants who are trying to find and keep safe, decent, and accessible homes. While tenant protections largely exist as a patchwork of state and local measures around the country, there is a growing appetite in Congress and the present administration to enhance nationwide tenant protections.

This issue of Tenant Talk focuses on the following key protections: (1) right to counsel, or a tenant’s right to have a lawyer defending them in the eviction process or in other legal proceedings with a landlord; (2) source-of-income protections, or laws that prohibit discrimination against tenants based on the legal source of income they use to pay rent, such as a housing choice voucher or social security income; (3) rent stabilization, or measures taken to regulate excessive rent increases; (4) “good cause” or “just cause” eviction legislation, or legislation limiting the ability of landlords to evict tenants to a set of specific circumstances; (5) the right to organize, or protections focused on the power of a group of tenants to come together and demand that certain needs or rights are met; and (6) fair housing rights, or rights attached to certain classes of people – defined by race or disability, for example – whose members are protected from discrimination during the housing process based on their membership in the class.

Read on to learn more about tenant protections that have passed in states and local communities and what NLIHC is doing to advance tenant protections at the federal level!