Promoting Housing Stability Through Just Cause Eviction Legislation

NLIHC released today a new brief, “Promoting Housing Stability through Just Cause Eviction Legislation.” Just cause – also known as “good cause” or “for cause” – eviction laws are legal protections that make the lease renewal process more predictable, empower tenants to advocate for better living conditions without fear of retaliation, and promote long-term housing stability for low-income and marginalized renters. The new brief overviews the goals of just cause legislation, shares examples of existing just cause protections, and offers recommendations about ways to advance just cause legislation at the local, state, and federal levels.

The end of a lease term is a particularly vulnerable time for low-income tenants. In many states and localities around the country, landlords are not required to provide a reason for evicting a tenant at the end of a lease term or for evicting a tenant without a lease (i.e., a resident with a month-to-month tenancy). Moreover, landlords who are unable to evict a tenant during their lease term may choose not to renew the tenant’s lease and use the lease holdover as grounds for eviction. A tenant at the end of their lease is also at risk of unreasonable rental increases.
Just cause eviction laws aim to benefit low-income tenants by:

  • Protecting renters from evictions for no fault of their own.
  • Delivering a sense of stability to tenants.
  • Discouraging renters from self-evicting when they receive eviction notices from landlords.
  • Empowering tenants experiencing poor living conditions, discrimination, or other illegal landlord behavior to advocate for improvements with landlords or file complaints without fear of retaliation.
  • In some cases, protecting tenants from unreasonable rent increases.

Among other recommendations, the brief urges states and localities to advance just cause legislation to ensure tenants at the end of their lease have the ability to renew if they have not violated the legal terms of their lease; provide limits on exorbitant rental increases to prevent renters from becoming extremely rent-burdened or experiencing displacement; and ensure adequate written notice documenting the cause for eviction and providing sufficient time for tenants to either fight their case in court or find a new home. The brief also recommends that local courts and lawmakers should establish stronger mechanisms to collect and analyze eviction filing and judgement data to help housing counselors, legal aid providers, and policymakers better understand and serve low-income renters, enforce existing tenant protections, and understand the impact of state and local tenant protections for the purpose of informing future advocacy and implementation.

For more information about existing state and local tenant protections, see NLIHC’s Tenant Protection Website. See the email here.