Representatives Pressley, Waters, and Tlaib Introduce Bill to Strengthen Tenant Rights and Protections

Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) introduced on June 29 the “Tenant Empowerment Act of 2021,” (H.R. 4237). If enacted, the bill would strengthen HUD tenant protections and provide tenants with the tools necessary to improve the quality of their homes.

The Tenant Empowerment Act would support tenants with the tools they need to hold HUD and housing providers accountable for poor housing conditions and improve the quality of their homes by:

  • Enabling tenants living in project-based housing to hold their rent contribution in escrow if HUD determines a unit is in serious violation of safe housing standards, with the option of a negotiated rent release if the project owner reaches measurable repair benchmarks
  • Providing tenants with the right to judicial enforcement of project-owner agreements with HUD and USDA to ensure they address serious violations of housing standards or repeated violations of other program requirements, including the rights of residents to organize
  • Increasing transparency to residents by enabling them to access certain building information, including property management, annual operating statement of profits and loss, management reviews, inspection reports, and capital needs assessments
  • Funding tenant-participation services, such as outreach and training of tenants and technical assistance
  • Extending right-to-organize protections to tenants in project-based voucher buildings
  • Establishing a national repair and deduct policy for housing choice voucher holders
  • Providing tenants with a seat at the table by allowing them to participate in certain portions of HUD’s physical inspection and management review process
  • Instituting measures that would ensure tenants’ rental assistance payments are uninterrupted in case of a foreclosure

“The Tenant Empowerment Act builds on the successful advocacy of low-income residents by providing them with tools to hold landlords accountable when they fail to keep residents safely housed,” stated Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO in endorsement of the bold legislation. “Congress should quickly enact this bill – along with robust investments in proven solutions – to ensure that safe, decent, and affordable housing is universally available to every renter in need.”

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