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Biden Administration, agencies take action to protect renters

Federal Issues Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FHFA CFPB Biden

Federal Issues

On July 27, the Biden administration released a fact sheet detailing new actions to develop the  Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which was rolled out early this year (covered by InfoBytes here). The three new actions aim to support renters by (i) “ensuring all renters have an opportunity to address incorrect tenant screening reports”; (ii) “providing new funding to support tenant organizing efforts”; and (iii) “ensuring that renters are given fair notice in advance of eviction.” Additionally, the CFPB, USDA, FHFA, and HUD concurrently released statements aimed at landlords, reminding them of “best practices” and their obligation to inform tenants of their rights. 

FHFA published Director Sandra L. Thompson’s statement on “best practices” for the delivery of adverse action notices to renters by GSE-backed multifamily housing borrowers. Referencing research showing that tenant screening reports often contain imprecise or inaccurate information, Director Thompson “strongly encouraged” borrowers who deny a rental application to provide written adverse action notices to the applicants and a copy of any consumer screening report that was relied upon. FHFA’s guidance is based on the FCRA’s requirement that landlords and property managers inform rental applicants of negative information from a consumer screening report that resulted in their rental application being rejected or another unfavorable outcome.

The CFPB posted a blog entry that emphasized landlords’ obligation under the FCRA adverse action notice requirement, which mandates that landlords who take any action against a current or prospective tenant based on a consumer report notify the tenant of the decision and how they can contact the company that created the report. The Bureau advised that renters have the right to review their rental background check report and to dispute information they believe to be inaccurate and encouraged tenants to obtain a free copy of the report from the company that compiled it and dispute any errors (covered by InfoBytes here).

In conjunction with the White House press release, HUD announced it is taking multiple actions to improve rental screening transparency and support renters. It is sending reminders to public housing agencies and property owners about their obligation to inform rejected applicants about reasons for their denial, which provides renters with the opportunity to correct any errors. Additionally, HUD is providing $10 million for tenant education and outreach in Section 8 program properties to assist tenants with “capacity building efforts” for engagement with property management. Furthermore, HUD will issue a proposed rule requiring a 30-day written notification for evictions due to nonpayment of rent in certain subsidized housing.

Also mentioned was the recent White House announcement of actions it is taking to combat “unfair and hidden fees” concerning rental housing (covered by InfoBytes here).