2019’s Rental Housing Laws: What You Need to Know

2019 turned the rental housing industry upside down – with rent caps, stricter tenant screening regulations, and increased tenants’ rights – and set precedent for the decade’s next rental housing laws. While we’ve seen rental housing trends rise and fall (remember the micro-apartment phase?), 2019’s new laws made waves so big we’ll likely see similar bills in 2020. Take a look at the legislative trends that rocked 2019 and could wreak havoc on your rental properties in 2020.

Rent Control

Are you surprised? Rent control and rent caps have been the talk of the town since 2018, and legislators were really pushing for this rental housing trend to go nationwide in 2019. While Colorado (SB19-225), Illinois (HB 3207), and Oregon (HB 2596) all proposed rent control in their state – with all three bills failing – that didn’t discourage California. Throughout the year cities across the coast have enacted their own rent control ordinances to meet tenant demand, and a state-wide rent control law was officially passed in the fall. It’s likely we’ll continue to see a few rent control bills pop up in 2020.

Tenant Screening: Criminal or Eviction Record Restrictions

At the beginning of the year, 9 different states proposed bills that targeted the use of criminal or eviction records (or both) for tenant screening. Portland, OR, Minneapolis, MN and the state of New York all made significant changes to how rental properties can vet rental applicants.

What does this have to do with the multifamily housing industry? Simply, the harder it is to access criminal or eviction records, the less likely you’ll see that information on your rental applicant’s background screening report. Not all of the laws proposed or passed are bad – Colorado’s HB19-1106 actually enforces some pre-existing industry standards – but the sheer number of these type of bills (across multiple states and in the U.S. Senate/Congress) shows that this is a serious trend the housing industry should be looking out for in 2020.

Tenant Protections

As with every year, there were plenty of bills involving tenant protections that passed. This year, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Washington, and Nevada passed various tenant protection bills, ranging from amending their definitions and procedures involving the warranty of habitability to including tenant protections for workers during a government shutdown. Of course, bills relating to tenant protections and other common rental housing procedures (like notices and eviction requirements) will be proposed in 2020.

Potential Rising Trends

One legislative trend you won’t be seeing the last of is bills revolving around legalized marijuana. This year, Illinois passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana and Oregon passed a bill barring rental property owners from denying an applicant housing because they have a medical marijuana card or a prior minor marijuana criminal charge. As states establish where they stand on legalization (or create bills working out the kinks of legalization), you’ll likely see a handful of these bills in the coming years.

On top of marijuana bills, you might also see more legislation involving service animals or emotional support animals. Although this type of legislation was more popular in 2018, with Indiana passing SB 240 and South Dakota passing SB 119, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) recent press release encouraging the investigation into fake assistance animal document websites and Illinois’ new law is promising.

What are your 2020 predictions? in the comments below!

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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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