Now that most state legislative sessions have come to an end, many states have enacted (or are considering enacting) new rental housing laws. To help you and your properties adjust, as well as stay aware of multifamily legislation around the corner, we’ve compiled our analysis of this year’s rental housing law trends.
As you get a good look into the rental housing laws that will/could impact your properties and communities, it’s a good idea to get a look at the big picture. While springtime can paint a scary picture for the rental housing industry as bill after bill gets introduced, the bills that actually pass and fail in summer paint a very different picture
While bills seeking to amend or expand upon existing tenant protections don’t necessarily showcase a trend, bills like these are consistently introduced (and oftentimes passed) every year. This year, Colorado (HB19-1170), Georgia (HB 346), Washington (SB 5600), and Nevada (AB 393) 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. Both Illinois (HB 3671) and California (AB 1188) have some tenant protection bills pending at the moment as well.
Tenant Screening: Criminal or Eviction Record Restrictions
Unfortunately, the number of states who are seeking to limit the accessibility to criminal or eviction records is quite alarming. At the beginning of the year, 9 different states proposed bills that targeted criminal or eviction records (or both).
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 these bills are bad – but the sheer number of these type of bills (across multiple states and in the Senate/Congress) shows that this is a serious trend the housing industry should be looking out for.
Colorado (HB19-1106) and Oregon (SB 970) have both successfully passed bills involving criminal records, while Nevada passed a bill (AB 266) targeting eviction records. That’s not all! Massachusetts’ bill involving eviction records is still pending, as well as there are also a few congressional bills regarding this trend that have been introduced and are still pending. California, Connecticut, and Illinois have also proposed bills under this trend, but these bills have failed.
Although rent control and rent caps have been the talk of the town since 2018, to date, there hasn’t been a single state-wide rent control bill that has passed this year. Failed rent control bills can be seen in Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon.
Don’t get too comfortable though, Californians. Rent control (AB 1482) is still pending in California and is a very real threat on both the state and local level.
Honorable Mentions and Potential Rising Trends
While most of these bills have failed, it’s worth mentioning that 2019 saw a handful of bills aimed at protecting the rights of immigrant tenants. A lot of the language of these bills seems to be inspired in part by California’s 2017 law, AB 291. Although Washington’s bill has failed, Illinois’ Immigration Protection Act (SB 1290) is still pending, and it could be something we see more of in the future.
Another legislative trend should get used to seeing are bills revolving around legalized marijuana. This year, Illinois passed a bill (HB 1438) legalizing recreational marijuana (effective January 1, 2020) and Oregon passed a bill (SB 970) 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.
Whether you’re a property manager from California or a rental property owner from Texas, it’s always important to stay up-to-date on the latest legislative trends. While your state might not have passed new rental housing laws this year, your state could pass new laws (inspired by another state) in the next coming years.