Renters in Foreclosed Properties Could Be Left Out in the Cold

The Permanently Protect Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2013 (H.R. 3543, S. 1761) is just one of the many pieces of unfinished business for the 113th Congress. This bill would make permanent the only federal protection for renters living in foreclosed properties.

The law was originally passed in May 2009, a year in which a record-breaking number of foreclosures took place. It protects renters who continue to pay their rent even if their landlord has fallen behind on his or her mortgage payments. The law also ensures that tenants are able to stay in their homes until their lease ends or for at least 90 days after the property owner’s foreclosure is completed.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, rental properties make up approximately 20 percent of all foreclosures. Unfortunately, more specific data on the characteristics of occupants at the time of a property or unit’s foreclosure are unavailable.

Without an extension of the law, banks and landlords in foreclosure would be able to force tenants to vacate their homes with little or no notice, as was the case in many states prior to 2009. Renters living in these properties would potentially be pushed out onto the street and left with few options. According to congressional testimony, as many as 10 percent of families in homeless shelters in Minneapolis between 2008 and 2010 had become homeless after a landlord foreclosed on the property they had lived in.

Paying for moving costs, renting storage units, finding time to hunt for housing on short notice, and putting down a security deposit on a new home can be daunting for any renter. These tasks are even more overwhelming for lower-income households, and foreclosures are most frequently taking place in census tracks with higher levels of poverty. The sudden loss of housing that results from foreclosure-related eviction can push vulnerable families into homelessness.

The original law has successfully protected renters' financial security in the wake of the Great Recession. In surveys of organizations that work with tenants in foreclosure, the National Low Income Housing Coalition found 92 percent of legal service providers and 90 percent of housing counselors used the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act when serving their clients.

It is crucial that Congress make this protection permanent. Responsible tenants should not be punished for their landlord’s financial troubles. 

For Further Reading:

Housing Subsidies: An Unfair Playing Field, The Fine Print blog, March 18, 2014

Privatizing Public Housing, RAD-ically, The Fine Print blog, March 11, 2014

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much unfinished business