Tenant Empowerment Act Introduced

Legislation | July 06, 2021 | by Linda Couch

Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) has introduced the Tenant Empowerment Act of 2020. The bill is cosponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). The bill allows for escrowing of tenant rent payments and a “repair and deduct” rent policy for tenants, expanded roles for tenants in the physical inspection and management oversight processes, gives tenants a private right of action, and expands the type of building information available to tenants.

Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) has introduced the Tenant Empowerment Act of 2020. The bill is cosponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). The bill allows for escrowing of tenant rent payments and a “repair and deduct” rent policy for tenants, expanded roles for tenants in the physical inspection and management oversight processes, gives tenants a private right of action, and expands the type of building information available to tenants.

The Financial Services Committee is the House committee of jurisdiction over affordable housing policy; all three original cosponsors serve on the committee.

The bill, H.R. 4237, is expected to go through various revisions before any further action is taken.

The bill would allow tenants to withhold their tenant portion of the rent and place these rent payments into an escrow account to be released upon improvement of the property. Under the bill, escrowing of tenant rent payments could occur for a variety of reasons including a failed physical inspection score, an unsatisfactory management and occupancy review score, or a  notice of a violation of tenant right to organize. Upon any tenant withholding of rent, the HUD Secretary would be required to do the same for all or part of the property’s housing assistance payment. The bill would also allow for a “repair and deduct” of tenant rent, whereby a tenant could spend up to their monthly tenant rent amount to make repairs to their unit and deduct the documented cost from their rent. The HUD Secretary would develop regulations to carry out the bill’s rent escrowing and deduct and repair provisions.

The bill would also allow a local government, or a petition signed by no less than 25% of tenants, to trigger a physical inspection or management review at the property. The bill would give tenants a private right of action to enforce owner agreements with HUD, give tenants expanded information and roles in physical inspections of properties.

LeadingAge is actively working with other nonprofit affordable housing owners and Congressional offices on the next iterations of this new bill.

Read a one pager on the bill here, and the full bill text here.