A National Survey of Tenant Protections
Housing is a Fundamental Need
For renters, that need is met by multifamily property owners, and to a lesser extent, public housing authorities that provide rental housing. The relationship between these property owners (landlords) and renters (tenants) — and the obligations they have to each other — impact not just property owners and renters, but also local, state, and national economies, and rental market dynamics overall. Federal, state and local governments have sought to establish standards in landlord tenant relations and practices through a range of laws that provide various tenant protections, balancing the interests of landlords and tenants while maintaining a stable rental housing system.
Surveying Tenant Protections
In this paper, we compiled a list of 18 tenant protection questions and surveyed the state-level landlord-tenant statutes in all 50 states, DC and Guam to determine how these tenant protections are treated under the law across the country. We grouped our research questions into five focus areas covering different parts of the renting experience, including tenant screening, rent payments and security deposits, habitability and retaliation, pre-eviction protections and certain aspects of the eviction process.
The laws that govern the landlord tenant relationship vary greatly from state to state, creating different levels of tenant protections and a complex legal framework that must be navigated by both landlords and tenants alike. Our findings demonstrate the extensive diversity of state approaches to landlord tenant laws, with some states showing unique, highly nuanced ways of governing their landlord tenant interactions.
We found that some tenant protections were more common across states, such as the 44 states that prohibit landlord retaliation against tenants who exercise their legal rights. Other state-wide protections were rare, such as a tenant's right to counsel during an eviction proceeding, which is granted in three states, or laws that prohibit the landlord's use of certain information when screening tenants, which seven states have.
We intend this survey to be a useful tool for anyone in the industry interested in landlord-tenant relations and landlord-tenant law.
Read the full report.