Mar 2, 2020 - Economy & Business

Sen. Josh Hawley introduces bill to crack down on bad landlords

Sen. Josh Hawley. Photo: Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is introducing legislation on Monday directing public housing officials to better track landlords who do not maintain basic living standards for tenants.

Why it matters: Renters' rights are getting more attention as the nation's affordable housing crisis worsens in nearly all communities.

Details: The Bad Landlord Database Act would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a database of contract violations and terminations with landlords participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Under the law, local public housing authorities would have to report negligent landlords to federal officials.

  • "Bad landlords ... have taken advantage of tenants, failed to provide them the most basic living standards, forced them to live in squalor — all while demanding rent and bills continued to be paid. And because their properties span jurisdictions, they have gotten away with it," Hawley said in a press release.

Background: The legislation was spurred by federal and local investigations into T.E.H. Realty, which owns properties that have received housing assistance payments across the Midwest, including St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas.

  • Local media reported repeated violations of requirements to maintain housing quality standards. Reports of mice, mold, and plumbing issues surfaced, as well as tenants living without working furnaces and refrigerators.
  • The local public housing authorities cut ties with T.E.H. Realty. HUD has opened an investigation into T.E.H. Realty.
  • Currently, HUD does not maintain a database of landlord violations or a system to notify other housing authorities. So other cities may not be aware of the violations and enter contracts with the offending landlords.

What they're saying: The bill has the support of Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas and Legal Aid of Western Missouri.

  • "This bill is a welcome step to improve federal oversight of bad actor landlords and to reinforce protections I have already enacted in Kansas City with the recent passage of a Tenants' Rights package," Lucas said in a statement. "We need more of this type of collaborative policymaking — especially on critical issues such as housing that impact every family."

Go deeper: Renter protections on the rise in response to sky-high housing costs

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