(LoanSafe.org) – Despite a federal law enacted in 2009 to protect renters living in foreclosed properties, many tenants across the country are still being threatened with eviction and are being forced to leave their homes on short notice. A report released today by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, Staying Home: The Rights of Renters Living in Foreclosed Properties, explains the impact of the new law and discusses problems with its implementation, and summarizes the results of a 50-state survey of developments in state laws protecting tenants living in foreclosed properties since early 2009.
The report reveals that while progress has been made at both the federal and state levels to protect the rights of renters living in properties subject to foreclosure, further protections for renters – and better enforcement of existing protections – are needed.
In May 2009, in response to advocacy by the Law Center and others, the federal government enacted the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (“PTFA”), which provides important federal protections for tenants in foreclosed properties, including the right to receive 90 days’ notice before being required to leave the property and, in many cases, the right to remain for the length of the tenant’s existing lease term.
Even with the PTFA, many tenants across the country are still being ordered to vacate their homes with little notice once the property enters foreclosure. For example, even though she had been paying her rent on time,”Beverly,” a resident of a rental property in Ohio, came home one weekend to find her apartment had been padlocked, and her belongings removed. She did not know the building was in foreclosure, and its new owners had illegally evicted her. Forced to stay with relatives, as even her bed had been taken, Beverly’s rights under the Act were violated. Staying Home assesses the implementation and compliance issues with the PTFA to date.
The PTFA does not negate any greater legal protections provided to tenants under state law; if state law provides stronger protections, those stronger protections will apply. In either case, the PTFA leaves many issues to be determined by state law, such as what form the notice to the tenant is to take. Over the past year, many states have adopted new laws in protection of tenants facing foreclosure, and more legislation is currently pending. Staying Home’s survey of state laws reveals that since February 2009, 30 states plus the District of Columbia have enacted new state laws enhancing the rights of tenants in foreclosed properties and/or have proposed new legislation pending in the state legislature.
In at least 21 states, there is proposed legislation pending that would improve protections for tenants in foreclosure. For example, proposed legislation in Massachusetts would protect tenants in foreclosed properties from eviction without just cause, such as failure to pay rent or violation of a lease term. In Minnesota, proposed legislation would require persons who take over property as the result of a foreclosure to maintain as rental property any property used as rental property by the landlord, offer renewal leases to tenants of the foreclosed property, and keep affordable rent levels in place.
Unless the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act is extended, it will expire in 2012.