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Preventing Homelessness for Renters

Since the housing crisis began in 2008, property foreclosures have remained a national epidemic. Though most people think of the housing crisis as affecting single family home owners, many renters have lost their homes since the bubble burst.

Research indicates that:
• An estimated 20% of all foreclosures are rental properties;
• 40% of families facing eviction due to foreclosure are renters; and
• 37% of all children affected by foreclosure live in rental housing.

The tragedy of this situation is made worse by the injustice of it. Renters are innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of the foreclosure crisis, becoming vulnerable to homelessness through no fault of their own. According to an April 2013 report from the MacArthur Foundation, almost three-quarters of the public believes that improving access to decent, affordable, and stable housing is good for the safety and economic well-being of our neighborhoods and communities.

In May 2009, after months of advocacy by the Law Center, Congress passed the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA), a federal law whose fundamental purpose is to protect renters living in foreclosed properties from abrupt evictions and to give them adequate time to find alternative housing. To achieve this aim, the PTFA provides bona fide tenants with the right to remain in their homes for the duration of their lease agreement or, if a tenant has a short term lease or no lease, for a minimum of 90 days with notice. The Law Center’s advocacy also contributed to the act’s extension through 2014.

Too often, however, this federal law is violated and tenants are served with unlawful evictions, leaving millions of people vulnerable to housing instability and homelessness. After hearing from hundreds of tenants and advocates in our nationwide survey of PTFA violations, the Law Center jumped into action. We published a report describing violations of the PTFA across the country, and provided recommendations for improving the implementation of renters’ rights. We also engaged strategic partners, such as the National Association of Realtors, to promote PTFA awareness and to facilitate voluntary compliance with the law. These efforts, combined with our ongoing work in Congress to strengthen the PTFA, have helped thousands of renters to avoid unfair evictions and stay housed.