Today U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced legislation to coordinate actions of federal and local housing authorities to crack down on landlords who fail to uphold basic living standards for their tenants. The Bad Landlord Database Act requires the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create a comprehensive database of terminations of contracts with landlords due to violations of Housing Assistance Payments contracts. The legislation also requires local public housing authorities (PHAs) to report bad landlords to HUD.
"Bad landlords have abused our housing system for too long and it’s happening right here in Missouri. They 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 continue to be paid. And because their properties span jurisdictions, they have gotten away with it. It’s time we hold these scumbag landlords accountable. This legislation will be a major step forward in getting tenants and local communities the transparency and relief they deserve."Senator Josh Hawley
Mayor Lucas said, "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. Just as that package was crafted through close collaboration with City Council and local advocates, I appreciate the effort Sen. Hawley has made to solicit feedback from local jurisdictions in crafting his legislation. We need more of this type of collaborative policymaking -- especially on critical issues such as housing that impact every family — and I remain committed to strengthening our partnership to prioritize the 49 percent of Kansas Citians who are renters."
Executive Director of the Legal Aid of Western Missouri Joe Dandurand said, "Our Housing Team at Legal Aid of Western Missouri is very appreciative of Senator Hawley’s efforts to legislatively improve the plight of our low-income clients with extremely difficult housing issues. We believe this proposed bill is a very good step in the right direction and we applaud the Senator’s recognition of the need to address this chronic issue in Missouri, not just in the major urban areas, but throughout rural Missouri as well."
Executive Director Legal Services of Eastern Missouri Dan Glazier said, "The problem of substandard, low-income housing is a very significant issue facing the clients we serve throughout eastern Missouri. The lack of decent, affordable housing is a crisis for those in need. We appreciate Senator Hawley's recognition of this challenge our low-income clients face and his efforts to address this problem."
After touring one of TEH Realty’s most dangerous and unlivable properties, Bridgeport Crossing, Senator Hawley called for federal investigations into TEH Realty properties in both St. Louis and Kansas City that have received federal funds in the past. HUD has opened an investigation into the properties, and Secretary Carson has since said there will be “consequences” for TEH Realty. The St. Louis, St. Louis County, and Kansas City PHAs have determined that they will no longer contract with the landlord.
When landlords participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program threaten the wellbeing of tenants by neglecting proper maintenance of their properties, tenants and taxpayers deserve preventative action by housing officials. Unfortunately, our current system leaves local public housing authorities (PHAs) blind to offenses committed outside their own jurisdiction, depriving them of the information they need to protect tenants from landlords who have proven themselves unworthy of federal housing dollars.
PHAs can suspend business with offending properties within their jurisdiction, as in the case of TEH Realty in Missouri, where the St. Louis St. Louis, St. Louis County, and Kansas City PHAs have cut ties with the landlord for repeated violations of housing quality standards. But this remedy does little to inform other jurisdictions contracting with TEH Realty that such offenses and enforcement actions have occurred.
Surprisingly, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lacks both a nationwide list of offending landlords and a data-sharing tool to inform PHAs when such offenses take place. HUD and PHAs need more tools to ensure compliance with housing quality standards. In the interest of remedying this glaring oversight gap, Senator Josh Hawley will introduce legislation to create a national bad landlords’ database to give local housing officials the information they need to ensure that bad landlords victimizing tenants across the country are not also victimizing tenants within their own jurisdiction.
The Bad Landlord Database Act will:
- Require HUD to create a comprehensive database of properties and property owners participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
- Require PHAs to report to HUD any actions it takes against properties and property owners for violating the terms of their Housing Assistant Payments contracts related to housing quality standards.
- Require HUD to create a comprehensive list of all such violations and any actions PHAs take against the offending properties and property owners.