Comprehensive bill will ban evictions, foreclosures, utility shutoffs, rent increases, and negative credit reporting during historic health and economic crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday announced major new legislation to keep renters and homeowners in their homes during the historic COVID-19 pandemic in the wake of a new report showing that nearly a third of Americans missed their June housing payments. The Rent Emergencies Leave Impacts on Evicted Families (RELIEF) Act aims to ban evictions and foreclosures for a year; prevents utility companies from cutting off access to power, water, or gas; prohibits landlords from raising tenants’ rent; and prevents negative credit reporting as Americans grapple with the worst economy in generations. Additionally, the plan provides new assistance and legal protections for borrowers and renters, and increases oversight and accountability for landlords and mortgage servicers.
“Too many families were already fighting to keep a roof over their heads before the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now on the brink of a housing and homelessness crisis, but this administration has failed to address the financial hardship Americans are facing,” said Harris. “Housing is a human right, and that’s why we need this comprehensive plan to help keep Americans safe and in their homes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Senator Harris has championed a number of bills amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, Harris introduced legislation establishing a task force to confront the racial and ethnic disparities of the coronavirus pandemic. In May, Senator Harris announced a monumental bill that provides grants of up to $250,000 to small neighborhood businesses. Harris also introduced a bill that provides a monthly $2,000 check to those struggling amid the pandemic. Additionally, Harris introduced a resolution condemning anti-Asian discrimination caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
As Attorney General of California, Senator Harris made significant strides tackling the state’s foreclosure and mortgage crisis. In 2011, Harris created the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, which investigated and prosecuted misconduct at all stages of the mortgage process. In 2012, Harris took on the nation’s five largest banks and secured $20 billion in financial relief for California homeowners affected by the foreclosure crisis. Harris also sponsored the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a landmark package of laws instituting mortgage-related reforms— including implementing a dual track foreclosure ban and a single point of contact for borrowers, ensuring fair lending and borrowing practices.
Rent Emergencies Leave Impacts on Evicted Families (RELIEF) Act Highlights:
Immediate Relief for Renters & Homeowners:
- Aims to ban all evictions and foreclosures for a full year
- Incentivizes moratoriums on energy and water shut offs and helps with arrearages for low-income households after moratoriums are lifted;
- Bans rent increases
- Provides a full 18 months to make up missed rent payments
Protects Tenants & Mortgage Holders:
- Eliminates penalties and late fees
- Facilitates modification of loan terms
- Stops landlords and mortgage servicers from reporting unpaid rent to credit reporting agencies
- Protects borrowers and tenants experiencing bankruptcy
Holds Exploitive Landlords Accountable:
- Provides state Attorneys General with subpoena and prosecution power to investigate violations of renter and homeowner protections
- Establishes tenants’ and homeowners’ rights to legal assistance when facing eviction or foreclosure
- Funds legal assistance to help tenants’ and homeowners protect their rights in court
- Directs Congressional Oversight Commission, established by the CARES Act, to oversee landlord and mortgage servicer conduct
- Prohibits use of any federal funds for rental assistance being used for purchasing foreclosed or distressed properties
Advocates, Experts Praise Harris’ RELIEF Act Protecting Renters and Homeowners Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday announced the Rent Emergencies Leave Impacts on Evicted Families (RELIEF) Act, legislation that keeps renters and homeowners in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The RELIEF Act bans evictions and foreclosures for a year; prevents utility shutoffs and negative credit reporting; prohibits rent increases; and expands legal protections for borrowers and renters.
The proposal received praise from a number of advocates:
“This package will go a long way towards ensuring we do not repeat the mistakes of the last crisis when millions of families were displaced and wealth was transferred from Black and BIPOC communities to private equity, Wall Street and REIT purchasers of foreclosed homes. We need strong protections for homeowners, tenants and mom and pop landlords, we need to track such efforts so that relief finally reaches the hardest hit communities, and we need community control of distressed and foreclosed properties. We thank Senator Harris for taking these important steps,” said Kevin Stein, Deputy Director, California Reinvestment Coalition.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is both a public health emergency and economic crisis unlike anything we have seen in this country in decades and Black people are being disproportionately impacted on both fronts. In the midst of this pandemic, as state and local moratoriums end, we are facing the possibility of an eviction catastrophe. We need immediate action to implement a national moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. No family should be concerned about losing their home during this pandemic,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)
“With the RELIEF Act, Senator Harris demonstrates the scope of the housing crisis that existed before the pandemic, that has been exacerbated by the crisis, and that will follow this moment in U.S. history if we don’t make significant systemic change. She also demonstrates that we can begin the work. The Relief Act, as outlined in the section by section, along with a number of bills currently before Congress, will make great strides toward housing stability for vulnerable Americans,” said Shamus Roller, Executive Director, National Housing Law Project.
“For those families impacted by COVID-19, housing should be their least worry. We support efforts to protect homeowners and renters from eviction and foreclosure while also providing liquidity to mortgage servicers and landlords on federally-backed mortgages. We will need some time for dislocated renters, homeowners, to get back on their feet. We applaud Senator Harris’ intent and legislative direction,” said Faith Schwartz, President, Housing Finance Strategies.
“As the pandemic continues to shine a light on long-standing disparities, we continue to see how housing is not treated as a right for all Americans. We need legislation like the RELIEF Act to make sure that people can keep a roof over their heads. It contains critical solutions like banning evictions and foreclosures, rent increases, and utility shutoffs while protecting tenants, providing housing counseling, and holding bad landlords accountable. Senator Harris’s legislation shows a strong commitment to equity and social justice in housing; it’s something every senator should support,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.