Sometime in the next few weeks Saint Paul City Council is going to be voting on a Tenant Protections Ordinance. It’s an important ordinance that will shield the majority of our city from the predations of a real estate industry and market that has a long, long record of racism and cruelty in pursuit of profit. What Ordinance 20-14 offers isn’t revolutionary, it’s not radical, it’s just common sense protections from the most common grifts that anyone who’s ever rented a home has run into.
The ordinance offers 5 key protections:
JUST CAUSE NOTICE
This rule limits the reasons why your landlord can ask you to move out of your home. Their reason for asking you to leave needs to match to a reason on a predetermined list of justified reasons for asking a person to move out of their home. No more arbitrary informal evictions.
SCREENING CRITERIA REFORM
This protection will limit on what grounds you can deny a tenant a rental. It is another attempt in a long history of attempts to limit the rampant discrimination present in the real estate industry. While I commend the Council’s attempt at this, I am pessimistic about this part of the ordinance’s ability to combat the systemic racism and classism present in our community.
SECURITY DEPOSIT CAP
A simple cap on Security Deposits at one month’s rent. In my own experience I’ve seen places ask for triple that amount causing me to pass by despite being able to afford the rent. I’ve seen more than one friend’s security deposit disappear into vague “cleaning & repair fees” despite helping them spit shine their old apartment before they move out. This cap works to foil abuses from both sides.
ADVANCE NOTICE OF SALE
Another protection that would have personally benefited me in the last 5 years. This protection requires landlords selling their property to loop in their tenants. Giving them ample time to figure out their situation before rent increases or evictions hit. Getting a call from your landlord where they tell you they’ve sold the house and you have 30 days to vacate has a similar emotional effect to being thrown off a ledge. Not in Saint Paul, not anymore.
POSTED TENANTS RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
All these rights and protections available to renters will need to be displayed where they can be easily found.
These protections are an easy sell to someone like me. Landlords have a unique ability to casually inflict life altering events on folks through their carelessness or greed. No grocery clerk has ever bagged my Raisin Bran so poorly that I recall their failure a decade later. On the other hand, three out of five of my landlords have pulled a stunt that would have been thwarted by one of the above protections.
This ordinance has been in the works since the (Chris) Coleman Mayoral Administration. It’s hard to see the hardships in my life and those around me that would have been prevented had the process not taken so long. It burns me up. But we’re here now and I am grateful. Housing is a necessity in people’s lives and we’ve turned it into a casual investment. Time to add some gravity and responsibility to rebalance the scales.
The Tenant Protections offered in ordinance 20-14 are critical, quality of life improving measures that deserve your support. I encourage you to write to your council member if you live in Saint Paul; in fact, write ALL the council members. Odds are in a city of 300,000 people, where 51% are renters, these protections will likely act as a shield for you, or someone you love.