Senators Introduce Bill to Help Prevent Small-Dollar Evictions

Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) recently introduced the “Prevent Evictions Act” (S. 2486). While some evictions involve a tenant who owes thousands of dollars to his or her landlord, the legislation is directed to address the significant number of evictions that occur when a tenant owes a few hundred dollars or less and reduce the associated societal costs of these evictions.

The legislation would seek to create a landlord-tenant mediation grant program and direct HUD to study the potential for certain types of rent insurance to be cost-effective eviction mitigation tools. According to the bill, mediation programs bring landlords and tenants to the table to find informal, mutually agreed upon solutions that keep tenants in their homes. The bill would authorize grants to state, local, community, Tribal, and non-profit entities to create or expand mediation programs. In addition, the grant program would also allow for grant funds to go toward translators, ensuring that all individuals have the ability to participate.

The Prevent Eviction Act would also direct HUD to conduct an eviction prevention insurance study and demonstration. In some jurisdictions, potentially more than 40 percent of eviction money judgments are for less than one month’s rent. The bill’s authors say there’s a lack of research on the possibility that certain types of insurance could be cost-effective interventions that keep tenants in their homes, and federal agencies, academics, and think tanks have all recommended further study. The bill would direct HUD to study the potential for certain rent insurance programs to be viable models for reducing evictions. Such models are already used in other countries, in the private sector, and as city-run programs. Upon completion of the study, HUD would propose a demonstration to test the most promising models found in the study.