Over the past year, Right to Housing Alliance has been working on taking the human rights principles of Universality, Equity, Participation, and Peace & Dignity that we hold at the core of our work, and figuring out what they could look like on the ground in Baltimore. The result is the Renters’ Bill of Human Rights. You’ll be seeing a lot of this in the near future. For now, take a look, and please let us know what you think!
Right to Housing Alliance
RENTERS’ BILL OF HUMAN RIGHTS
To advance the human right to housing, Property Owners (“Owners”) agree to observe and comply with the following rights (“Bill of Rights”) of persons who rent residential apartments from them (“Renters”):
1. Universality/Non-DiscriminationRenters and potential renters have the right to rent an apartment or renew a lease without regard to race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity national origin, religion, color, age, immigration status, marital or familial status, criminal background, disability, creed, source of income (including Housing Choice Vouchers) or membership in any other protected class recognized by federal, state, or local law.Owner will take proactive steps to comply with federal, state, and local fair housing laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.Owner will treat all Renters substantially equally in providing services as reasonably permitted by the infrastructure of each managed property and in enforcing the terms in Renters’ leases and property rules.2. Equity:Renters have the right to rent their apartments without being charged illegal fees or penalties or being subject to cost-shifting schemes prohibited by law.Renters will be given at least 90 days written notice by Owner of any rent increase before the rent increase will take effect, and Owner will provide information with any notice of rent increase that explains the need for or cause of any rent increase. Renters will have the right to negotiate any proposed rent increases with the assistance of a third party mediator.Owner will only increase the rent on an apartment after the apartment has been inspected for defects that threaten health or safety and any existing defects have been corrected.Owner will post notices in its property management offices of job openings with Owner and will make information about those openings available to Renters upon request; further Owner will not discriminate against otherwise qualified Renters in hiring for those positions.Renters should not be evicted from their property, either during the course of a lease, or by failure to renew a lease without just cause and without the Owner required to sue for eviction in a court of law.3. Participation:Renters have the right to organize freely, including the right to form and join independent tenant associations or unions of their choice, to distribute and post relevant literature, to recruit members, and to enlist support for these efforts from outside organizers. Through these tenant associations or unions, residents shall have the authority to collectively bargain with Owner over rents, maintenance, or tenant grievances.Renters have the right to organize and to pursue their rights and interests under the law, the lease, or this Bill of Rights without fear of retaliation, interference, or intimidation.Owner will hold quarterly meetings open to all Renters to hear issues of individual or community concern and discuss potential solutions to these problems at those meetings. Owner will send timely, advance notice of the meetings to all Renters.4. Transparency:Each Renter has the right to reasonable access upon request to any documents or information related to the Renter’s lease, lease renewal, the status of existing maintenance work orders, the maintenance history of the Renter’s apartment (including any code violations), the Renter’s ledger or accounting of charges and payments, this Bill of Rights, and Owners’s licensing, registration, and lead risk reduction compliance documentation for the property at which the Renter resides.5. Peace & Dignity:Renters have the right to a safe, secure, and healthy living environment that meets or exceeds local building and health code requirements and that gives each Renter quiet enjoyment of his or her apartment, as well as the common areas of the buildings and grounds.Renters have the right to contact property management about emergency maintenance needs after regular business hours and on weekends.Owner will timely and thoroughly repair conditions that threaten Renters’ life, health, or safety, and Owner will not file a court action seeking rent from a Renter when it has received notice that such a condition of disrepair exists unless and until it has repaired the condition.Owner will repair other significant defects, upon request, in a reasonably timely manner. In the event that repairs are not made in a reasonably timely manner (30 days), Owner will abate Renters’ rent due in the amount of 5% per day repairs are not made.Renters have the right to temporarily relocate during any extended period of repair of their unit and to be reimbursed by Owner for the reasonable cost of temporary relocation.Owner will not unduly interfere with the privacy of Renters and, except in emergencies, will provide at least 24-hours written notice of entry by Owner or Owner’s contractor into a Renter’s apartment, including the reason for such entry, the expected date, time, and expected duration of such entry, and the full name and employment status of any staff, contractor(s), or subcontractor(s) who will be entering the unit.
Property Owner will take all necessary steps to comply with these rights.
In the event that any part of this Bill of Rights conflicts with any part of the Renter’s lease, the terms of this Bill of Rights will supersede any conflicting terms in the Renter’s lease.
Property Owner will send each Renter residing in Owner’s property a copy of this Bill of Rights and inform each Renter that this Bill of Rights will be incorporated into the Renter’s next renewal lease when and if that lease is renewed.