Local: Governmental Affairs
Care to join this committee? Call Karen in the SLAA office at 314-205-8844.
What does the St. Louis market have in common with national trends? Here are a few issues that we are working on at the state level and in conjunction with our National affiliate.
Support Animals and HUD: How can we stop the abuse?
For serval years now, SLAA has worked to find a solution to the abuse of Support Animals coupled with the challenges of compliance with HUD. In 2019 we worked with our lobbyist on the submission of legislation with House Bill 107 that would help to mitigate potential abuse by tenants as it relates to the benefit of reasonable accommodations. The goal is to assure that the benefit of reasonable accommodation applies only to those who legitimately have a need. Unfortunately, the current language of Missouri House Bill 107 only pertains to dogs so if successful, will be helpful to property owners, but will not resolve this issue entirely.
Our united position remains that HUD must revise its guidance or take other steps to mitigate the obvious abuse and protect those who would otherwise, legitimately qualify.
At the national level, NAA and NMHC continues to urge the Department to consider the following industry priorities as it moves forward:
- Require that reliable documentation must come from a third party that has or had a therapeutic relationship with the requester.
- Affirm the right of housing providers to verify the authenticity of any submitted documentation;
- Clarify that individuals requesting multiple support animals are required to show a separate and distinct disability-related need for each animal and that owners may consider the size of the unit to determine the reasonableness of multiple animal requests;
- Specify that the resident is liable for any damages or disruptions caused by the animal (including eviction for noncompliance with the lease), although assessments of deposits or fees for an assistance animal remain prohibited; and
- Include a safe harbor for housing providers that they should not be liable for personal injuries caused by an animal that was approved in good faith.
Section 8 Housing: I need how many inspections?
The Section 8 Housing (Housing Choice Voucher Program) has long served as a primary method of rental assistance. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by local public housing authorities, the program provides subsidized rents for qualifying low-income families in private rental housing. While this program theoretically has the potential to be one of the most effective means of addressing affordable housing needs and supporting mixed-income communities, it is marred by too many inefficient and duplicative requirements. The result of this inefficiency is the reluctancy of property owners to accept such vouchers. As we have seen in the City of St. Louis, our options to refuse these vouchers are limited. SLAA continues to work with local housing authorities to create a more efficient system for occupancy.
Most recently, one of our members commented on a new study conducted by the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, in a recent article by Janelle O’Dea of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The research, completed in partnership with the St. Louis Housing Authority, focused on four ZIP code areas in St. Louis where many tenants receive housing assistance. Application fees and security deposits were found to be the biggest obstacles for the group of 34 participants interviewed. Minimum income requirements were also discussed as an impediment to those attempting to secure housing through the program. The article attempts to portray Landlords in a negative light but we were able to defend this requirement when it was explained that income requirements are in part, a means to protect the tenants from additional financial struggle. This is a topic that we will continue to follow.
Among the many issues that arise from this program, we continue to focus on the following:
- mandatory HUD tenancy addendum that supersedes the owner's lease;
- repetitive unit inspections and;
- resident eligibility certification.
SLAA along with NAA must support the Section 8 voucher program while recognizing the inefficiencies and burdensome regulatory requirements of the system. We continue to work with lawmakers to address these issues but recognize we have a long way to go. Most recently, we have met with the City of St. Louis Housing Authority to help our members comply with the new mandatory voucher ordinance while working to address some of the aforementioned issues.
Nuisance Abatement: Due process is "still a thing"?
Thousands of local governments across the United States, including the City of Florissant, have implemented laws intended to curtail problematic properties. Nuisance abatement laws levy penalties on housing providers when their property requires a significant amount of police or emergency services. In a similar fashion, crime-free housing laws hold apartment owners responsible for the behavior of their residents.
Penalties imposed on a property owner or operator who does not remedy violations may include significant fines, forfeiture of business or rental licenses, or mandate the closure of the property. These punishments are used by the municipality to compel compliance from the apartment owner or operator.
Nuisance abatement ordinances create significant burdens for property owners. On a local level, we have seen lawsuits arguing the due process (or lack thereof) of such policies or the improper and inconsistent implementation of these ordinances. We are currently working with the ST. LOUIS RELATORS ASSOCIATION on litigation against the City of Florissant for its Nuisance Abatement ordinance with the hope that a successful outcome in that matter will serve as a warning to other municipalities that due process “is still a thing” and such ordinances will be challenged.