March 9, 2017
Mayor Muldoon and Jackson Town Council
P.O. Box 1687
Jackson, WY 83001
RE: Tenant Protections
Dear Mayor Muldoon and Councilors,
Thank you for holding an informative and in-depth workshop regarding tenant protections in January. We were very encouraged to hear your support for our neighbors living in the toughest conditions, and look forward to seeing what your legal team brings back for your next meeting. We support the idea of starting with areas that the community can agree upon, such as requiring adequate notice before a rent increase and addressing health and safety issues.
We would like to offer a few points of clarification regarding the various topics you discussed:
1. Non-discrimination: our federal Fair Housing Act includes seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. In the staff report, your legal team identified only one additional class you might want to protect: transgender people. Two important additional classes for protection are left out: sexual orientation and immigration status. These classes are not protected under federal law; they could be under local law.
Please include sexual orientation and immigration status as protected classes in our municipality, and make it illegal to discriminate when it comes to housing, based on these categories.
2. Non-retaliation: your legal team also told you that the federal Fair Housing laws already covers non-retaliation. But that’s only the case when landlords retaliate against tenants for standing up for their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act. So it doesn’t cover retaliation against tenants for fighting discrimination that isn’t covered by federal law (see above), or for anything else like safety issues, repairs, insufficient notice, etc.
Please add non-retaliation for situations not covered by the Fair Housing Act.
3. Habitability: your discussion focused on health and safety issues with homes, such as mold or working plumbing. As your legal team pointed out, most of these issues are already covered under state law. Our hope in raising this issue in a previous letter was that you would consider also covering repairs to major essential appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, because that is not currently covered under state law.
Please include major (critical) appliances in your habitability/repairs ordinance
4. Support for landlords: also on the topic of repairs, we respectfully request that you consider setting up a low- or no-interest loan fund for landlords who want to make the required repairs to their homes. This will prevent the negative effect where some landlords may decide it’s too expensive to make the repairs, and instead they’ll stop renting places long-term to our workers. A loan fund will provide an incentive to make needed repairs. If you want to be sure that public funds have clear public benefit, you could include a requirement that landlords accessing these funds promise to rent at an affordable rate until the loan is paid back.
Please use existing funds designated for affordable housing to support “preservation” of existing affordable housing stock.
Also, we would like to offer our help if you do put together a stakeholder committee; a representative of Shelter JH would be interested and willing to participate.
Again, thanks for your energy and effort for our neighbors in the hardest housing situations.