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DeLauro, Ocasio-Cortez Introduce the Know Your Home Act

September 30, 2020
Press Release

Renter protection legislation to digitize and make accessible housing code violations

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) today introduced the Know Your Home Act to increase the transparency of a home’s history including housing code violations and serious health threats. This legislation allows renters searching for new housing to have easy access to information such as lead contamination or other hazards that their prospective landlord had a duty to prevent. In most cities and towns, potential renters can only get this information by submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which can take weeks.

“As people search for new housing during this pandemic and economic crisis, the last thing they should be forced to do is submit a FOIA request to know if they are at risk of renting a home that would harm their health or that has a history of terrible management,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The federal government must take necessary steps to protect renters across the United States from predatory landlords who prioritize lining their pockets over the health of their tenants. Renters should also know who the good landlords are that take care of their properties and ensure safe homes for their potential tenants. I am thrilled to join my colleague, Representative Ocasio-Cortez, in introducing the Know Your Home Act to protect renters and curb predatory rental practices.”

Cities like New York have digitized and made easily searchable all complaints and litigation, violations, and charges for each building. As a result, New York City’s Public Advocate has created a Landlord Watchlist that includes the buildings owned by the City’s 100 “worst” landlords. Landlords are ranked based on objective criteria - the number of open housing code violations - issued to their properties by the City’s housing code enforcement agency.

“Renters should be able to know if their potential new home has a history of housing code violations or serious health threats, like lead contamination,” said Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. “Unfortunately, in most cities and towns, this information is practically inaccessible. I am proud to join my colleague in introducing the Know Your Home Act. During this pandemic and the associated recession, renters need access to this critical information to ensure the health and wellbeing of their families.”

“The need for America’s families to have safe and healthy homes has never been clearer as we battle the pandemic and spend more time at home,” said Amanda Reddy, Executive Director of the National Center for Healthy Housing. “Those homes must support our health, not harm it. The Know Your Home Act will give renters the right to know if their homes have a history of causing harm.”

The Know Your Home Act would require cities and towns to digitize their most recent three years of housing code violations in an easy, accessible manner if they receive federal funding through the United States Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. The bill also authorizes $150 million over five years to help CDBG grantees make this information accessible. Additionally, the Know Your Home Act preempts any federal, state, or local law requiring the filing of a FOIA request for this information.

The Know Your Home Act introduced by Representatives DeLauro and Ocasio-Cortez is cosponsored by Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton, André Carson, Jahana Hayes, and Michael F.Q. San Nicolas.

The full text of this legislation is available here.