Currently, there are three types of eviction in Vermont: nonpayment, for cause, and no cause.

  • Nonpayment evictions occur when a tenant fails to pay rent in full or on time.
  • For cause evictions occur when a tenant violates the terms of their lease.
  • No cause evictions occur at the landlord’s discretion.

Both nonpayment and for cause evictions are types of just cause evictions, because the tenant is being asked to leave for a specific reason.

What will the charter change do?

The Charter Change would alter the Municipal Code of Burlington in order to make it possible to create a Just Cause Ordinance. The Charter Change, which will be voted on first by City Council, then by the voters in a general election, and then need to be approved by the Vermont Legislature, does not enact a Just Cause policy. It is enabling language that allows for the creation of an ordinance.

What will the ordinance do?

Under current law, even tenants who abide by all terms of their lease and pay their rent on time can be asked to leave for no reason with a no cause eviction. The Just Cause Ordinance would eliminate the possibility of no cause evictions in the city of Burlington, meaning that tenants could only be evicted for specific violations.

Will the ordinance hurt me financially?

No. You will retain the right to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, and you will also retain the right to evict a tenant for the reasonable terms that are already outlined in your lease, including but not limited to criminal activity, property destruction, or subletting without consent.

The Charter Change is not rent control. The current language says that “The ordinance may also set a maximum rent increase with the purpose of preventing de facto evictions.” This is another measure aimed at protecting tenants’ housing security.

  • What if I want to move myself/friend/mother/child into my rental unit?
    This would be allowed under the current charter change, as removing the property off the rental market is considered an exemption.
  • Where can I find more information on this?
    The Burlington City Council Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalization (CDNR) and Charter Change committees have posted research from around the country as well as testimony from those in favor and opposed to the proposed charter change in the committee Agendas and Supporting Documents sections of http://burlingtonvt.gov/.
  • Are any landlords exempt from this?
    In unit landlords and landlords who live in the buildings they lease, up to a triplex.
  • Will I still be able to run background & credit checks on prospective tenants?
    Yes.

Why should I support a just cause policy?

Evictions destabilize tenants’ physical health, mental well-being, and finances. [2]

Even among tenants who have not received a no-cause termination notice, studies have shown that the mere possibility of receiving one negatively impacts their well-being. [3]

Protected classes of tenants are disproportionately affected by no cause evictions.

Under the current law, disabled tenants who request a reasonable accommodation can receive a no cause termination so that the landlord is not held to the ADA’s legal obligations. [4]

Vermont Legal Aid has found that “landlords also commonly terminate the tenancies of families with young children…Because these [children’s] behaviors rarely rise to the level of a lease violation, landlords often prefer to terminate families’ tenancies for no cause than to manage kid-related conflicts between neighbors.” [5]

A preliminary study out of Milwaukee shows that Black and Hispanic renters receive evictions at a higher rate than white renters, while women are more than twice as likely to be evicted as men. [6] [7]

Households that experience involuntary moves are more likely to move to poorer quality housing in areas with higher rates of poverty and crime. [8]

The Just Cause ordinance will help landlords.

  • Tenants have reported that they feel afraid to address needed repairs – even severe habitability uses – because of the threat of no-cause eviction. [9] The just cause eviction provision will foster more open and trusting communication between landlords and long-term stable tenants. With a Just Cause ordinance, tenants may be more likely to alert you to minor problems before they become big problems requiring major renovation.
  • Though retaliatory and discriminatory evictions are not legal, some landlords choose to carry them out anyway under the guide of no-cause evictions. By providing the reason that you are asking your tenant to leave, you can show that your reason for doing so is legal and reasonable.
  • A just cause policy helps create a level playing field for all landlords. All Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties in Burlington, including those owned by Champlain Housing Trust and Burlington Housing Authority prohibit eviction or termination of tenancy without just cause. Northgate Apartments also has a just cause provision in its leases.

The Just Cause ordinance will strengthen our community.

  • The housing market in Burlington is very tight and expensive. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau Data show that 59% of Burlington’s tenants are cost-burdened (paying more than a third of their income on rent), while 33% are severely cost-burdened (paying more than a half). Chittenden County’s extremely low vacancy rate sits at about 1.9%. [10]
  • When tenants leave their housing involuntarily, they tend to move to neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty and crime, which are linked to poor health outcomes, especially for children. [11]
  • Housing stability keeps our community socioeconomically diverse.

“Just cause will provide good tenants who pay the rent, keep their apartments in good shape, and don’t cause problems with their neighbors the kind of housing stability that everyone needs as a platform for a successful, independent life.” – Erhard Mahnke, Burlington Landlord

Sources

  1. City of Burlington. “DRAFT: Frequently Asked Questions about Just Cause Eviction.” (October 21, 2020)
  2. Hiser, Jennifer, Ellen Morris, Hannah Payne, Amy Plovnick, and Ayesha Shahid. “Just Cause Eviction: Rapid Health Impact Assessment.” Massachusetts Area Planning Council (2016): 26.
  3. Thoits, P.A. “Stress and Health: Major Findings and Policy Implications.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51, no. 1 Suppl (November 1, 2010): S41-53.
  4. Vermont Legal Aid Housing Discrimination Law Project. “RE: Why Vermont Legal Aid Supports Just Cause Reform.” (July 14, 2020): 6.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Desmond, Matthew and Tracey Shollenberger, “Forced Displacement from Rental Housing: Prevalence and Neighborhood Consequences.” Demography 52, no. 5 (October 2015): 1751-72.
  7. Desmond, Matthew. “Eviction and the Reproduction of Urban Poverty.” American Journal of Sociology 118, no. 1 (July 2012): 88-133.
  8. Desmond and Shollenberger.
  9. Vermont Legal Aid, “Renters at Risk: The Cost of Substandard Housing.” (January 2018): 16.
  10. Housingdata.org, “Renter cost burden.” Accessed November 18th, 2020.
  11. Jelleyman, T. and N Spencer. “Residential Mobility in Childhood and Health Outcomes: A systematic Review.” Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 62, no. 7 (July 1, 2008) 584-92.