The North Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation that would take rights away from some of the most vulnerable renters in our community.
HB 366 is a Regulatory Reform Bill with a provision that would drastically change the way people who live in motels are treated when it comes their rights as renters and significantly exacerbate the state’s affordable housing crisis.
The bill will be considered for advancement by the N.C. Senate’s Agriculture, Energy and Environment Committee at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 29.
The legitimate purpose of HB 366 is for the faster removal of criminal actors who reside at motels, an issue exposed after eviction moratoriums prevented motel owners from removing residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the legislation would also have the unintended consequence of forcing our most vulnerable community members into homelessness by eliminating tenant protections recognized by the N.C. Court of Appeals in Baker v. Rushing, a case litigated by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy under its old name, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont.
Thousands of N.C. families rely on motels as the housing of last resort to avoid homelessness, especially in Charlotte where there is an extreme shortage of affordable housing.
The pandemic has forced more families into this situation as people lost their jobs and could no longer afford traditional housing.
Thanks to our efforts 30 years ago, N.C. law recognizes that motel residents, who are not tourists with a regular home elsewhere, have the same rights as tenants in conventional homes and apartments.
Those rights include a habitable dwelling with working plumbing, heat, and wiring along with the due process of a fair trial in cases of eviction.
HB 366 would automatically re-classify all motel tenants as “transient guests” for the first three months of their leases regardless of their record of rental payments and good conduct. Doing so gives motel landlords unlimited power to punish and evict tenants who complain about living conditions such as rodent infestation, inoperable plumbing, HVAC issues, or noise.
For those with an eviction on their record, getting approved to rent an affordable place to live is extremely difficult. HB 366 would enable motel owners to evict already struggling residents, including children, and leave them with little to no chance of finding safe housing elsewhere.
This practice will needlessly increase our homeless population and strain public resources. And in the event of another public health crisis, these residents will not be protected by measures implemented to ensure safe shelter just because they do not have conventional housing.
Further, the legitimate issue this bill is targeting can be handled through education on current N.C. law, which already protects landlords by permitting expedited evictions through the court system for criminal actors.
If this provision remains in the legislation, it will only drive our state further into crisis when it comes access to affordable housing.
As an advocate for low-income people, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy urges the bill’s sponsors and the Senate Agriculture, Energy and Environment Committee to remove this provision from the legislation and protect tenants’ rights for all North Carolinians.
What you can do
Contact members of the Senate Agriculture, Energy and Environment Committee and HB 366 sponsors. Tell them long-term motel residents have the same rights as traditional tenants and this harmful measure should not become law. The Agriculture, Energy and Environment Committee will meet next Tuesday, June 29, at 10 a.m. to consider this bill.
Learn about this this systemic problem in our community to understand how HB 366 will impact our neighbors:
This issue is not limited to Charlotte or North Carolina. The expansion of motels as weekly rental options is a systemic problem symptomatic of our country’s affordable housing crisis. Removing landlord-tenant protections for those who have no other options for housing is not the solution.
Learn more about the trend and how people get pushed out of our traditional housing system:
New York Times Magazine – When No Landlord Will Rent to You, Where Do You Go?