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What is Just Cause Eviction (JCE)?

​JCE policies protect tenants from arbitrary, retaliatory, and discriminatory evictions by establishing specific reasons that a landlord can evict, known as “just causes”. These policies also provide tenants with the right of first refusal to renew a lease when it expires.

Why do we need JCE policies? 

​Shelter is a basic human need, just like food and water. No-cause evictions increase housing insecurity and the likelihood for lower- and middle-income residents to be forced into unsafe and expensive housing. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, no-cause evictions across Vermont rose from 10% to 50% of all evictions. JCE policies are not a “silver bullet” for tenants’ rights, but they are an important policy to create safe, stable, and affordable housing.

Under JCE, what is considered a “Just Cause”?

Just causes for eviction include nonpayment of rent, breach of a lease agreement, or violation of State Statutes regulating tenant obligations or a failure to except new terms in a new lease.

what happens when a lease expires?

Under JCE laws, a lease agreement remains a lawful contract between a tenant and a landlord. However, tenants are granted the right of first refusal to renew a lease after it expires. Landlords still have the right to change the lease annually to adjust for issues as they arise, as long as the new rules are not discriminatory.

Will this make tenants harder to evict?

No. Under a Just Cause Eviction ordinance, tenants can still be evicted for non-payment of rent, if they violate state statutes that govern landlord/tenant relationships (for example, disturbing other tenants’ quiet enjoyment of the property), rejecting a new lease, violating terms of their current lease or damaging landlord property. In short, tenants can and will still be evicted if they fail to act appropriately in their relationship with landlords, fellow tenants and with the law.

How are JCE laws enforced? 

Some people may worry that their town/city doesn’t have the resources to enforce JCE, but these laws are not enforced by municipal governments. The courts and the law continue to be the enforcement mechanisms for evictions under JCE. What changes is that when a landlord files for an eviction, they must give a specific, legally valid reason. The courts decide if the claim meets legal requirements.

Where has JCE already been adopted? 

JCE has been adopted in five states (California, New Jersey, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Washington), and in various cities (including Seattle, Washington DC, St. Paul, Albany, and Baltimore). Over 3.25 million privately owned apartments that receive federal housing tax credits operate under this provision.

Will JCE create new challenges for the landlord or neighbors if a tenant is causing harm?

In short, no! JCE protects tenants from unfair evictions without a legally justifiable cause. There are still numerous just causes for an eviction, including: failure to pay rent, breach of a lease agreement, or violation of State Statutes regulating tenant obligations - such as non-compliance with health and safety standards or disturbance of the peace of other tenants.

Will JCE encourage landlords to discriminate more in who they rent to? 

Housing Discrimination is illegal for protected classes under the Federal Fair Housing Act and additional classes that are protected by the State of Vermont, and this will continue to be the case with JCE. Proposed legislation is in the works to further discourage housing discrimination. JCE will make it harder for landlords to engage in discriminatory practices after a lease is signed, by preventing them from evicting or threatening to evict tenants without cause.

Will JCE stop landlords from making needed repairs and updates to rental properties?

Nope! JCE laws can be written to allow landlords to access their property to conduct repairs and to require a tenant to vacate the property if major repairs or upgrades are needed. Without JCE, tenants often avoid requesting needed repairs for fear of being pushed out or denied a new lease. JCE gives tenants the security to make these requests without fear of retaliation.

Do JCE policies prevent rent increases? 

No, rent increases are allowed under JCE. However, since a major rent hike has the same effect as an eviction for many tenants, an effective JCE policy should establish a maximum allowable rent increase, based on research, market conditions and the public process of adopting a local ordinance. With most existing JCE policies, this cap applies only to the current tenant.

Do JCE policies have benefits for landlords? 

JCE can foster more trusting, communicative relationships between tenants and landlords, bolster healthy and socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods, encourage preventive property maintenance to decrease the need for major repairs, and create more stable housing markets. It does not impact landlords’ ability to evict tenants in the case of major lease violations or non-compliance with tenant obligations in the Vermont State Statute.

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