A recent compliance agreement entered into between the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and a California city demonstrates the aggressive approach HUD will take against localities that develop policies that penalize residents for excessive 911 calls or properties with frequent police responses.
HUD and the City of Hemet, California have entered into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement relating to the City’s “Rental Registration and Crime Free Rental Housing Program,” and “Abatement of Chronic Nuisance Program.”
The agreement is the result of a compliance review of the City’s CDBG program that was conducted by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). HUD’s preliminary review identified potential non-compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
This Agreement clearly demonstrates HUD opposition to a trend among cities to create local ordinances that penalize property owners and residents based on the crime rate in an area or the number of 911 calls for assistance. The Agreement requires that the City of Hemet eliminate the “Rental Registration and Crime Free Rental Housing Program,” and “Abatement of Chronic Nuisance Program.”
The Hemet ordinances required owners of rental properties to submit a “Crime Free Certification,” utilize the City’s “Crime Free Lease Addendum,” pass special inspections, attend Crime Free Rental Housing training, and undergo annual code inspections. The lease addendum required owners to evict or non-renew the lease of tenants based on the number of 911 calls they placed and to evict tenants based on arrest records.
By entering into the Agreement, the City will –
- Notify residents of the City that the two ordinances are no longer in effect;
- Not implement any future program that has the effect of replacing the two programs that are being eliminated;
- Submit to HUD for review any new programs relating to code enforcement;
- No longer limit the number of calls for law enforcement or code enforcement generated by or to a property without further inquiry into the nature, cause, or severity of the alleged nuisance or criminal activity;
- Notify all rental property owners and known occupants of rental property that the programs have been discontinued;
- Publish a Notice of Termination of the ordinances in at least two newspapers in the Hemet regional area, including a Spanish language newspaper;
- Provide $200,000 in financial assistance to property owners who rent to low or moderate-income households to proactively address or remediate potential code enforcement violations or otherwise improve housing conditions;
- Report to HUD every six-months on program compliance, including marketing materials and activities; and
- Require all City employees involved with the enforcement of the programs (including Code Enforcement, Police Officers, and all members of City Council) to attend fair housing training.
Local policies such as those that were implemented by the City of Hemet are popping up all over the United States. If you are the owner of a property in a locality that is imposing similar requirements on your property, you should contact the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at HUD (https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint).