Engaging with landlords and tenants is essential to the success of eviction prevention and eviction diversion programs. Now, with local, county and state governments having the opportunity and resources to successfully prevent evictions due to funding, Emergency Rental Assistance Program and Coronavirus State and Local Recovery Funds, that has been made available through the American Rescue Plan Act presents both an opportunity and a challenge.
Local governments now have the opportunity to build relationships with both tenants and landlords during this critical time and build a relationship that is sustained long after the pandemic has ended. Relationships with both landlords and tenants are not built overnight and neither is their trust. So, it is important, for local governments and their partners to be present, ask questions and listen to find common ground. Cities are challenged with understanding the full picture as to why tenants and landlords may be hesitant to participate in eviction prevention or eviction diversion programs. Some of these concerns may be because of cumbersome application processes, accessibility to the application and/or programs and services, unaware of resources, mistrust and misinformation.
It is also important for local governments to invest in engagement strategies by hiring full-time staff such as landlord-tenant liaisons or eviction or court navigators to dedicate time to sustaining relationships with landlord and tenants, and implementing engagement strategies and activities, such as staffing mobile clinics or satellite offices, hosting landlord and tenant workshops, or counseling on eviction prevention, to prevent evictions.
Evictions were an issue long before the pandemic, and now cities have an opportunity to create a long-term investment in not only the programs and services that prevent evictions, but engagement strategies that increase participation in eviction prevention and eviction diversion programs and services.
Moving forward, our recommendations to cities to increase engagement to landlords and tenants include:
Landlord Engagement Recommendations
- Attend Landlord Association Meetings
Going forward, set aside time to attend small and large, formal and informal landlord association meetings to develop and nurture long-lasting relationships with them. Request an opportunity to speak at landlord association meetings and discuss resources and services available to them as well as their tenants.
- Host Local Landlord Convenings
Begin hosting annual or quarterly landlord convenings. At these convenings, provide landlords with the latest information on landlord and tenant and fair housing laws and any program updates to local and state eviction prevention and eviction diversion programs and services.
- Develop a Landlord Advisory Board or Committee
If you have not already done so, consider developing a landlord advisory board or committee to serve as an opportunity for landlords to engage with the city as well as local elected officials. This board or committee can also create a forum for the city to hear issues landlords are facing and offer an opportunity for cities to get valuable input on policy and program design.
- Ask for Feedback on Program or Policy Design
To create eviction prevention programs or policies that are successful, it is important to gather feedback from landlords. You can gather this feedback through surveys, roundtable discussions, landlord advisory bord or committee meetings, local landlord convenings and landlord association meetings.
- Develop Incentives for Landlords to Mitigate Risks for Landlords
Understand landlord’s concerns and mitigate their risks. Consider developing a landlord incentive program that provides benefits such as emergency rental assistance, signing on bonuses, payment for holding units during screening, cleaning fees, ongoing dedicated services and case management for tenants, education and rehabilitation grants.
- Launch a Landlord Social Media Influencers Program or Speakers Bureau
Invite landlords from across the city with different socio-economic backgrounds who have taken advantage of the programs and services offered through the city and/or community partners to talk about their experiences. Have conversations on why they chose to participate and leverage their feedback via social media or video campaign, a landlord association meeting or through a public service announcement.
- Work with Local Courts to Inform Eviction Prevention and/or Eviction Diversion Programs
Develop and sustain relationships with local judges and court staff to inform them of programs and services available to renters and landlords. This relationship is vital to preventing future evictions and providing alternative options for landlords to consider other than pursuing an eviction against their tenants.
Tenant Engagement Recommendations
- Attend Tenant and Neighborhood Association Meetings
Establish relationships with tenants by attending tenant association and/or neighborhood association meetings. At these meetings, it is an opportunity to connect with tenants to answer their questions and provide information on services for eviction prevention or eviction diversion available at the city, county or state level and/or through local community partners.
- Develop a Tenant Advisory Board or Committee
Similar to a landlord advisory board or committee, a tenant advisory board or committee offers an opportunity for tenants to engage with the city as well as a local elected official and create an environment for the city to hear issues tenants are facing and offer an opportunity for the city to gather valuable input on policy and program design.
- Ask for Feedback on Program or Policy Design
Gather feedback from tenants to create eviction prevention programs or policies that are successful. Feedback from tenants can be gathered through surveys, roundtable discussions, tenant advisory board or committee meetings and tenant or neighborhood association meetings.
- Collaborate with Housing and Legal Service Providers and Trusted Community Partners
Work with housing and legal aid or legal service providers as well as trusted community partners to provide tenants with information on services for eviction prevention and diversion programs available at the local and state level. In addition to disseminating information to tenants through housing and legal service providers, consider collaborating with these entities to provide wrap around support services and self-help programs.
- Partner with Utility Services
With the ending of the CDC Eviction Mortarium, utilities in addition to rent will be due. Work with utility providers to coordinate joint messaging through mailers to inform tenants about services and resources, such as emergency rental assistance, available to them to prevent financial hardship.
- Coordinate with City and County Departments
Work with city and county departments that are resident-facing such as Neighborhood Services, Housing, Community Development, Planning, Human Services, Utilities and Libraries to provide information to tenants seeking services and resources related to eviction prevention or eviction diversion. By coordinating engagement, tenants are receiving the same message and understand where to seek services and support.
- Attend and Host Community Events
Consistently attend community events hosted by the city, neighborhoods, and community partners to distribute information to tenants, and host community events geared towards tenants such as a tenant summit or conference to provide timely information about landlord and tenant and fair housing laws and resources to prevent eviction. Also, consider using these events to do intake for eviction prevent or eviction diversion programs such as emergency rental assistance, legal assistance or right to counsel, quality mediation or supportive services.
- Canvass Neighborhoods
Utilize data available to do targeted canvassing in neighborhoods where tenants could potentially be at risk for eviction. Canvassing offers an opportunity to talk to tenants one-on-one and leave information such as door hangers, mailers or brochures with tenants to read through at a later time.