WASHINGTON, D.C. July 16, 2020— U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday announced major new legislation to keep renters and homeowners in their homes during the historic COVID-19 pandemic in the wake of a new report showing that nearly a third of Americans missed their June housing payments. The Rent Emergencies Leave Impacts on Evicted Families (RELIEF) Act aims to ban evictions and foreclosures for a year; prevents utility companies from cutting off access to power, water, or gas; prohibits landlords from raising tenants’ rent; and prevents negative credit reporting as Americans grapple with the worst economy in generations. Additionally, the plan provides new assistance and legal protections for borrowers and renters, and increases oversight and accountability for landlords and mortgage servicers.

“Too many families were already fighting to keep a roof over their heads before the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now on the brink of a housing and homelessness crisis, but this administration has failed to address the financial hardship Americans are facing,” said Harris. “Housing is a human right, and that’s why we need this comprehensive plan to help keep Americans safe and in their homes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Senator Harris has championed a number of bills amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, Harris introduced legislation establishing a task force to confront the racial and ethnic disparities of the coronavirus pandemic. In May, Senator Harris announced a monumental bill that provides grants of up to $250,000 to small neighborhood businesses. Harris also introduced a bill that provides a monthly $2,000 check to those struggling amid the pandemic. Additionally, Harris introduced a resolution condemning anti-Asian discrimination caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

As Attorney General of California, Senator Harris made significant strides tackling the state’s foreclosure and mortgage crisis. In 2011, Harris created the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, which investigated and prosecuted misconduct at all stages of the mortgage process. In 2012, Harris took on the nation’s five largest banks and secured $20 billion in financial relief for California homeowners affected by the foreclosure crisis. Harris also sponsored the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a landmark package of laws instituting mortgage-related reforms— including implementing a dual track foreclosure ban and a single point of contact for borrowers, ensuring fair lending and borrowing practices.

Rent Emergencies Leave Impacts on Evicted Families (RELIEF) Act Highlights:

Immediate Relief for Renters & Homeowners:

  • Aims to ban all evictions and foreclosures for a full year
  • Incentivizes moratoriums on energy and water shut offs and helps with arrearages for low-income households after moratoriums are lifted;
  • Bans rent increases
  • Provides a full 18 months to make up missed rent payments

Protects Tenants & Mortgage Holders:

  • Eliminates penalties and late fees
  • Facilitates modification of loan terms
  • Stops landlords and mortgage servicers from reporting unpaid rent to credit reporting agencies
  • Protects borrowers and tenants experiencing bankruptcy

Holds Exploitive Landlords Accountable:

  • Provides state Attorneys General with subpoena and prosecution power to investigate violations of renter and homeowner protections
  • Establishes tenants’ and homeowners’ rights to legal assistance when facing eviction or foreclosure
  • Funds legal assistance to help tenants and homeowners protect their rights in court
  • Directs Congressional Oversight Commission, established by the CARES Act, to oversee landlord and mortgage servicer conduct
  • Prohibits use of any federal funds for rental assistance being used for purchasing foreclosed or distressed properties