US Senate bill would limit how many homes corporate landlords can own

CHARLOTTE — Some corporations have been buying up thousands of homes in the Charlotte area. Some renters say the businesses charge higher rent and are quick to evict, but slow to fix things.

Now U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) of Oregon wants to ban corporate landlords from owning large numbers of homes.

“The American dream is being deeply damaged,” he said. “Let’s get homeownership back in the hands of America’s families.”

Merkley is pushing a bill, the End Hedge Fund Control of American Homes Act, which would limit how many single-family houses companies can own. The penalty would be $20,000 for each home over 100 homes.

Companies with more than 100 homes would be able to sell their homes over multiple years to come into compliance. The bill also has incentives to encourage the companies to sell to “ordinary people who will live in the home.”

The National Rental Home Council speaks for the corporate landlord industry. It emailed Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke:

“Single-family rental homes are providing a critical solution to America’s housing shortage, increasing the supply of high-quality and affordable homes to offer more individuals and families the opportunity to live in neighborhoods located near quality schools, employment centers, and transportation corridors. At a time when hardworking Americans are already being squeezed by the rising costs of everyday goods and services, Senator Merkley’s proposal will only reduce the availability of single-family rental housing while making it more expensive — ultimately hurting the very people for whom access to affordably priced rental housing is so essential. We encourage Senator Merkley to work with our industry to develop policies and incentives designed to help increase the supply of all types of housing, owner-occupied and rental. Increasing the supply of housing to serve the needs of both homeowners and renters is the solution to America’s housing crisis, not penalizing one at the expense of the other.”

Bethany Rodwell said she’d “absolutely” support the Senate bill.

She says she rented two homes from a corporate landlord, had problems, and had a lot of work orders — including for the washer and dryer, ants, doorknobs, among others.

“I have had to find the peace in God,” she said. “I have not played dirty. I have tried to extend grace.”

She told Stoogenke the company fixed some things, but usually only after many delays. “It’s very crazy how fast that they can reach out to you when you owe something, but how you cannot get in touch with anybody but an automated system and they can’t do nothing for you,” she said.

She filed a complaint with the North Carolina attorney general.

Rodwell says she and her landlord are now arguing about how much rent she owes and that the company is threatening to evict her.

VIDEO: Corporate housing purchases on the ride in Mecklenburg County