Just cause eviction protections are designed to prevent arbitrary, retaliatory, or discriminatory evictions by establishing that landlords can only evict renters for specific reasons — just causes — such as failure to pay rent. In many cities and states, landlords can evict tenants or simply not renew leases without providing any reason at all. Just cause eviction ordinances (also known as “good cause”) are an important policy tool to prevent displacement and promote tenant stability, especially in neighborhoods where rents are rising and vacancies are low, and where landlords may seek to evict existing tenants to renovate their buildings and attract wealthier renters at higher prices. Just cause also protects tenants who report inadequate housing conditions or request repairs, making it less risky to exercise their right to livable conditions.
Just cause policies have been shown to work: A study of just cause ordinances in four California cities found that the policies were effective in decreasing eviction. In concert with other anti-displacement strategies, just cause policies can help shift the power imbalance between landlords and tenants in the housing ecosystem. Eviction protections promote equity since people of color disproportionately rent and face greater eviction risks: studies have found that Black renters experience evictions at higher rates than other racial/ethnic groups. Just cause policies can help slow the processes of gentrification that can displace entire neighborhoods and maintain neighborhood stability — allowing all residents, regardless of race or income, to stay and benefit from reinvestment and growth. And by stemming eviction, just cause policies can prevent the negative health consequences of eviction including depression, poorer health, higher levels of stress, and higher rates of material hardship, especially among low-income mothers. Cities also have a bottom-line interest in housing stability: when financially insecure residents are evicted from their homes, city budgets pay a big price due to lost tax revenue, unpaid utilities, and the costs associated with services for homeless people.
In addition to PolicyLink resources, see the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Causa Justa/Just Cause, and the Right to the City Alliance for more resources on just cause ordinances.