Scott Strikes Down Burlington's Just Cause Eviction Measure | City | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Scott Strikes Down Burlington's Just Cause Eviction Measure


Published May 3, 2022 at 5:14 p.m.
Updated July 28, 2022 at 10:35 a.m.

  • Kim Scafuro
Gov. Phil Scott vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would have allowed Burlington to ban no-cause evictions, saying it would undermine the rights of property owners and further squeeze the city’s already-tight housing market.

The bill, H.708, would have prevented Burlington landlords from kicking out renters by not renewing their leases, a common practice allowed under state law. Landlords would have needed to instead provide a “just cause,” such as failure to pay rent.

Supporters said the measure would better protect renters, particularly at a time when vacancy rates are at all-time lows. Burlington voters passed the proposed charter change by a wide margin last year.

But Scott said he believes that the bill would prove harmful to both property owners and renters.

“By making it exceedingly difficult to remove tenants from a rental unit, even at the end of a signed lease, my fear is this bill will discourage property owners from renting to vulnerable prospective tenants, or to rent their units at all,” he wrote in a veto letter to lawmakers.
That, in turn, could harm tenants deemed “greater risks,” such as refugees, low-income people and those with a criminal history, Scott wrote, anticipating that property owners would give preference to people with high credit scores and positive references from previous landlords.

“This will increase both costs and inequity in the housing market,” he wrote.

Supporters of just cause eviction immediately pushed back on the rationale, arguing that the people Scott cites as vulnerable already lose out in Vermont's rental market.

“[Scott] is upholding a grossly unequal system, with BIPOC and low-income Vermonters being the most affected,” Tom Proctor, campaign director for Rights & Democracy's Just Cause Coalition, said in a statement.

The Burlington City Council’s Progressive Caucus also expressed disappointment with Scott’s decision, calling the charter change one of the “most promising housing reforms” in recent years. They urged voters to contact Democratic leaders in the legislature and call for an override vote.

“Democrats need to stand with Vermonters who are facing the worst housing crisis in recent memory,” Councilor Gene Bergman (P-Ward 2) said in a statement.

It's unclear whether lawmakers will have enough votes. The Senate passed the measure by a voice vote, meaning no tally was taken, while the 150-member House approved it with 98 votes — two shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override. 

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