In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, all levels of government are considering how to protect public health by keeping people in their homes, even if they can no longer afford their monthly mortgage or rent payments. The protections that have emerged thus far have been far more protective of homeowners than renters. This essay exposes how the disparity in legal protections for these two groups is not unique to this pandemic. Rather, the crisis has merely uncovered longstanding, deep-rooted patterns within legal doctrines, governmental programs, and public policies that bestow favorable treatment upon homeowners at the expense of renters. This essay situates the current crisis within our existing research addressing the disparate treatment of renters and owners. It examines the historic distinctions between freeholds and leaseholds that have resulted in different treatment of the two groups, exposes the ways the existing legal doctrine primarily harms poor people and people of color, and proposes steps that can be taken to bring more parity to the legal treatment of renters and owners.

Schindler, Sarah and Zale, Kellen, How the Law Fails Tenants (And not Just During a Pandemic) (June 23, 2020). 68 UCLA Law Review Discourse 146 (2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3634347




Sarah Schindler

University of Maine School of Law

Sarah Schindler is the Associate Dean for Research and the Edward S. Godfrey Professor of Law at the University of Maine School of Law. Professor Schindler is nationally recognized for her scholarship, which focuses on property, land use, local government, and sustainable development. Her articles have been widely praised as creative and insightful additions to these fields.

Kellen Zale

University of Houston Law Center

Kellen Zale is an Associate Professor at the University of Houston Law Center. Professor Zale graduated from Princeton University with an A.B. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University. At Duke, she served as a staff editor on the Duke Law Journal and was elected to Order of the Coif. After law school, Professor Zale was an associate in the Los Angeles office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where her practice focused on commercial real estate transactions and land use. Prior to joining the University of Houston faculty, she taught at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law as a Westerfield Fellow. Professor Zale writes and teaches in the areas of property, real estate, land use and local government law.


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