The Harms of Liminal Housing Tenure: Installment Land Contracts and Tenancies in Common

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Sturm College of Law


Gentifrication, Predatory Lending, Affordable housing


Many legal doctrines use housing tenure—whether someone is a home-owner or tenant—as a determinant of legal rights. Of course, housing tenure is not always as simple as homeowner or tenant, fee simple or leasehold estate. Rather, many liminal forms of land tenure status fall somewhere on this spectrum between owner and renter. This essay will discuss two of those liminal forms of housing tenure: Tenancies in Common (TIC) and Installment Land Contracts (ILC). While TICs and ILCs have long been thought of as niche aspects of the U.S. housing market—and their negative impacts assumed to be correspondingly limited—in fact, both TICs and ILCs are becoming increasingly prevalent. For example, while the use of TICs to avoid condo conversion laws has long been associated with the high-priced San Francisco housing market, they have become more widespread as housing costs increase in other cities. And while lower-income communities of color have long been targets of ILCs, in recent years, ILCs have penetrated a greater variety of housing markets: Firms that focus on ILCs and closely related rent-to-own arrangements have attracted Silicon Valley venture funding, and secondary markets have developed for investors to buy and trade these types of properties. We argue that the growing prevalence of TICs and ILCs is part of a larger, previously unrecognized pattern that we have identified wherein the law offers more protections to homeowners than to similarly situated tenants and other non-owners. Furthermore, the growing prevalence of TICs and ILCs has disproportionately weakened housing security and protections for poor people and people of color.