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Organizational Units

Sturm College of Law


Housing insecurity, Disparate treatment


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.

Publication Statement

Originally published as Sarah B. Schindler & Kellen Zale, How the Law Fails Tenants (and Not Just During a Pandemic), 68 UCLA L. Rev. Discourse 146 (2020),