Housing Policy

Rashida Tlaib Supports Legislation Canceling Rent. She Also Made Up to $50,000 as Landlord Last Year.

The Michigan congresswoman is a co-sponsor of a bill that would suspend all tenants' obligation to pay rent through April 2022.


By day, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D–Mich.) is co-sponsoring bills that would cancel rent payments well into next year. Also presumably by day, the progressive congresswoman and "squad" member is collecting rental income from a property she owns.

Tlaib's 2020 financial disclosure report filed this past Friday show that she made between $15,001 and $50,000 off of a property in Detroit worth between $150,000 and $200,000. Fox News was the first to report the news.

Tlaib has also twice now co-sponsored a bill authored by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) that suspend the obligation of tenants to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest version of that bill, introduced in March 2021, would have canceled rent from March 2020 to April 2022.

"It's really important that we understand that moratoriums are good, but they're going to end and without payment and debt cancelation we are kicking the crisis down the road," said Tlaib at a press conference announcing the bill in March.

Tlaib is not the only landlord to co-sponsor Omar's rent cancelation bill. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D–Mass.) also signed onto the legislation despite earning between $5,000 and $15,000 in income in 2020 from a rental unit adjoining her primary residence.

One would hate to question the sincerity of either lawmakers' support for rent cancelation. It is nevertheless notable that they have chosen to not suspend rent payments at the properties they personally control.

Perhaps, both congresswomen don't believe their tenants have suffered the kinds of financial setbacks that would warrant rent forgiveness. The bill they are co-sponsoring is less discriminating. All tenants would be forgiven of the obligation to pay rent, regardless of their income or personal financial situation.

Conceivably, neither Tlaib nor Pressley are in a financial position to forgive that rent. Tlaib's financial disclosure shows that she is currently on the hook for two mortgages and some student loans. She is also presumably responsible for paying property taxes and maintenance costs on her rental property.

Omar's rent cancellation bill would offer Tlaib some relief on that front. It suspends mortgage payments and creates an (unfunded) Landlord Relief Fund that would compensate property owners for the rent forgiven by the bill.

Accepting aid from that fund would come with a lot of conditions that Tlaib might find unpalatable, however. She would be required to freeze rent for five years and not collect any back rent that might accumulate during that five-year period. She would be forbidden from restricting tenancy based on someone's criminal history or credit score.

Under Omar's bill, Tlaib would also have to give public housing agencies, nonprofits, and state and local government bodies first dibs on buying her house should she put it on the market.

Perhaps the congresswoman would happily comply with all those conditions voluntarily. There's reason to doubt that, given that she has not voluntarily chosen to forgive her tenants' rent, which the bill she supports also requires.

Omar's rent cancelation bill went nowhere in 2020. This year's version is currently languishing in House Committee on Financial Services. Were it to actually have a chance of passing, it would be interesting to see if Tlaib would continue to vociferously support it.