Housing Justice

Just Cause Eviction

On the Campaign for Tenants’ Rights in Vermont

Ariel Murphy

April 29, 2024

Ella* had lived in her neighborhood in Brattleboro, Vermont for more than a decade, and in her apartment for more than seven years, when she received a letter from her landlord telling her she had 60 days to move out. Ella had been a model tenant – she paid her rent on time, didn’t violate any terms of her lease – but she was being forced out anyway. This is entirely legal in Vermont. 

Lauren* first moved into her apartment in central Vermont at the end of 2016. Over the next few years, her rent went up bit by bit. In the summer of 2022, her landlord sold the building. Almost immediately, she received a notice of a 30% rent increase. Just over a year later, she received another notice that her rent would be going up an additional 40%. Without any improvements in the building or neighborhood, Lauren’s rent had nearly doubled in just 16 months.  This is also entirely legal. 

Lauren and Ella are not outliers. This happens all the time in Vermont and around the country: model tenants who have done nothing wrong have no protection from being turned out at the end of the next month, and they struggle with where to go next. 

Vermont is experiencing a housing crisis. As in many other parts of the country, home prices in the state have grown over the last decades. Rising housing prices and pandemic-era population growth have led to a significant increase in rents in the state. Finding a home to rent in Vermont has become increasingly challenging; Vermont has some of the lowest vacancy rates in the country for rentals. Employers struggle to hire workers because there is no place for the new workers to live. When people lose their housing, there are no vacant apartments available for them to move in. Rates of homelessness in Vermont are the second-highest in the country

Together, these factors constrain renters. Rather than protect tenants, Vermont’s landlord-tenant law empowers landlords to remove tenants for no reason at all. 

Ella did nothing wrong, but her landlord was nonetheless empowered to tell her to leave. Right after Ella received notice that she would have to move, she quickly learned that there were no places available to rent in her budget in her long-time neighborhood or town. The only units listed online were tiny one-bedrooms for nearly twice as much as Ella had been paying. To find a new home, Ella cold-called all the landlords in town, looked on Facebook and Craigslist, and only eventually found a place out of the local area, nearly three months after her landlord wanted her out. Ella explained that the experience ruined her life.