Legislative Update: April 7, 2017

Relief for renters
Colorado’s growing population and booming economy have created an ideal market for landlords and property owners – often, at the expense of low- and middle-income renters. In recent years, the percentage of Coloradans who rent rather than own has increased. Many tenants struggle to find and maintain housing because rents are too high – leading to a rise in homelessness in many parts of the state.

While concrete policy solutions to the housing crisis remain elusive, a package being considered by Colorado legislators aims to remove some of the barriers that renters encounter. The legislation includes House Bill 1310, which limits the fee a landlord may charge a prospective tenant to cover actual costs for a personal reference check, consumer credit report or tenant-screening report.

A recent survey conducted by 9to5 Colorado showed that respondents reported fees as high as $145 per person — for the mere “privilege” of applying for a housing unit. These fees often far exceed the actual cost of screening applicants and are collected even when units aren’t available. HB 1310 requires landlords to provide an itemized receipt of actual expenses incurred and requires landlords to return unused portions of such fees to the applicants. Building upon the groundwork set by 9to5 Colorado, CCLP developed HB 1310, which is sponsored in the House by Reps. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood and Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora and in the Senate by Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder. The bill was assigned to the House Finance Committee.

CCLP also developed another bill that could address a common problem that renters face: HB 1312 allows renters to receive a copy of a lease and a receipt for rent payments made with cash or a money order.

Current law does not require landlords to provide renters with either a copy of their lease or a receipt for rent paid. Such a lack of documentation leaves renters vulnerable to misunderstandings about the terms of their lease and lack of proof they paid their rent. Because is common for low-income renters to pay rent with cash or money order, there is no record of the transaction unless a landlord provides a receipt of payment. Many Colorado renters have been vulnerable to eviction or late charges because they were not able to prove that they had already paid rent – creating greater instability for those who are struggling to make ends meet.

These bills join other measures that enhance renters’ rights in Colorado, including Senate Bill 245, which extends the notification period for rent increases, or notices to vacate property, from seven to 21 days. Also developed by CCLP, SB 245 was approved by the Senate with strong bipartisan support and is heading to the House for its first hearing next week. CCLP supports other actions to address Colorado’s housing crisis, including a formal request to Legislative Council to create an interim committee to explore legislation to prevent homelessness and encourage development and preservation of affordable housing.

Bill to Watch: HB 1290
CCLP strongly supports House Bill 1290, the Colorado Secure Savings Plan. If passed, HB 1290 would begin the process of starting a statewide retirement account system and open up retirement savings options for the nearly half of Colorado workers who currently do not have access to a workplace retirement plan.

We believe that the path to self-sufficiency does not end one when turns 65. HB 1290 will help future Colorado seniors have more financial security in their retirement.

For more information on HB 1290, check out this fact sheet from the Bell Policy Center. The bill is up for hearing next Thursday, April 13, before the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. Please call your state legislators at (844) 266-7972 and urge them to vote “yes” on this bill.

– Bob Mook