Feb 8, 2019

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Legislative Update: Feb. 8, 2019

by | Feb 8, 2019

Bill to Watch: HB 1106
For many Coloradans, paying non-refundable fees just to submit a rental applications is one of the most financially onerous aspects in the search for affordable housing.

Landlords collect these fees ostensibly just to recoup costs they incur when checking for credit, criminal records and prior rental histories. These searches help ensure that prospective renters are “safe” risks who will care for their properties and pay the rent on time. But prospective renters could pay dozens of these application fees with no guarantee of securing a rental.

While it’s reasonable for property owners to be reimbursed for these expenses, there are currently no limits on what they can charge for such fees. Furthermore, there are no safeguards to ensure the fee is not simply a “moneymaker” for the landlords. In some cases, fees are being collected even when units aren’t available to rent at the time of application – a practice that’s ethically dubious, but still allowable under state law.

Unfortunately, this practice has been a significant factor in exacerbating Colorado’s affordable housing crisis. According to 9to5 Colorado, rental application fees were identified as a barrier to housing among more than half of the Colorado residents surveyed in 2017. Respondents reported paying fees as high as $145 per application – an amount much higher than the cost of screening the applicants. For struggling, low-income families, these fees can wipe out the money that’s needed for a security deposit and the first month’s rent. Meanwhile, some property owners appear to be using the application fees as an ongoing source of revenue.

House Bill 1106, sponsored by Rep. Brianna Titone, Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Sen. Brittany Pettersen would give renters the right to know why a landlord rejected their application. Renters would also get an itemized receipt detailing any and all fees and get a return on any unused fees. The bill was approved on a 7-4 vote by the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee.

More than a dozen states have enacted policies that set boundaries on the collection and retention of rental application fees. If Colorado is serious about improving the environment for affordable housing, legislators should establish reasonable parameters to protect renters from excessive fees. CCLP strongly supports the legislation. Learn more in this article in The Denver Post.

Bill to Watch: HB 1122
Many mothers risk death to give birth, and the risk is particularly high for black and Native American women. Available data show that black women are more likely to die from childbirth regardless of their income, level of education and access to prenatal care — all of which are associated with better birth outcomes for white women. Fortunately, a bill being considered by the Colorado legislature aims to provide the information we need to tackle this crisis in Colorado.

Sponsored by Rep. Janet Buckner, Rep. Lois Landgraf, Sen. Rhonda Fields and Sen. Bob Gardner, House Bill 1122 will create a Colorado maternal mortality review committee charged with reviewing maternal deaths in the state, identifying the causes of maternal mortality, and developing policy recommendations and best practices that will support the health and safety of pregnant and postpartum women in Colorado.

Passage of the legislation will also allow Colorado to draw down federal funds that are available for this purpose, as a result of the recently passed Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado.

HB 1122 directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Chief Medical Officer to appoint 11 committee members and requires diversity with regard to race, ethnicity, immigration status, English proficiency, income, wealth and geography. It also requires representation from groups affected by higher maternal mortality rates and supports diversity in participation by requiring reimbursement for the costs of participation. CCLP applauds the sponsors and the proponents of this legislation for structuring a committee that can benefit from the knowledge of lived experience.

The bill will be heard in the House Public Health & Human Services Committee on Feb. 13, upon adjournment.

– By Bob Mook

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Remarks on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization

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