Published in the May 16, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Housing bills passed in the Colorado legislature
by Amy Reinholds
Two of the bills that I was following that would affect affordable housing or the relationships between tenants and landlords failed in the 2019 Colorado Legislative Session, which ended May 3. Senate Bill 19-225, which aimed to repeal an existing law that prohibits local government ordinances that control rent, was probably the most controversial bill related to rentals this session. It didn’t make it out of the Senate. Also, HB 19-1075, which would have created a pilot state tax credit of up to $400 for donations to nonprofit sponsors of employer-assisted housing projects in rural areas of the state, didn’t make it out of the House.
However, several bills that affect funding for subsidized affordable housing, and regulations for tenants and landlords, did pass this session.
Bills affecting funding of subsidized affordable housing
House Bill 19-1228, which expands state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding passed both houses and was sent to the governor. It raises the cap of total allowed state tax credits. You can read more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1228.
House Bill 19-1322, which transfers money for the next 7 fiscal years from unclaimed property trust fund to the housing development grant fund in the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), passed both houses. You can read more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1322.
House Bill 19-1245, which increase affordable housing funding from vendor fee changes, also passed both houses. The bill requires the state treasurer to credit an amount equal to the increase in sales taxes from vendor fee changes to the housing development grant fund, which the Division of Housing in DOLA uses to make grants and loans to improve, preserve, or expand the supply of affordable housing in the state. You can read more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1245.
House Bill 19-1319, which aims to identify non-developed land owned by the state that could be developed for affordable housing purposes and modify the administration of an existing property tax exemption that applies to certain affordable housing developments, was passed by both houses. You can read more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1319.
Bills affecting tenants and landlords
House Bill 19-1106, which governs rental applications and fees for prospective tenants was signed by the governor and goes into effect Aug. 2. This new law aims to limit possible high costs when tenants are searching for places to rent and paying application fees. Landlords can charge prospective tenants rental application fees only if they use the entire amount of the fee to cover their costs in processing the rental application. Landlords must provide a disclosure of their anticipated expenses or a receipt that itemizes the expenses that the application fee covers, and fees must be the same for all applicants. There are also limits on how far back landlords can search rental, credit history, and criminal history, with exceptions for some kinds of arrests. Landlords who deny a rental application must provide the applicant a notice of denial that states the reason.
House Bill 19-1118, which gives more time for a tenant to cure a lease violation that is not a substantial violation, passed both houses and was sent to the governor. It will go into effect as soon as it is signed. The bill requires a landlord or property manager to provide a tenant 10-days notice (instead of the 3-day notice in current state law), to cure a violation for unpaid rent or for the first violation of any other condition or covenant of a lease agreement (other than a substantial violation), before the landlord can terminate the lease and initiate eviction proceedings.
The eviction process in Colorado is already a long process for all parties – tenants and landlords – with many mandated deadlines and steps that landlords and tenants meet to have the case resolved in court. Even before this new bill, landlords who initiate the eviction process for unpaid rent and follow it through all the steps currently need to plan for at least one additional month (maybe two months, depending on court dates) when rent is not paid, and before the tenant moves out. You can read more about the bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1118.
Another bill could help tenants who feel lost during an eviction process. Senate Bill 19-180, which establishes an Eviction Legal Defense Fund, passed both houses. The state court administrator will award grants from the fund to qualifying nonprofit organizations that provide legal advice, counseling, and representation for clients who are indigent and are either experiencing an eviction or are at immediate risk of an eviction. You can read more about the bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-180.
House Bill 19-1170, which aims to increase tenant protections relating to the residential warranty of habitability, also passed both houses. After signed by the governor, it will take effect on Aug. 2. Current law allows landlords “a reasonable time” after receiving a written notice to fix the problems that make a residential premise uninhabitable, materially dangerous, or hazardous. This bill proposes allowing either electronic or written notice, and gives the landlords 24 hours to fix the conditions that are “materially dangerous or hazardous to the tenant’s life, health, or safety” or 72 hours to fix conditions “where the premises is uninhabitable or otherwise unfit for human habitation.” You can read more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1170.
House Bill 19-1328, establishing duties for landlords and tenants in addressing the presence of bed bugs, also passed both houses. After signed by the governor, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. According to the bill, landlords shall inspect or obtain an inspection by a qualified inspector of the dwelling unit up to 96 hours after receiving notice of the presence or possible presence of bed bugs, and the landlord may enter the dwelling unit or any contiguous unit for the purpose of conducting the inspection. Tenants must comply with reasonable measures to permit the inspection for, and treatment of, the presence of bed bugs, and tenants are responsible for all costs associated with preparing the dwelling units for inspection and treatment. Tenants who knowingly and unreasonably fail to comply with inspection and treatment requirements are liable for the costs of subsequent bed bug treatments. You can read more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1328.
Finally, House Bill 19-1309, a mobile home park bill championed by Rep. Edie Hooton (D-Boulder), passed both houses. The bill would grant counties the power to enact ordinances for mobile home parks, extend the time to move or sell a mobile home after eviction proceedings, and create a state Mobile Home Park Dispute Resolution and Enforcement Program. You can read more about the bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1309.
On June 12, the monthly Landlord Training Alliance meeting, a free meeting open to landlords in Boulder County (as well as any members of the public), will include Attorney Deb Wilson speaking about the bills passed by the legislature this spring, and the requirements that landlords and tenants need to be aware of. The meeting is held from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Longmont Senior Center at 910 Longs Peak Ave.
This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.