The 120-day Colorado legislative session has now ended. This is good news for Colorado landlords as this means there are no more bills to be introduced as this has been one of the most challenging defensive sessions for Colorado housing providers in recent memory.
As the legislature took office in January, moving quickly from the November elections, housing affordability became a centerpiece issue for the legislature. With this focus, came an almost unmanageable number of bills – many dealing with major policy issues – seeking to move Colorado’s landlord tenant laws from those favoring landlords as the property owners, to those emphasizing tenant rights over those traditionally held by property owners as the housing provider.
Colorado law has traditionally recognized the landlord has enormous risks and responsibilities as the provider of highly valued real estate assets to tenants based upon background reviews, a security deposit, and a signature on a lease as a guarantee of payment. Recourses for non-payment are challenging to recover with evictions as a costly last resort.
This past session, we engaged in seven high-profile pieces of legislation as stakeholders, offering testimony, reaching out to legislators with concerns based upon Calls to Action, lengthy negotiation sessions at the Capitol, and direct advocacy from our members, investors, Board of Directors, and our professional lobbyist. We also were involved in more than eight other bills dealing with additional housing issues.
As the dust is settling on the bills that have been signed or are awaiting the Governor’s signature, we celebrate our successful active role in stopping the most egregious bills that we viewed as third-degree burns, we suffered quite a scrapes and bruises, with two rising to the level of requesting gubernatorial vetoes.
The first of these, SB 23-184, places limits on tenant screenings utilizing credit reports and reduces income scores from industry standards of 2.5 or three times rent to income ratios (the legislation passed with a two times standard). While the introduced version of this bill was much worse, including provisions such as limiting deposit amounts, and requiring landlords to accept the first qualified applicant — we believe the final version that passed the legislature is such an extreme change to our application and review processes we are joining with other Colorado housing providers in a push for Governor Polis to veto this bill.
The second bill on our veto request list sent in a CLLC letter to the Governor, HB 23-1190, is one we hope the Governor will agree with our concerns by rejecting it. This bill was passed by the legislature and gives a local government a time limit for a first right of refusal for multi-family properties. We believe this will distort the market with both risks of transaction delays and uncertainties leading to increased prices for these offerings – completely counter to the affordable housing goals.
We enjoyed two major victors with the HB 23-1171, the Just Cause Evictions, bill running out of time at the end of the session and expiring on the Senate calendar as a casualty of lengthy debates on other bills. While this was a hard-fought win for our industry, this is top agenda items for progressives and housing justice advocates, and we expect this bill to be back in some form during the next session.
A repeal of Colorado’s prohibition on rent control, HB 23-1115, was also killed in Senate Committee toward the end of the session as another victory against local rent control policies.
On other bills, we achieved meaningful amendments – including legislation dealing with radon, pet rent/deposits, and disaster habitability.
On HB 23-1095, we participated in a series of discussions with the bill sponsors, proponents, and other housing organizations achieving many favorable amendments to the bill. Unfortunately, we were not successful in adding additional amendments, removing class action lawsuits and allowing for increases in third-party services.
On portable tenant screening reports, HB 23-1099, we worked to negotiate reasonable dollar caps on rental application fees (fees are already regulated in statute), but we were not able to find enough votes to overturn the sponsors and proponents so this legislation will preclude application fees and will institute onerous advertising requirements around these reports.
HB 23-1120, dealing with mediation prior to eviction is a bill that does have some merit in bringing the parties together to potentially work out differences and avoid evictions. Unfortunately, this was another case where the proponents moved forward with legislation, which did pass, where we could have worked together on an improved system without adding more delays for landlords needing access to the eviction process. This is another bill where we worked during floor debates and the Committee process to add language for the eviction process to not be delayed if the mediation was unsuccessful. We greatly appreciate all the efforts by many legislators who agreed with us and worked to add additional amendments, but we were not able to convince a majority of legislators and these amendments were not accepted.
A final problematic bill, HB 23-1302, creating new requirements around disability accessibility in rental housing was killed in House Committee. A task force on this topic will be meeting during the legislative interim and we will be actively monitoring those discussions as well.
You may find a full list of CLLC bills HERE
Thank you again for your membership and your involvement. We could not be effective in these important fights without you.
Mutch Government Relations