The 2011 Utah Legislature passed several bills that affect the rental housing industry. Following are the titles and numbers of the bill and a summary of how they might affect you.
HB 403 Fit Premises Amendments - PASSEDJennifer Seelig — (D)
Salt Lake City
This bill prohibits cities from punishing landlords if tenants call the police or are victims of crimes. Some cities were allowing a set number of police calls to rental unit and if they had more calls the landlord would be required to pay higher fees. The legislature made it clear cities cannot do this. The bill also prohibits landlords from evicting a tenant for calling the police for reasonable assistance or if they are a crime victim. However, landlords can still evict tenants who commit crime or cause public nuisances.
SB 178 Municipal Land use Amendments - PASSEDCurt Bramble — (R)
This bill clarifies what cities can require older properties to upgrade or retrofit for safety reasons. The UAA worked very hard on this bill to get fair terms for landlords. There are now five things cities can require landlords of properties that were built before existing codes to upgrade and retrofit. Installation of battery operated or plug in smoke detectors Street addresses for identification by public service providers Ground fault indicator plugs on existing wiring Plumbing or electrical upgrades only if a licensed professional attests conditions are unsafe or system is inoperable Egress basement windows in sleeping rooms unless installation would compromise the structural integrity of the building or window cannot be put in according to current codes due to not having enough egress and setbacks to put in window wells.
HB 10 Renewal of Judgments Act - PASSEDGage Froerer — (R)
This law allows 8 year judgments against tenants who owe money to be renewed for 8 additional years by motion (rather than filing a new lawsuit) for a $35 fee.
HB 226 local Government fee Authority - PASSEDWayne Harper — (R)
This bill ends the Salt Lake County Police Fee for unincorporated areas. Apartment owners had been paying almost $150 a year per unit for a police fee. The County has until December 31, 2012 to find another funding source.
HB 194 Service Contracts Amendments - PASSEDJohnny Anderson — (R)
This bill affects the rollover of service contracts. Some companies put language in their service contracts (i.e. garbage providers, telecommunications, etc) that if you don't cancel at a certain time of year the contract automatically renews. This bill stops that practice as of July 1, 2011.
SB 154 Fit Premises Act Modifications - Killed in CommitteeBen McAdams — (D)
Salt Lake City
This bill would have:
1. Prohibited evictions on any tenant who contacted a health department or local government to complain about the landlord.
2. Would have created penalties if a rental was not ready as promised.
3. Would have not allowed a lease to be signed until a tenant walked through the actual unit they would be renting
4. Would have required landlords to provide paper copies of Utah Landlord tenant law to tenants.
The UAA was willing to compromise and find a middle ground on this bill but the Utah Housing Coalition dug in and refused to compromise so we were forced to lobby against it. It died in committee.
SB 148 Fair Housing Amendments - FAILEDBen McAdams — (D)
Salt Lake City
This bill would have added two additional protected classes and allowed more lawsuits against landlords. The UAA does not support adding protected classes to Utah law but instead encourages landlords to judge applicants based on risk factors, not lifestyle choices or superficial appearances (i.e. don't judge a book by its cover - do a background check to assess actual risk). The two proposed classes were sexual preference and gender orientation.
The bill never got a hearing. The state is currently allowing cities to prohibit discrimination against these two classes. Eleven cities currently have protections for these classes which include a $500 penalty if they prove discrimination. Unlike state and federal fair housing law, however, local laws don't give those who feel they have been discriminated against a private cause of action (the right to sue).
Laws passed go into effect May of 2011 unless otherwise noted.
Several bills were considered during this year's state legislative session, which have impact on rental property owners and managers. Following are a few of those bills with a brief summary.
HB 243 Foreclosure Process on Residential Rental Properties Harper, West Jordan, R
This bill originally had alarming effects on rentals in foreclosure and would have created more harm than good. The UAA and other entities worked with the sponsor over the session and helped modify the bill significantly so that basically all it does now is require banks in one of their property postings to tell potential renters that there are federal laws that allow them to stay in the property at least 90 days after the property has transferred to a new owner as long as they continued to pay rent. Those federal laws are the primary reason the UAA opposed the initial bill. We did not feel there is a need for state legislation in an area where the federal protections are already quite broad.
HB 190 Disclosure of Methamphetamine Contaminated Property Act Amendments Mascaro, West Jordan, R
The original language of this bill would have, in the opinion of industry attorneys and real estate practitioners, required a meth test on every real estate sale and new rental agreement each year. At an average cost of $125 a year this would have created almost a $20 million cost for the 150,000 units that rent or sell each year. The language also made property managers liable for an owner not disclosing contamination. Ultimately the bill was amended to only change one word in state law. The one word change was significant. Current law allows properties not involved in police action for meth labs to be decontaminated and tested without involving the health department. The change would require all properties with any meth contamination over the state limit to go through the health department. This adds cost and time to the process and does not make it safer, since current law requires it test decontaminated after cleanup before it can be re-rented whether the HD is involved or not. Involving government agencies in all clean-up just creates more cost and work and no more safety.
Status: Failed in house 19-52, reconsidered by house and passed 44 -27, not considered by the senate.
SB 45 Fit Premises Act Amendments Neiderhauser, Sandy, R
This legislation is the most significant change in landlord/tenant law in years. The UAA will have training sessions and future articles devoted to what the new changes are. For now, here are some highlights. The bill:
This legislation was spearheaded by the UAA, who worked closely with the cities, tenants' groups and domestic violence advocates. It is a compromise piece of legislation that, in our opinion, provides advantages and benefits to landlords, cities and tenants.
Status: Passed both houses, waiting to be signed.
HB 414 Municipal Rental Fee Amendments Harper, West Jordan, R
This bill made modifications to the Good Landlord programs that nine Utah cities now have. The sponsor was concerned about provisions in some cities. The UAA and the League of Cities and Towns was successful in getting one year to work out a model ordinance or have the legislature look at changes next year.
Status: Never introduced
The 2009 Legislature contemplated a variety of proposals that affect the rental housing industry. Fortunately, our industry is exceptionally well represented at the state legislature and we were very effective again this year. Following is a report on what happened and how it will affect you.
HB 243 Rental Restrictions on Condominiums and Common Interest Communities - PASSED Gage Froerer — (R)
This law was designed to balance the desires of some private communities to limit the number of rentals with the property right to be able to rent a property you own. There is now a way to limit rentals in private communities but a requirement to grandfather current rentals and hardship exceptions that allow people to rent for reasons of military service, ecclesiastical service, etc.
HB 238 Exemption of University Housing from Eviction Law - FAILED Kory Holdaway — (R)
This Measure would have exempted Universities from current eviction law. The UAA opposes Universities having a different eviction process. However, we have committed to work with Universities to help them fix the real problem, that they are required to use the attorney general's office to do evictions, and change the law to allow them to use private attorneys.
HB 299 Unlawful Detainer Amendments - PASSED
Gage Froerer — (R)
This measure dwelt originally with allowing foreclosure evictions to use the expedited process used for non-payment of rent. However, housing advocates amended it to extend foreclosure evictions by 45 days and remove treble damage penalties on renters who defied three day notices. The UAA had to get involved to remove those provisions and restore the bill to its original intent. Ultimately, foreclosure evictions can now be accelerated, except in cases where there is a renter living in the unit, in which case they will use the non-expedited procedure.
HB 326 Forcible Entry and Detainer Requirements - PASSED
Lorie Fowlke — (R)
This simple bill removed commercial property from the expedited eviction process. It will now take longer to evict commercial tenants. The UAA was neutral on this bill because it did not affect residential properties. However, this is a great example of what happens when an industry (commercial property management) is not well represented at the legislature. Now commercial property managers will lose more money when they have to evict because their industry was absent on this bill.
HB 402 Enforcement of Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements - PASSED
Kevin Garn — (R)
This important bill allows cities or counties to require lifesaving CO detectors and provides that enforcement must be on the person who actually has control of the unit — the tenant. Both Ogden and Salt Lake County have requirements that all residential structures must have CO detectors. This law clarifies owners are not responsible for installation or maintenance. The UAA strongly supported this bill because it puts the responsibility on the person who is most able to ensure detectors stay installed and working.
HB 404 Disclosure of Real Property - PASSED
Merlynn Newbold — (R)
This was a Meth disclosure bill. Although it was not a UAA bill, we got involved and negotiated major changes that are positive for rental owners. It does require disclosure in rental or sales transactions where owners have actual knowledge of current contamination. It allows Health Departments to charge an administrative fee if they are involved in clean up (we reduced the fee from $600 to $400). It allows for attorney's fees to the prevailing party in a lawsuit, thus discouraging frivolous lawsuits. Finally, it clarifies that owners can clean contamination up themselves and that the health department only needs to be notified if it is a criminal issue or if the owner hires a certified decontamination specialist. This was truly a great bill to protect rental owners.
HB 342 Disproportionate Rental Fee Amendments - PASSED
Gage Froerer — (R)
This bill cleans up language concerning how cities can assess rental licensing fees and operate Good Landlord programs. It came about from a request from the League of Cities and Towns and we worked with them to support the changes. It was a technical bill that allows cities who don't have disproportionate fees to have them and clarifies how cities should run Good Landlord programs. Housing advocates who perceive the UAA as an enemy and try to scuttle bills that are good for our industry fought to amend the bill. All amendments were successfully beat back.
HB 267 Anti-Discrimination Amendments - FAILED
Christine Johnson — (D)
Salt Lake City
This bill would have added sexual preference and gender expression or identity to the list of protected classes landlords could not discriminate against. It was one of the more controversial bills introduced this year. Adding protected classes increases litigation so the UAA opposed adding these new protected classes. The UAA urges landlords to make business decisions when choosing tenants and ignore non-business factors in your screening criteria.
SB 267 Landlord Disclosure Requirements - FAILED
Ross Romero — (D)
Salt Lake City
This bill would have required landlords to do annual financial disclosures to tenants. Owners would be required to update tenants on their current balance yearly or lose the ability to go after past due charges. Because of the particularly onerous nature of the requirement the UAA lobbied against it.
SB 84 Impact Fee Revisions - PASSED
Greg Bell — (R)
This bill originally had provisions allowing multifamily properties to be charged an impact fee for fire trucks. The UAA had the bill changed to exempt multifamily properties from such fees. The fees now can only be charged to commercial buildings as all residential property was exempted because the UAA's lobbyists were on top of this issue.
SB 184 Civil Filing Fees - PASSED
Greg Bell — (R)
This bill raised filing fees on most court actions, including collections and evictions. For suits under $2,000 the filing fee will go up from $50 to $75. Garnishments will increase from$35 to $50. This was in response to 15% budget cuts to the courts that threaten to severely reduce court services, and filing fees are going up to compensate for those budget cuts.
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