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2017 Legislative Update: Week 1

Posted by paul on January 31st, 2017
Week I
The First week of the Utah State Legislature is coming to an end. Each week the Utah Apartment Association will update you on issues that will affect the Rental Housing Industry.

Following are some updates from this week:
Rental Assistance Guarantee Fund
This week the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee held testimony on funding measures for affordable housing. We were there to testify on behalf of H.B. 36 and explain the need for and how the money will be used.
There are 3 components of funding with one time money that the governor has put in the budget and is being sponsored by Representative Becky Edwards:
  • $4 million for the Olene Walker Housing Trust Fund,
  • $4 million for the state tax credit housing fund, and
  • $1 million for a rental housing guarantee fund.
Executive Director Paul Smith explained to the committee how all three funds are used to create affordable housing and made a special pitch for the $1 million for a rental subsidy guarantee fund.
"Many landlords are hesitant to take a risk renting to people on section 8 housing vouchers, not because they are bad people, but because if they do any damage or have to be evicted, they typically have no income or assets to go after. This makes it hard for those voucher recipients to find housing. So this guarantee fund is a way for the state to say to landlords that if you are willing to take a risk on these god people, that if there is damage or costs that could not otherwise be recovered from the renter, that the state will make it up. That will open up more affordable units for Utah families and give landlords the security they need to take risks and provide housing to low income families. It's really a win/win."
This fund will allow landlords who are damaged by a Section 8 housing voucher holder to apply for reimbursement. In essence, the State of Utah would be a limited guarantor and mitigate damage to the landlords by reimbursing for the costs of evictions, property damages, and attorney's fees. Landlords will have to obtain a judgement to qualify. 
After the testimony of Smith and others on this bill, the committee passed the bill unanimously. It was modified slightly in the house but later passed the full house and is now on its way through the Senate. Modifications including reducing the Olene Walker appropriation from $4 million to $3 million and earmarking $1 million of that to Transit Oriented Development (TOD).
The bill is being sponsored by Representative Rebecca Edwards (R), Bountiful. HB 36 Affordable Housing Amendments.
SB 52: Rental Amendments
The first draft of this bill included multiple modifications to eviction laws, extending the time it would take and increasing the cost. After discussing the original language with the sponsor we persuaded him to run a slimmed down version that simply added attorney's fees provisions to the Fit Premises (i.e. our Landlord/Tenant Law) Act. The bill was heard by committee this week and passed that committee with amendments that say courts "may" award the prevailing party in any action under Fit Premises, attorney's fees. 
For the record, we always support balanced prevailing party attorney's fees provisions. They are in the Residential Rental Agreement already. This law would only apply to landlords who aren't using the association approved rental agreement.
SB 52 is sponsored by Senator Lincoln Fillmore (R), South Jordan.
Current Bills we are Tracking
There are only a couple of other bills public so far pertaining to our industry.

HB 83: Rental Housing Application Disclosure Amendments is a proposed law that we are cautious about. The purpose is to make it so that landlords must disclose their rental criteria before they can accept an application fee. This is best practice and what the UAA teaches landlords they should do. We have worked with the sponsor to put the proposal in terms that will prevent a cause of action against landlords or property managers or allow tenants to be let out of their lease. We will keep you updated on its progress.
HB 178: Good Landlord Amendments We know Representative Brian King, (D), Salt Lake City is running a bill again to prohibit cities from making denial of individuals with criminal histories a condition of being in a Good Landlord program. There is now a link up on the right hand column of this update with more details. We will comment more on this later.
If you have questions or suggestion contact

UAA President Richard F. Harding protesting propposed Salt Lake Landlord Tax in 1946
UAA Tradition of Government Affairs Advocacy for the Industry
The UAA has an outstanding heritage of legislative advocacy. Since our foundation in 1934 we have been at the forefront of working to ensure that landlords, property managers and service providers have a voice that can be heard in government policy debates.

As a part of this legacy we are excited to provide our members with an overview report of our Government Affairs activities from 2009 to 2016. If you are interested in reading the report, please click the link below.


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