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2017 Legislative Update: Week 4

Posted by paul on February 24th, 2017
Week IV
There are a lot of issues up in the air right now. Following are updates on bills that affect our industry.

New Meth Testing Rule Open for Public Comment
The Utah State Health Department has released a rule for public comment to modify how Meth Testing is done. The changes to the procedure is expected to reduce the number of false positives (about 5% of houses condemned for meth were actually not contaminated according to the state). The UAA has worked hard to make this change happen. Please look over the rule posted online here (page 12) and send your public comments in support of the rule to the State.

Legislative Issues we are following

HB 376: Landlord-Tenant Rights
We are excited about this bill which will make some technical changes to the eviction process. It will remove some loopholes that tenant's attorneys have used to illegitimately lengthen the eviction process and will give all evictions the same process - regardless of whether they are done for non-payment or other reasons, or wheather they are commercial or residential evictions. Finally, it will remove some of the ambiguity of how much leeway judges have in granting more time to tenants with extenuating circumstances.
This bill is sponsored by Rep James Dunnigan (R), Taylorsville. It is currently being reviewed by legislative staff.

HB 178: Good Landlord Amendments 
This bill would prohibit cities from requiring landlords to deny applicants with criminal history. Ogden has indicated that if it can't require participating landlord's to deny high risk criminals, it will get rid of its Good Landlord program and charge landlord's full price. We feared that passage of this bill could cost landlords millions of dollars a year and significantly increase the instability of many communities.
We have been working with legislators to amend the bill to address the concerns of both the cities and the tenant's advocates. New language would allow cities such as Ogden and West Valley that have a half-way house to still impose criminal restrictions. We anticipate that this compromise will protect landlords.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Brian King, (D), Salt Lake City. The House has passed amendments that would make the bill much more palatable to cities and landlords, and the bill is now being considered by the Senate Rules Committee.

HB 36: Affordable Housing Amendments 
This is the funding bill for $8 million to go into affordable housing this year. Part of that is $1 million to go to a Section 8 housing guarantee fund for landlords who are damaged by tenants on Section 8 so they can get the state to cover up to $5,000 in damages. We have put a lot of work into getting this protection for landlords included. We hope this bill will be a win/win by protecting landlords and opening up more housing opportunity for tenants who are on Section 8 vouchers.

The bill is now on the third reading calendar in the Utah State Senate after passing the House. With the support of the UAA and other industry advocacy groups it is expected to pass with no problem. The bill is sponsored by Rep Becky Edwards, (R), Bountiful. 

HB 83: Rental Housing Application Disclosure Amendments
This is a bill written by tenants group who are trying to protect "hard to house" applicants who sometimes end up paying multiple application fees and still get denied. The language we compromised on makes it a requirement that landlords disclose what criteria we will review towards accepting an applicant before accepting an application fee or deposit. However, failure to do so does not excuse a tenant from lease compliance or create a cause of action.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bruce Cutler, (R), Murray. It is currently awaiting further action from the House.

HB 196: Division of Real Estate Amendments
Every year the DRE runs a "cleanup" bill, which we work with them on. We support changes this year that give more authority to the Real Estate Commission to determine when owners are exempt from licensure. For instance, to manage properties for others requires a real estate license, but managing your own doesn't. However, what about property for immediate family members? The division has always considered this ok, but there were never specific rules. This division has always considered any ownership interest sufficient to manage your own without a license but it wasn't clear. This bill will allow the DRE to clarify those rules.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer (R), Huntsville. It has passed the House and is close to passing the Senate.

SB 146: Constable Amendments 
Constables are a monopoly appointed by counties who have no interest in keeping costs to consumers down. This bill fixes constables by allowing anyone who wants to be a constable, meets minimum requirements and training, to become one and serve papers for evictions and collections. We need more constables to keep costs down for evictions and collections and support this bill. 
The bill is sponsored by Lincoln Fillmore (R), South Jordan. It is currently under review by the Senate Judiciary committee.

Other Bills we are Tracking
Here are the other bills which we are tracking that will impact our industry:

HB 202: Trespass Amendments sponsored by Brian Greene (R), Pleasant Grove. This bill would allow tenants whose guest won't move to serve trespass notice and have the trespassers removed by police. It has passed the House and is being reviewed by the Senate.

HB 253: Short-Term Rental Amendments sponsored by John Knotwell (R), Herriman. This bill will prevent cities from fining property owners merely for listing their properties online for a short term rental. It will also prohibit cities from preventing short term vacation rentals in owner occupied homes. This is an important step to clarifying the rules for vacation rentals (like AirBnB) which many landlords are beginning to use as alternatives when the market is tight. It is being considered by the House.

SB 52: Rental Amendments sponsored by Lincoln Fillmore (R), South Jordan. This bill provides that a court will award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party under a suite filed under the Fit Premises Act. It has passed the Senate and has been introduced in the House.

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