Legislative Session Weekly Update 4 - Feb 13, 23

Posted By: Paul Smith Legislative Update,



The session is now half over! Read below to learn about the new hostile bill released this week, a victory against another hostile and poorly conceived bill, and the compromise domestic violence amendments.

HB 314 Domestic Violence Amendments Marsha Judkins, (R), Provo
STATUS: Amendments now available to read - committee hearing soon

We have been working with Representative Judkins on a bill that will expand on the work we as an industry started which gives victims of domestic violence a way out of a lease with a small cancelation fee.

We feel this bill is a needed protection for renters who are victims of DV but doesn’t hurt landlords. In fact, the language in here will actually be an improvement and add protections for landlords, particularly the requirement to have 15 days to turn the rental unit with rent being paid. The RHA will support this bill and expect it to be in committee this week.

By the time these changes become law (first week of May)

Below is a summary of changes that was created by the advocates:

HB 316 RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AMENDMENTS GayLynn Bennion (D), Cottonwood Heights
STATUS: Defeated in committee 2-11
After talking with the sponsor two weeks ago, the sponsor indicated willingness to accept our suggested changes/compromise. However, this sponsor did what he has done many times and instead of taking generous changes and getting some of what she wanted, rejected compromise and insisted on “her way or the highway”.
This bill did two things:
  1. It required all expenses in the contract be listed in the first page of the lease, or on consecutive pages
  2. It required 90 days’ notice of rent increase if the increase is greater than 10% or $100
Special thanks to our lobbyists Mike Ostermiller and Chris Kyler and all who rallied at the last minute to defeat this bill. We were a little blindsided, having been told we had a compromise. Instead the sponsor rejected compromise and made amendments making the bill even worse, not better. We only saw language the night before the hearing and didn’t even find out the bill was on the hearing agenda until minutes before. Whether those actions were dirty tricks or an oversight, this is a reminder that bills that housing bills which are contentious die. It is always best for renters groups and advocates who want changes to work with us and get us on board as a partner. We would much rather promote legislation that works, that fight poorly conceived measures that would have hurt the people it was intended to help. For info on how the bill hurt renters read last week’s message.
SB 191 Condominium and Community Association Amendments, Wayne Harper (R), West Jordan
STATUS: Awaiting an amendment on the 35% language – expected in committee this week
Several years ago the rental housing industry sought and received prohibitions on community associations (HOA’s/PUD) charging extra fees to rental unit operators. The community association community is seeking the ability to charge a $250 annual administrative fee to rental operators. However, we insisted that the fee could only be charged in associations that allowed the maximum number of rentals in their community that would comply with HUD financing limits allow 35%. If allowing an annual fee to be charged (which would most likely be passed on to the renter in the lease) increased the number of rental units in community associations, it would help with rental supply and housing affordability. It could also create more opportunities for investors.
Un-Numbered Property Rental Amendments, Rep. Ken Ivory, (R) South Jordan
Representative Ivory has asked to talk to us about potential proposals. We are waiting for him to give us a time. We will provide an update once we meet with him.
HB 420 Eviction Amendments, Jennifer Dailey-Provost, (D) Salt Lake City
STATUS: Sent to Rules Committee for assignment to committee
We received late notice of a bill that would weaken accountability for renters. HB 420 would allow judges to waive treble damages in eviction judgements. Utah statute currently imposes triple damages (meaning the rent and damages are tripled) if renters refuse to work with landlords to find solutions when a renter violates a lease. Treble damages are an important tool that is used to bring renters to the table to find solutions, like moving if they can’t pay, setting up payments plans, etc. In many cases, rental operators and their attorneys waive treble damages if renters work with us. In fact, 49% of evictions filings in Utah are resolved without a court judgement, in our opinion, because the threat of treble damages brings renters to the table and helps resolve the case!
Representative Dailey-Provost’s bill would allow judges to determine whether to award treble damages instead of requiring them to. We think that would result in most judges refusing to award them, taking away the threat and making renters less likely to work with us to find a resolution. We also think it would delay eviction judgements, because currently judges work to quickly resolve cases because the treble damages clock is ticking (for instance granting a one-week delay results in 3 more weeks rent owed if the renter ultimately loses the case). We have often heard judges tell renters that delays only hurt them in the long run and we worry if treble damages are removed, delays would become common.
Representative Dailey-Provost has a history of running bills without consulting with the rental housing industry, and has, in the past, refused to even meet with us. That leads us to be pessimistic about resolving this bill through compromise, although we will as always try!
We will keep you updated if this bill receives a committee hearing.
For more information and to read bills, click below on our weekly tracking sheet.