Dems try to ease costs of apartment screenings

DENVER — Landlords who charge for rental screening applications would be restricted on just how much they can charge under a bill the Colorado House is to debate this week.

The measure, HB1127, which has no support from House Republicans so far, is aimed at making it less expensive for low-income people to get affordable housing, said its main sponsor, Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Denver.

"The fact of the matter is, this is pretty common-sense stuff," Jackson said. "Everybody knows that we’ve got a massive affordable housing problem. If you can’t even get into a piece of property because you’re paying so much for application screening fees, the bill limits the amount that a landlord can charge to screen a prospective tenant to their actual cost of those screenings."

Jackson said many people can’t afford to spend money on multiple screenings at different apartments they are considering renting, and then come up with first- and last-month’s rent along with a security deposit.

Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Denver, who also is sponsoring the bill with Jackson, said he’s hopeful changes to this year’s bill will win the approval from the Colorado Apartment Association with some changes, which haven’t been worked out yet.

The duo tried to get a similar bill through last year’s Legislature, clearing the Democratic-controlled House on a party-line vote only to see it killed in a committee in the Republican-dominated Senate.

While affordable housing advocacy groups are supporting the bill, organizations like the Rocky Mountain Home Association and the Colorado Association of Realtors oppose it.

"We could be able to get the Apartment Association to neutral, so there’s a real chance that we can lock down some common ground and have some pretty strong bipartisan support," Kennedy said.

The measure cleared the House Finance Committee last week on a partisan 7-6 vote.

In a related matter, a measure introduced by Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, that would require landlords to provide tenants with a copy of their rental agreements and a receipt for rents paid, edged out of the Colorado Senate on Friday.

Although that measure, SB10, was on the Senate’s "consent calendar," meaning it won unanimous support in committee and is generally considered non-controversial, 10 Republicans voted against it Friday, including Sen. Randy Baumgardner, whose district includes Garfield County.

Sen. Ray Scott was absent for the day and did not vote because he was attending a GOP luncheon with the Mesa County Republican Party.

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