Denver, CO

Landlords would register rentals under new law

David Heitz

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A rental registry plan in Denver that has been two years in the making is getting close to becoming law.

The “Healthy Residential Rentals” program is the brainchild of City Council President Stacie Gilmore. Denver wants landlords to register their properties with the city for several reasons.

According to Gilmore, the bottom line is making sure tenants have a safe place to live. The registry would:

· Ensure minimum housing standards are maintained for the welfare, safety, and health of those residing in them. Currently, Denver requires more for short-term rentals in the city through that licensing program than it does for its own residents.

· Allow Denver to track the city’s housing stock. “Currently we do not know how many rentals we have in the city, especially when you think of all the single-family homes, duplexes, townhomes, and condos that are rented out,” city staff explains. “Knowing our housing stock is critical to solving our housing needs.”

· Strengthen landlord/tenant education and outreach. “We have been in a housing crisis for decades and it has been exacerbated due to COVID-19,” city staff explains. “This program will help stabilize housing by utilizing basic landlord/property owner information to share resources with tenants and strengthen landlord/tenant education and outreach, especially in these times of greater need.

Denver’s business committee discussed the rental registry Wednesday. It will go before the council for a full vote in May.

Denver rents outpacing incomes

“Unfortunately, low- and moderate-income renters are in a precarious position where rents have dramatically outpaced incomes over the past two decades and many are at risk of being displaced from their homes, especially renters in vulnerable neighborhoods,” Gilmore explains in a FAQ on the registry.

“Renters are afraid to report problems with their homes and some tenants live without leases, creating uncertainty and having limited legal recourse in the event of a rent increase.”

Similar problems were aired earlier this week in Aurora. The city voted to declare housing a human right.

Application fees will be $50, licenses $50 or $350

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, application fees will be $50, or half price ($25) for early bird registration. “Those opting into this phase will still need to obtain a passing inspection from a certified, private home inspector and to pay the license fee to receive their license, which is good for 4 years unless ownership changes,” Gilmore explains.

Licenses will be $50 for single-family homes and $350 for apartment buildings. “To obtain a license an inspection is required by a certified, private home inspector,” Gilmore explains in the FAQs. “This mirrors Boulder’s rental license model, where the inspections are also done by a certified, private home inspector. The property owner or landlord will need to secure a home inspector to conduct the rental inspections.

“The owner pays the home inspector directly and the inspector will have a city created checklist based on Denver’s minimum housing standards."

Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, “a license will be required for any person to offer, provide, or operate a residential rental property consisting of two or more rental dwelling units on a single parcel,” the law specifies. “For example, this would require a license for a single apartment building, an apartment complex, or a duplex where both units are rented. Also, in this phase, single units can still opt into early licensing and receive half off their application fee.”

Finally, by Jan. 1, 2024, licenses will be required for single-parcel rental properties, too.

More than 140,000 units in apartment buildings alone

“Based on the analysis of Denver’s City Assessor office in Dec 2019, we were able to determine potentially 37 percent of the city housing is rentals including single family, condos, and townhomes,” according to the FAQ. “This was done by comparing Assessor owner addresses used for property tax mailings to physical addresses. A rental license would allow the city to have much more accurate data on our rental housing stock.”

The city determined that out of 133,783 single-family homes in the city, about 25,568, or 19 percent, are rentals. Out of 42,000 condo units, there are about 15,888 rentals, or 38 percent.

Row houses include 22,700 units, with about 6,000 of them being rentals, or 26 percent. There are about 145,000 units in apartment buildings.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO
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