Denver, CO

Denver holds landlords accountable, adopts rental registry program

David Heitz
(Daniel Thomas/Unsplash)

For the first time, Denver landlords will be expected to meet minimum standards when renting out their properties.

The City Council approved Monday a new rental registry program. Next, a checklist will be developed that inspectors can use when evaluating the properties.

Large apartment complexes only will be required to have 10 percent of their units inspected. Single-family homes will be inspected individually.

Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who co-sponsored the legislation along with Council President Stacie Gilmore, said many single-family dwellings are owned by “big capital.” She said it’s a misconception that all the single-family rentals are “mom and pop” properties.

Will fees get passed on to renters?

Several council members expressed concern that landlords would try to pass along the costs of the inspection program to tenants. Denver renters already are paying some of the highest housing costs in the nation.

But Gilmore said more than two years of work went into the rental registry proposal. She said it is well-researched, fair, and equitable.

There would be a $50 license fee per parcel and a $150 inspection fee per unit every four years. That comes to just $4 per month for small landlords with just one unit.

Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca made a motion to charge landlords $50 per unit instead of $50 per parcel for the fee. But the city attorney said municipalities can’t charge more than what is reasonable.

The registry isn’t a tax, Gilmore advised the council, and $50 per unit would bring in more than what’s required to administer the program. CdeBaca’s amendment did not pass.

Most speak in favor of rental registry

Several renters spoke in favor of the registry during the public comment period. Only one woman, Judith Hamilton, spoke against it.

“How will the city ensure all rentals will be inspected?” she asked. “If landlords do not apply for the license, what would the city do?”

She worried landlords may decide to get out of the business and sell their properties. Those properties likely would be demolished for high-end housing, and Denver would lose some precious affordable housing stock.

“This is likely to create less affordable housing,” Hamilton said. “The opposite of what’s intended.”

Checklist will focus on life safety, habitation issues

Many of the single-family homes are old and cannot meet code requirements. While the checklist for the rental inspections hasn’t been developed yet, the requirements supposedly will center around life safety and habitation issues.

Several people spoke during public comment time in support of the city developing an eviction counsel assistance program. When people are evicted, most can’t afford an attorney. Many are so sure they’re going to lose they don’t even go to court.

Mitchell Weldon said renters often are forced to choose “between losing your home or losing your job” by missing work for court. “Tenants don’t know how to turn moral arguments into arguments before a judge,” Weldon said.

Speakers support eviction counsel program

Those who spoke asked that counsel assistance for eviction not be means-based. They said there already is too much red tape involved with such programs.

Council member CdeBaca and council member Amanda Sawyer said they’d like to see universal legal representation for all Denver renters.

A speaker named Walter said he has been a renter and worked as a property manager. He said he has had to evict people. “Most have no representation,” he said. “The court is stacked against them.”

He said where he currently rents the sidewalk is not maintained during winter. He said he has fallen before. He hopes the new bill will encourage property owners to keep up on maintenance.

City council member Debbie Ortega noted it’s going to take a lot of inspectors to evaluate all of Denver’s rental stock. She pointed out that people who are unemployed may want to consider getting their inspector’s license or certification to cash in on an opportunity.

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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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