Boise leaders seek regulation on rental application fees

Posted at 9:40 PM, Jul 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-25 00:15:01-04

BOISE, Idaho — With demand for rental units at an all-time high in Boise, some prospective renters are going broke before even being considered for a unit. As homelessness rises, Boise leaders now hope to add oversight to the application fee process.

In a 6 On Your Side exclusive, leaders Madeline White spoke to are now working on ways to prevent any abuse of power by property managers.

"The application fee process is absolutely ridiculous," said Tracy, who prefers not to reveal her last name.

The Boise resident of about 40 years said she was given 30 days to move out after her landlord decided to remodel her unit.

"If you're applying at so many places during the week, you could be forking out $400 a week just in application fees," she said.

She said she works two jobs-- seven days a week-- but ended up living out of a motel for a month.

"If a landlord gives you 30 days notice to move out, how does anybody come up with that kind of money?" said Tracy.

Property managers will often charge an application fee to cover background checks. Representative John Gannon, (D) Idaho, said not all managers are abusing this.

"Most landlords and property managers are honest and good people, but uh, some of them have taken advantage on the application fees, collecting a lot of application fees for just maybe one vacancy," said Gannon.

This "taking advantage" he said he'd observed eventually led to a meeting with Councilmember Lisa Sánchez.

"You're [paying application fees] with the hopes that you're gonna be getting into a place. And spending all this money on rental application fees, and not having any assurance that you're actually getting into a place, it's just not right," said Sánchez.

She is now working on the initial drafting process of a City of Boise ordinance.

"Is it for an application fee for a background check? That makes sense... but those are relatively small. The amount for that is not that much. So then, ya know, if you're charging $100 for a rental application fee, where is that rest of that money going towards?" said Sánchez.

The ordinance would require owners to provide itemized receipts detailing how the fee will be used, limit fees to no more than $50 or the cost of screening, and would prevent owners from charging existing tenants who wish to move to another unit in the same property.

And while still in its education stage, she added: "It'd be a criminal act." Second or subsequent violations, she said, would be punishable by Misdemeanor.

Sánchez says the Mayor is in agreement that this is something the council should decide on as soon as possible, as rents continue to rise, worsening the strain. A 2018 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that, in Idaho, it would take two full-time, minimum wage jobs to afford a fair-market rent of about $800.

Sánchez says she's encouraging public input, so if you're interested in sharing your thoughts, to please send an email to