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Bill to eliminate Boise's rental application fee cap introduced Monday

Posted at 3:23 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 17:24:09-05

BOISE, Idaho — Inside the statehouse, Monday, legislation related to rental application fees, regulating fees and deposits was introduced and has now cleared its way for a full hearing.

Republican Rep. Joe Palmer of Meridian introduced the proposed legislation. According to the bill’s statement of purpose, it looks to change an existing law that a local government shall not enact, maintain or enforce an ordinance regulating rent, fees or deposits when leasing a private residential property.

“In current statute, excuse me, it doesn’t have anything about fees and deposits. I believe that was probably missed 30 years ago when they put this piece of legislation in and so all this basically is to me is a cleanup bill. We are going through and adding that in,” Palmer said Monday during the House committee hearing.

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Now, local governments are only prohibited from controlling rent. With Palmer’s proposed legislation, “fees and deposits” would also not be able to be controlled or regulated by local governments.

“There are really very few regulations and as a result, we see a lot of imbalance and a lack of fairness in the interactions between landlords and tenants. Tenants really do have very little bargaining power in this relationship because we have such a rental shortage,” Executive Director of Jesse Tree Ali Rabe said.

The City of Boise passed an ordinance in 2019, capping rental application fees at $30 dollars in order to help low-income residents in Boise's fast-growing housing market.

“This bill would trump the City of Boise's rental application fee cap which has been a great tool for tenant protection and allowing tenants to ensure they are not being charged hundreds of dollars when they are trying to find a new place,” Rabe said.

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The vacancy rate in Ada County is less than 1% so with any new vacancy, a property owner could receive hundreds of applications and collect an application fee from each one.

“Some of these tenants have applied to hundreds of places paid hundreds of dollars and still are not even hearing back from landlords,” Rabe said. “Anything that is stepping back from I think protecting tenants and ensuring that landlords are complying with best practices is a step in the wrong direction.”

The committee voted unanimously to introduce the bill — allowing for a full hearing. Idaho News 6 reached out to Palmer for further comment but did not hear back.