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Lawmakers look to provide renter protections with new application rules

'It is a recognition that renters are suffering'
Virus Outbreak Making Rent
Posted at 5:07 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 20:09:59-05

BOISE, Idaho — With Idaho's tight housing market, lawmakers are looking to establish better protections for renters.

The bill, drafted by Democratic Rep. James Ruchti and Republican Rep. Joe Palmer, adds three requirements for rental application fees. The new rules would require landlords who charge a fee to actually have a unit available. It would also limit the number of fees they can collect from tenants competing for the same unit and landlords would only be allowed to run one background check at a time and not just to compare renters.

"This is a huge step forward for renters. It is designed to codify best practices for landlords and for property management companies," Ruchti said.

James Ruchti
Representative James Ruchti (D)

Rep. John Gannon of Boise said the language in the bill was good — but he has questions about implementation.

“My concern is that there is no enforcement mechanism,” Gannon said during the committee hearing Monday.

Ruchti said while it's not a perfect bill, it gets the ball rolling.

"It was not designed to, for example, to solve all of the problems with the application fees. It wasn’t designed to solve all of the problems that renters are facing in the Treasure Valley or throughout the state," Ruchti said.

Kristen Pooley moved to Idaho right before the pandemic and said she had to fill out multiple rental applications, which can become costly. She was one of many who testified in support of the bill inside the Statehouse Monday afternoon.

“Landlords currently have a license to steal," Pooley said.

Pooley said she agrees the legislation is not perfect but it is a step in the right direction.

"When we first moved here, we had a great landlord. We had a great property manager and, we have watched what has happened and there are no checks and balances on this, and it has become very predatory. You do not actually know if that facility or that company of that landlord actually has that unit available," Pooley said. "If you are putting in $100 apiece, there's a lot of financial damage that occurs with that, because moving is expensive."

Kristen Pooley

"The issue itself is not going to be fixed quickly and I wouldn’t want to send the message to anybody that this is a panacea for all those problems or that we are going to fix it this year," Ruchti said. "This is an inventory problem and that’s just going to take years to overcome especially if our growth rates continue."

To read more about HB617, click here.