“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”
The quote is attributed alternately to Mark Twain and to another 19th Century American writer named Gideon John Tucker.
Whatever the origin, its words have never been more apt than in recent times in Colorado.
But relief is in site. The 74th Colorado General Assembly is set to adjourn tomorrow, Monday, May 8th.
I think of “relief” with the bias of a real estate person. That is, a real estate agent, rental property owner and landlord.
But a sigh of relief is also in order, I would say, for many owner-occupant homeowners; and even for tenants in rental properties, who will dodge the consequences of more misguided law-making.
The 2023 session was laden with “housing” bills, categorized as such in the media and in the Legislature’s own communications. Several of the housing bills addressed landlord-tenant issues. Invariably they were kinder to the latter than the former.
That’s as it should be, of course. Housing is in crisis, and the help is needed by tenants and home buyers, not investors and developers.
So there were no proposals known as the Landlord Protection Act. Nothing like that.
Still, some of the bills seemed remarkably hostile toward landlords. One bill (HB23-1171) would have required landlords to offer the tenant up to three months of “relocation assistance,” if they want to end a lease to remodel or sell.
Like many of the extreme measures, that one died in committee.
With the session now wrapping up, pro-tenant advocates prevailed only on what I’d call minor issues. For example:
- HB23-1099 will reduce fees paid in rental property applications. An applicant can re-use one background/credit report for up to 30 days, rather than buying a new one for each application.
Other tenant-friendly bills, now dead, focused on pet rent limits, various tenant protections, and defining “just cause” for evictions.
On the bigger issues, it seems, tenant advocates pretty much struck out.
- The unsuccessful HB23-1115 would have lifted a 40-year ban on rent control in Colorado cities and counties.
That bill was sponsored by Rep. Javier Mabrey, a Denver Democrat who vowed to try again next year. “We will be back and we will win,” he said on Twitter after the measure failed.
Always controversial, rent control has been the subject of many academic studies. This one was published by Stanford Professor Rebecca Diamond in 2018. Its conclusion was thus:
“Rent control appears to help affordability in the short run for current tenants, but in the long-run decreases affordability, fuels gentrification, and creates negative externalities on the surrounding neighborhood.”
I for one am happy that rent control is dead for another year.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis introduced a bill to move some control of local zoning to the state level. Its intent was to increase density through “upzoning”—allowing multi-family development in areas where single-family is currently the only option.
I heard a radio interview of Polis. Speaking to the governor, the interviewer called it “your” development bill.
Polis bristled, saying it did not reflect his personal agenda. He characterized the bill as an expansion of personal freedom. Developers would have a right (but not a mandate) to build multi-family properties.
The point was nonsense and political demagoguery. Sure, no one will force anyone to build a fourplex. But where multi-families are popping up, there is pressure on developers to conform. Neighborhoods would change and maybe not for the better. Property values decline when areas lose their character.
The Polis plan was essentially defeated. It was stripped down to just an authorization to create a study group and passed into law.
Even locally, things keep getting tougher for landlords.
The City and County of Denver will require licensing of the landlords of single-family rentals starting in 2024. It kicked in for multi-family in 2023.
In my own Denver rentals, this may require spending thousands of dollars in “improvements” that no one asked for, such as re-wiring and re-piping.
Inevitably such costs will be absorbed by the tenants. Or I’ll sell the properties to owner-occupants or to bigger investors with deeper pockets. The likely consequence: Fewer rentals, higher rents, or both.
A client of mine recently left Colorado and listed two income-producing duplex properties for sale. She considered keeping them, but ruled it out, blaming the increasing regulatory pressure on landlords.
I was part of a bi-lingual team explaining the sale of one duplex to its Spanish-speaking tenants. They’d been renting the place for 20 years. Soon they’ll have to move on.
It is sad to see gentrification up close and personal. In this case, it was partly an unintended consequence of well-meaning new regulation.
Back at the State House, the demise of sweeping measures is a reason to celebrate. We are safe until next time the Legislature is in session.