DENVER – A Denver rental license program years in the works which would, if passed, force housing property owners who rent out their buildings to tenants to hold a license with the city saw its first council committee meeting Wednesday.
According to the proposal from Council President Stacie Gilmore, which was be heard in the Business, Arts, Workforce and Aviation Services Committee on Wednesday, property owners renting out two or more units on a single parcel will have to be licensed by Jan. 1, 2023.
Property owners renting out a single-dwelling unit, such as a house, would have to be licensed by Jan. 1, 2024. According to a spokesperson with Denver's Department of Excise and License, it would be the largest expansion of required licensing in the city's recent history.
"It’s to protect renters and their housing," said Gilmore. "We need to make sure those minimum housing standards are being met, especially for those who are most vulnerable and maybe don’t have a voice to get things corrected or fixed."
Property owners would be able to apply for the rental licenses starting Jan. 1 of next year, which is also when landlords would be required to provide a copy of a written lease to the tenant within 7 days for all leases exceeding 30 days. Landlords would also have to provide tenants with a notice of tenant rights and resources and rent demands.
Landlords would have to pay both application fees for the license and license fees. Application fees would be $25 for anyone who submits between Jan. 1, 2022 and Jan. 1, 2023.
For “Phase 2” applicants – those renting out two or more units on the same parcel – the cost would be $50 after Jan. 1, 2023. For “Phase 3” – single rental unit – license applicants applying during 2023, the fee would be $25, but would be $50 after Jan. 1, 2024.
The license fees would be as follows in the measure’s current form: $50 for one unit; $100 for parcels with 2-10 units; $250 for parcels with 11-50 units; $350 for parcels with 51-250 units; and $500 for parcels with more than 250 units, such as sky-rise and multi-building apartment complexes.
For instance, a single-family home for which the landlord applies early for an application would see $75 in fees. Landlords for apartment complexes with 200 units would pay $400 in application and license fees.
Although Gilmore says the fee is small, others worry any additional costs will be passed on to renters.
"Unfortunately, ultimately these costs end up being passed on to tenants which in a market now where rents are already sky high and increasing in Denver, it’s just going to make things worse for tenants," said William Bronchick, President of the Colorado Landlords Association.
The licenses will be good for four years and renewable, but cannot be transferred to other people unless ownership for a building changes, according to the measure.
Inspections will also be required before a license is granted or renewed. A single unit would have to be inspected by a home inspector within 90 days of a license application date. For parcels with multiple units, inspectors would have to look at 10% or more of the units in the building, inspected at random. If the building only has 10 units, at least one would have to be inspected.
Realtor and property manager, Regina Jackson, said there are already standards in place for landlords and she doesn't see the need to add another layer of regulation.
“I am required by law to meet all the current laws on the books which means warranty of habitability. I have to make sure that the house is habitable, if anything breaks I have to make sure it gets fixed, just all of those things, realtors are already required to do those things," said Jackson.
Licensees would also have to stay in compliance with zoning and city rules and regulations. All units would have to have working appliances in good condition, working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.
The licenses can also be suspended, revoked or sanctioned if licensed landlords do not meet ongoing requirements. Landlords found to be in violation could see administrative fines of up to $1,000 per violation and would have to pay the fine within 30 days.
The proposal says that the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment’s Residential Health Program would continue to address complaints even if a landlord is licensed. They currently receive about 1,200 complaints from tenants each year.
On-campus college housing, boarding homes, short-term rentals, properties owned or leased in whole or in part by a government agency, income-restricted housing owned by a 501(c)(3) corporation, and some income-restricted affordable housing rental projects would be exempt from the licensing requirements. Buildings less than four years old would not have to be inspected.
The $434,161 in startup costs were mostly approved in the council’s budget request to the mayor.
Gilmore says the proposal mirrors what is already in place in Boulder and would help ensure the welfare, safety and rights for renters. She also points out that the city’s short-term rental licensing program has requirements than regular rentals.
Her presentation to the council shows that about 37% of the 519,838 housing units in Denver are currently rentals – including 19% of single-family homes, 38% of condos and 26% of rowhouses.
Denver will host two virtual community meetings on the proposed ordinance. The first one is on April 22 at 5:30 p.m. and another meeting will take place on April 24 at 10:00 a.m.