Denver is contemplating forcing landlords to use for licenses to lease their properties
The goal would be to give the city a better idea of how many rents there are and to have more leverage on enforcing housing standards.
After tackling group living laws earlier this year, city lawmakers are now looking to make yet another potentially sweeping change to home construction.
Councilor Stacie Gilmore is proposing a law requiring property owners to obtain a license from the city to rent apartments. A city council committee approved her proposal on Wednesday, and it is now being scrutinized by the entire city council.
According to the Denver Assessor’s Office presented to the committee on Wednesday, more than a third of the Denver housing portfolio was rented in 2019. The city’s housing stock includes nearly 520,000 properties and units.
Gilmore said the goals of her proposal are to help Denver track rental units, give the city control over whether those units meet certain standards, and improve communication between tenants and landlords. She said tracking units in particular would help the city make policy decisions and improve protection for tenants.
“Ultimately, this is a tool to get our people into our town,” Gilmore said.
Not everyone is on board. Peter Wall of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors spoke out against the bill during Wednesday’s meeting. Wall said housing associations like him, like the city, want to ensure tenant safety and the city’s affordability. But he disagreed with the way Gilmore’s bill attempted to achieve these goals. He said association members have raised concerns about the costs associated with the licensing process and feared city inspectors would be involved in their business.
“We have a concern for mom and pop landlords,” said Wall. “We believe the written proposal affects them disproportionately when compared to some of these larger apartment buildings and institutional owners.”
Eric Escudero, spokesman for the Denver Department of Excise Taxes and Licenses, said Gilmore’s proposal marks the largest expansion of required licenses in the city’s history. The largest share, around 6,000, now goes to security forces.
Gilmore’s bill would require at least 54,000 new licenses. Here’s where those licenses would go based on estimates from the city:
- 25,668 single-family homes
- 15,888 condominiums
- 5,957 terraced houses (such as maisonettes)
- 6,600 apartment packages
The city will license apartments not by units, Gilmore said, but by packages. The city has more than 145,000 residential units in these 6,600 residential parcels. According to Gilmore, parcels could be a single house or a complex of multiple buildings.
The license would have to be renewed every four years. Gilmore’s chief of staff, Magen Elenz, said inspections would be required if licenses are renewed or if ownership of the property changes. The inspection would be based on a checklist of minimum housing standards set out in existing city laws.
Elenz said that on-campus student dormitories, boarding houses, short-term rentals and commercial accommodation are exempt from the licensing program.
Penalties for violating the proposed law could include fines of up to $ 1,000 per violation or losing the license altogether, which would mean a homeowner would not be able to legally rent their space.
If the Council is adopted, the proposal will be implemented in staggered phases.
Early licensing would begin January 1, 2022 before full licensing for all rental units required by January 1, 2024. Application fees for the licenses start at $ 25 for early licensing. Fees are $ 50 for each unit starting in 2024 and up to $ 500 for registration fees, depending on the number of rental units.
Denver will host two community meetings on April 22nd and 24th on this proposal. For more information about the meetings and how to attend, please visit the city’s website.