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Bill aims at additional protections for renters

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Prairie Hills Apartments  (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Home and apartment renters in New Mexico would get additional protections under a bill making its way through the Legislature.

Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe and Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces, House Bill 111 gives renters more time to get current on rent, prohibits discrimination against tenants who pay rent with a nontraditional source of income, and would establish a housing council to coordinate on statewide housing policy.

HB 111 has been endorsed by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless.

Jack Corder, president of the Albuquerque chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers, said much of the bill is unnecessary and already covered in other laws. Additionally, it will make fewer properties available to lower income renters, he said.

“This bill is really important because New Mexico was already in a housing crisis before the pandemic, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated it,” said Maria Griego, director of economic equity for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

While current eviction moratoriums have given those struggling through the pandemic some respite, “unless we take bold measures we’re going to have a tsunami of evictions coming on down the pike,” Griego said.

Specifically, HB 111 would give tenants more time to get current on rent, to prepare for court proceedings, and to move out and secure other housing if the court rules against them.

It specifically prohibits discrimination against tenants on the basis of race, religion, color and sexual orientation, and it requires that landlords “take into account all lawful sources of income when conducting an income eligibility test for prospective renters,” including housing vouchers and other assistance, Griego said.

Landlords would be prevented from refusing to renew a lease during a declared state of emergency.

HB 111 also establishes a housing council to “coordinate with every state agency that has a housing component,” Griego said. The council would bring together landlords, apartment associations and renters coalitions to “talk about the most pressing housing issues and come up with recommendations.”

Corder, whose organization represents mostly owners and managers of single-family rental properties, said HB 111 is redundant and many of the things in it are already covered by the New Mexico Uniform Owner-Resident Relations Act, and the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

“What this bill does is make it more difficult for a landlord to evict a tenant for noncompliance of a rental agreement,” he said.

“The bill is a way to open up housing for more people at the lower end of the economic scale, but this will do exactly the opposite.”

Instead, it will cause landlords to raise rents so that lower income people can’t qualify in the first place, Corder said, “and that means there will be fewer places available for them to rent.”

The bill has passed its first assigned House committee and is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

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