The Albuquerque City Council sided with landlords Monday, rejecting a proposal that would have required them to disclose upfront to potential applicants some of their screening standards, and how much they charge in pet, parking, pest control and other fees.
Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn’s proposed “Residential Tenant Protection Ordinance” also would have limited application fees to $150 and required landlords to issue refunds in cases where they accepted an application fee from a potential client, but never actually processed the application.
Rental industry representatives who spoke during Monday’s council meeting called the bill “meddlesome” and “cumbersome,” and argued they might have to raise rents to account for the new regulations.
Though most people who gave public comment Monday — from a college student/renter to attorneys who work with low-income clients — actually spoke in favor of Fiebelkorn’s proposal, it lacked sufficient support among the city’s lawmakers.
The bill failed on a 4-5 vote, with opponents saying they worried about government overreach and unintended consequences.
“Any time we force any entity to do something, whether it’s a public or private endeavor … the next thing that happens is the person in control raises the fees, raises the rent,” Councilor Louie Sanchez said.
He and Trudy Jones each urged the council to postpone a decision and keep tweaking the bill, but that idea got little traction with other councilors. The two ultimately joined Brook Bassan, Renee Grout and Dan Lewis in voting down the proposal.
“I don’t think that we should infringe upon property owners’ rights as property owners to do what they will with their property,” Bassan said.
Fiebelkorn said she worked on the bill for months, inviting all constituencies to participate and making significant changes to her original proposal to address various concerns. She said she’s not sure what else she could have done.
“It’s a shame we can’t protect the citizens of Albuquerque,” she said in an interview after the meeting.
Much of Fiebelkorn’s proposal centered on the application process, requiring landlords to make upfront disclosures to potential applicants. That would have included a list of any parking, amenity, pet or other fees, as well as any financial penalties tenants might face for late payments or other lease violations. Landlords would also have had to outline certain terms of their tenant-screening process so that would-be applicants knew ahead of time if they must have a specific credit score or income to qualify.
The proposal also limited application fees to $150 and required that landlords refund it in cases where they rented the unit to someone else before processing others’ applications or when they denied an applicant without providing a reason. It also would have prohibited landlords from mandating that tenants have insurance for their personal property, though they could have still required that renters have insurance to cover damage to the rental unit.
Supporters described it as providing “common sense” protections for tenants, saying the regulations would particularly ease the burden on lower-income renters who currently struggle to pay multiple application fees, and who need to know about — and plan for — all the fees they will have to pay while in a rental agreement.
“It’s not unreasonable to tell somebody how much it costs, whether you’re buying a car or a house or a watermelon,” said Council President Pat Davis, who voted with Fiebelkorn, Isaac Benton and Klarissa Peña in favor of the bill. “It doesn’t make any sense to me we can’t do that.”