Throughout 2012, local, state and national lawmakers will propose hundreds of measures that will directly impact the financial bottom line and business operations of National Apartment Association members, and others in the multi-family housing industry. While NAA actively monitors more than 100 policy issues, this update focuses on five high-priority issues that are at the top of the list for many NAA members.
1) Budget Issues
Most states remain worried about increasing spending and are still attempting to increase fees to avoid increasing debt again this year. As policymakers explore different options for balancing budgets, landlords should understand that several of these options are likely to include fee increases for public services, such as water and trash removal, as well as expanding existing taxes to goods and services that are untaxed right now. Examples of industry-specific tactics include proposals to tax rent payments as a shelter service, special assessments on individual apartment communities to cover “fair share” costs of life safety services, and fee-based rental property inspections programs.
2) Fair Housing and
Employment Protections for Convicted Criminals
In an attempt to avoid any discrimination, lawmakers in a growing number of cities and states are considering legislation to prevent inquiries concerning criminal charges and convictions from appearing on rental housing applications. The NAA feels that these proposals prohibit rental housing providers from exercising strict due diligence in all aspects of potential resident screening, recklessly endanger the safety of apartment personnel and residents, and expose rental housing owners to legal liability.
3) Bed Bugs
Bed bug legislation continues to be a hot topic as lawmakers attempt to delineate the tenants’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities. The NAA continues to watch carefully the different legislative pieces being enacted in states across the nation, as well as on the federal level for federally-assisted housing.
4) Source of Income
The NAA attempts to keep “source of income” legislation in control—keeping it from being a protected class in some states, helping fight litigation in other areas, and maintaining reasonable inspection requirements and administrative rules for those states (including Utah) where Source of Income is a protected class.
In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform coming from Congress, certain state and local governments have attempted to enact legislation criminalizing the renting to or hiring of undocumented immigrants. The NAA worries that the actions of these states will promote similar legislation, which will have negative consequences for those in the multifamily housing industry. Among other things, immigration ordinances generally require prospective tenants to obtain occupancy permits and declare on rental applications that they are here legally. In some cases, these measures have made property owners responsible for collection and submitting these application materials to local officials—effectively requiring rental owners to assume the role of federal law enforcement officials. In most cases, owners found to have knowingly rented to illegal immigrants in violation of these ordinances are subject to fines. There is also the potential for additional delays in filling vacant units as the application process would be slowed by screening for legal statuses.