DENVER — Denver Democrat Rep. Alex Valdez has introduced a bill in the Colorado legislature that would strip all residential rental-property owners of their ability to charge extra damage deposits or increased rent to tenants who wish to own pets, while forcing some to allow all pets regardless of size or breed.
- Prohibit restrictions on dog breeds for obtaining homeowner’s insurance.
- Prohibit “pet animals” from being considered as personal property to satisfy restitution against an evicted tenant.
- Create a “pet friendly” landlord damage mitigation program.
- Require that anyone receiving the Colorado Affordable Housing Tax (CAHT) credit allow pets in their developments.
The CAHT is a state subsidy program created in 2001 under Gov. Bill Owens. It has been renewed several times over the past 20 years. It’s designed to encourage private-sector developers to build low-income housing units by offering state income tax credits on the developments. In 2022, developers were granted nearly $12 million in state tax credits for 1,463 housing units primarily in the Denver-metro area.
The text of the bill claims that tens of thousands of pets end up in Colorado animal shelters each year, and are often surrendered due to issues related to finding housing. “Extensive restrictions on pets in the housing context disproportionately impact lower-income households and prevent lower-income households from experiencing the benefits of pet ownership,” the bill reads in part.
The intent of the bill is to “encourage housing developers, owners, landlords, insurers, and other operators to increase pet-inclusive affordable housing in Colorado.”
Yet “encourage” is not the language used in the bill where low-income housing units are concerned.
“No credit shall” is the exact language used in the bill followed by “be allocated … unless tenants residing at a qualified development are allowed to own or otherwise maintain a pet animal at the until that the tenant resides in subject to reasonable conditions that may be imposed.”
The “reasonable conditions that may be imposed” only include such things as leash requirements and the number of animals allowed based only on size of unit, but cannot include such things as breed or weight of animal.
While the bill requires those receiving the tax credit to allow pets, it does not address the likely impact on animal shelters from market-based housing whose landlords may stop allowing pets altogether because of the new regulations.
According to the Secretary of State’s Website, six entities are supporting the bill, all of which are animal rights organizations, while four are opposing, four are monitoring and two are asking for amendments.
Those opposing include insurance companies, the Colorado Association of Home Builders and the Rocky Mountain Home Association. The Colorado Apartment Association is among those asking for amendments.
The bill would allow insurance companies to deny homeowners insurance if a specific individual dog is considered a dangerous dog but does not clarify how that standard would be established other than to point to current Colorado law that sets penalties for harboring a dangerous animal, which is also subjective in definition.
To compensate for prohibiting landlords from asking for additional damage deposits or rent for animals, the bill requires the Department of Local Affairs to create a “pet friendly landlord damage mitigation program.” Under the program, a landlord may receive reimbursement for actual damage caused to a rental property by a pet animal allowed to reside with the tenant, up to $1,000. Reimbursements are granted on a first come, first served basis, and a landlord must provide documentation in support of the damages for which the landlord makes the claim of reimbursement.
The landlord who receives reimbursement would be prohibited from taking legal action against the tenant for the damages or from pursing collection against the tenant for the damages.
The bill says compensation is subject to the availability of funding, and does not address where the money would come from. The bill does not yet have a fiscal note.
The bill does not have a safety clause on it, meaning if it passes, any Colorado resident could challenge the bill and force it to go to the voters, so long as a petition is filed within 90 days after the final day of the 2023 legislative session. Those wishing to repeal the bill would need to gather 124,238 signatures from registered voters in 60 days to force it to a vote. It would appear on the 2024 ballot.
As of Jan. 27, Valdez in the only sponsor on the bill. He has no co-sponsors in the House, nor have any members of the Senate signed on.
The bill will be heard in the Transportation, Housing and Local Government committee at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 7 in room LSB A.
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