Polis signs bill restricting rental application fees and prospective tenant background checks

“It’s time for tenants and applicants to have some of their rights restored and enforced.”

Democratic representatives Brianna Titone and Brittany Petterson of Jefferson County and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez of Denver, standing from left to right look on as Gov. Jared Polis signs the law they sponsored on rental applications on April 25, 2019. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

Democratic representatives Brianna Titone and Brittany Petterson of Jefferson County and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez of Denver, standing from left to right look on as Gov. Jared Polis signs the law they sponsored on rental applications on April 25, 2019. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Gov. Jared Polis has signed into law restrictions on rental application fees and on how far back landlords can check a prospective tenant’s rental, credit and criminal histories.

“I’m thrilled to do my part to help renters,” Polis said Thursday after a brief signing ceremony in his Capitol office.

Democratic representatives Brianna Titone and Brittany Petterson of Jefferson County and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez of Denver were the main sponsors of the Rental Application Fairness Act. It prohibits application fees from being charged unless landlords use the entire amount for processing costs. Landlords are asked to make a good faith effort to refund any of the fee they don’t use.

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Previously Colorado had no limits on what landlords could charge. The advocacy group 9to5 Colorado, which lobbied for change, conducted a survey in 2016 in which more than half of the respondents said application fees added to the difficulties of finding housing.

Andrea Fuller, who rents an apartment in Denver, said she contacted state representatives when she heard about the proposal to urge them to adopt it.

“Exorbitant fees are actually being used to generate profits,” she said. “It’s time for tenants and applicants to have some of their rights restored and enforced.”

Nancy Burke, vice president of government and community affairs for the Colorado Apartment Association and the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, said her landlords’ groups supported the measure and had worked to influence its language.

“We believe that disclosing application fees and requirements before a tenant starts the application process provides upfront expectations and should be very helpful to prospective renters,” Burke said.

The new law also addresses the information landlords can consider in determining whether to rent to an applicant. It restricts landlords to looking at seven years’ rental and credit history. They can no longer consider any arrests that don’t lead to convictions. Landlords can only consider convictions within five years of the time the application is made unless they were related to certain offenses involving methamphetamine or amphetamine or crimes that required registration as a sex offender.

The law provides for applicants who believe it has been violated to sue. Landlords could end up paying the applicants three times the fee they charged plus court costs and attorney fees.

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