Denver will force landlords to get licenses to rent their properties

The program will take a few years to fully implement.
3 min. read
A view of Cherry Creek from 135 Adams St. Sept. 30, 2020.

Renting out properties in Denver is about to get a little more complicated.

Denver City Council on Monday approved a new program requiring landlords to get a license to rent out properties. Lawmakers said the licensing program will help the city get a clearer picture of its rental stock and enforce basic living conditions for renters.

City Council President Stacie Gilmore, who introduced the bill, said it took two years to craft. She said it focuses on tenant's rights and protections.

"For the first time in Denver's history, we will have significant renter protections, through the Healthy Residential Rental for All License," Gilmore said, referring to the bill's formal name.

Denver joins cities including Portland and Seattle in establishing rental licensing programs. Closer to home, cities like Boulder and Westminster have similar programs.

Denver's housing stock includes nearly 520,000 properties and units; more than a third are rentals, according to 2019 figures.

The program would require property owners to get licenses that must be renewed every four years and require licenses for single-family homes, condos, rowhouses and apartment complexes (the program won't charge per apartment unit, but rather by each parcel). Each license will cost $50, with costs increasing for complexes with multiple units. Gilmore said fees were kept relatively low to make sure they weren't passed on to tenants.

Inspections would be required to get and reup a license and if the property is sold or changes owners. Inspections would be based on minimum housing standards set by existing city laws. Violating the rules could cost landlords up to $1,000 per infraction or their license altogether, meaning they wouldn't be able to legally rent their space.

Councilmember Paul Kashmann said he supported this effort, but most of the landlords he spoke to had concerns about the inspection requirement.

The program's rollout will include phases, starting with early licensing available by Jan 2022. If and when the bill is signed by Mayor Michael Hancock, the new law will require all rental dwelling units to be licensed by Jan. 1, 2024.

Councilmember Candi CdeBaca unsuccessfully tried to introduce two amendments to the bill that would have changed the licensing start date and the fee structure to require licenses for each apartment unit rather than an entire parcel. Council members rejected both.

The Denver Metro Association of Realtors and the Apartment Association of Metro Denver opposed the bill, citing costs, issues with the inspections, and the bill's impact on affordability.

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