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House Committee narrowly kills bill overturning Boise rental application cap

The City of Boise’s cap on rental application fees will continue.

On Friday, the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee voted 8-7 to kill HB 45, which would have banned any city in Idaho from regulating rental application fees. The only city in the state with an ordinance on the books is Boise, which enacted a $30 cap on fees in 2019.

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A subcommittee heard the bill last week and it was turned down by the majority of the members after testimony from renters and property managers. Because of process rules, the bill came back to the full Judiciary Committee for another vote.

Rep. Greg Ferch, R-Boise, brought the bill and it was supported by the Idaho Apartment Association and local members of the National Association of Residential Property Managers. They argued allowing Idaho cities to regulate application fees created a “patchwork” of regulations across the state and inhibited managers from doing their work efficiently.

Are rental fees a local issue?

This argument did not convince a narrow majority of the committee, just like the subcommittee.

Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City, said this ordinance would only impact Boise and should be handled by the city. 

“There’s one city that has an ordinance and it’s premature to say that there’s a patchwork,” McCrostie said. “There’s maybe a piece of thread, but there’s no patch and no patchwork.”

Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur D’Alene, made the motion in the subcommittee to lay the bill on the table, and he made the same argument Friday. He’s not necessarily against the idea of a statewide rule on rental application fees, but he said it should be part of a larger package of legislation to address the problems renters are facing in the market.

“I don’t personally have issues of the merits of the bill, but I am concerned this is one part of a very big problem that is facing renters, lessees and lessors,” he said. “This solves one part of it, but if we solve this one part then the other side of the table won’t come forward for the other parts that should be worked on as well.”

Others, like Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, strongly opposed any kind of regulation on fees because it is a form of rent control, which is prohibited in Idaho.

“What this bill addresses is that even though there are provisions against rent control, cities have gone to controlling fees for other things renters may be paying and distorting markets that way,” he said.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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