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City Council Member Sanchez proposes capping rental late fees in Boise

City Council Member Lisa Sanchez is hoping to bring another ordinance protecting renters to the City of Trees. 

On Tuesday, Boise City Council heard the first pitch from Sanchez on her proposal to limit late fees charged to renters in Boise. This ordinance would cap late fees to a one-time payment of 5% of what’s due or $50, whichever is higher. It follows Sanchez’s 2019 ordinance to cap rental application fees to $30 in the City of Boise.

Sanchez said there has been no movement from the Idaho Legislature in 20 years to regulate late fees for renters, which can stack up against low-income tenants who are already struggling to make ends meet and can be used by predatory landlords against their tenants. She pointed out that Idaho code has rules on late fees for stage unit renters and homeowners paying their mortgages, but nothing protecting renters.

“As we all know renters are under tremendous stress as rents increase and there are few housing options,” she said. “Although the majority of landlords and property owners are people with integrity, we do have those folks who prey upon our renters and some unscrupulous owners try to make the matters worse by charging excessive fees like application fees or late fees.”’

Other council members expressed support, but several had questions about how it would relate to possible state legislation and posed questions to Sanchez. There was no definitive decision on whether to move forward with the proposal or a timeline for when it could be heard.

Should Boise wait for the 2023 Idaho Legislative session?

During the meeting, both City Council President Elaine Clegg and City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings mentioned possible state legislation on this issue that could be coming early next year. 

Woodings mentioned the Idaho Asset Building Network’s plans to bring a bill regulating late fees for renters. She noted stronger enforcement measures for bills governing financial transactions the state has over the city, which means it could make more sense to have the state pass a law instead.

“That’s what gives me pause, which is the first state effort to offer these protections we’ve seen combined with I think the place for this being the state ideally and perhaps giving that a chance to go through the state before we did something city level,” she said. “That’s my initial reaction to it.”

The Idaho Legislature has been reticent to take up issues protecting renters in the past and has moved twice to try and overturn Sanchez’s 2019 ordinance on rental application fees using state law. The efforts failed multiple times, but during the debate on the issue many legislators spoke up against any regulations in the private rental market.

Sanchez said she heard Woodings and Clegg’s point of view on wanting the state to act, but she said the city council should respond to the needs of its constituents regardless of what the state is doing. City Council Member Jimmy Hallyburton agreed, saying however the issue can be accomplished he would support it.

“The state has a better enforcement mechanism, but if the state isn’t going to do it even though our enforcement mechanisms may not be as strong it’s still something we can put out there that creates a template for other people to follow it,” he said. “I’d love to see something happen with the state, but also something from the city if they’re not able to get there.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. 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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