Cities fighting bill that guts local oversight of landlords




A bill that would gut local oversight of landlord-tenant issues continues to advance at the state Capitol, despite objections from local governments.

House Bill 2115 states that “regulation of the rights, obligations and remedies of landlords and tenants is a matter of statewide concern” and not subject “to further regulation by a county, city town or other political subdivision of this state.”

Currently, many towns and cities have their own regulations for landlord-tenant issues.

The bill was recently amended to grandfather in ordinances and codes passed by cities and towns prior to Dec. 31, 2018, but the change hasn’t mollified cities and towns.

“It’s not a good solution because these situations are not frozen in time, and any future update to existing regulations would likely be defined as ‘new’ and be illegal,” Ken Strobeck, executive director for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns said. “This bill and the amendment would tie the hands of the local government to help resolve problems.”

Backers the bill see it differently.

Jake Hinman, a lobbyist for the Arizona Multihousing Association, said the bill aims to standardize laws around landlord and tenant issues to lessen confusion.

The amendment was meant to alleviate concerns by cities about the bill, but may have actually exasperated them.

Tempe has already come out in strong opposition to the measure, with Mayor Mark Mitchell saying it would have “far-reaching effects on the existing protections” the city has for both tenants and landlords.

Additionally, Tempe does not support the amendment, because it implies the city will not change or make alterations to already existing codes, Tempe spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said. The grandfathering clause would mean that the city could not regulate anything beginning in January 2019, so anything a city may have done this year in this realm could become moot.

Cities also are concerned about how enforcement would work moving forward, as the bill does not specify what agency would take over that responsibility.

If tenants or landlords have conflicts, which state agency are they supposed to complain to, if this is a matter of statewide concern?” Strobeck said.

When the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, was asked during floor debate by Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, what problem the bill was aiming to solve, Griffin brought up a case from 2015 in Surprise.

The city had passed an ordinance that said a landlord had to evict a tenant if they called police too many times. The “nuisance” law was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and eventually struck down by the couts. Griffin said that her bill would stop these sorts of laws from being created.

When Blanc argued that the language of the bill was “overly broad,” Griffin disputed that claim, and said the legislation was not needed until the Surprise case from three years ago came up.

The state’s Landlord Tenant Act worked “perfectly fine” until the Surprise law, Griffin said.

The bill and its amendment moved out of the House of Representatives along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor of HB2115.

“We have not had anyone identify a problem this bill is supposed to solve,” Strobeck said of the bill. “It needs to go away.”

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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