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The Denver Gazette

Colorado House OKs capping pet rent, deposits

By Hannah Metzger,

Richard Saiz and his dog "Teddy" in their home in Denver's Bear Valley neighborhood on Feb. 3, 2021.  Kathryn Scott, special to Colorado Politics

An effort to cap the amount of money landlords can charge tenants for having a pet passed a major hurdle on Monday, receiving approval from the state House.

If signed into law, House Bill 1068 would limit pet rent to 1% of the owner’s monthly rent or $35 per month, whichever is greater, in addition to capping pet deposits to $300 on top of existing security deposits and making pet deposits refundable.

The bill would also prohibit homeowner insurance providers from denying policies based on specific dog breeds and would require law enforcement conducting evictions to give any pets present to the tenant or, if the tenant is not there, turn the pets over to a local animal shelter or rescue.

"We can prevent a lot of unnecessary suffering by families," said bill sponsor Rep. Alex Valdez, D-Denver. "It still allows for a great free market approach, but also ends the process of bifurcating the family pet into a separate cost item that, if it's $100, $125, could be the equivalent of a week's worth of groceries for a family."

Pet rents and deposits vary widely in Colorado, with most renters typically spending between $25 and $100 per month for pet rent and between $200 and $500 for one-time nonrefundable pet deposits.

The bill would have capped pet rents at 1% of monthly rent or $25, but a bipartisan amendment raised the cap to $35 before Monday's vote.

As originally introduced, the bill sought to completely prohibit pet rent and deposits and block housing developments that don’t allow pets from claiming the Colorado Affordable Housing tax credit. However, Valdez successfully pushed for several amendments during committee last month to water down the bill.

Lawmakers voted, 34-25, in support of the bill, sending it to the Senate for consideration. This was a surprisingly narrow victory considering the chamber's Democratic supermajority.

All Republican representatives voted against the bill, in addition to six Democrats: Reps. Shannon Bird of Westminster, Regina English of Colorado Springs, Meghan Lukens of Steamboat Springs, Barbara McLachlan of Durango, Marc Snyder of Colorado Springs and Mary Young of Greeley.

Opponents argued that the bill would dis-incentivize landlords from accepting tenants with pets, leading to less pet-inclusive affordable housing.

Under the bill, landlords would still be able to restrict certain breeds or not allow any pets at all.

Lawmakers advance bill to ban evictions, lease terminations without ‘just cause’

"As somebody who's looking at doing a rental, everything I see that's coming out of here makes me think, 'Don't do a rental and definitely don't do pets,'" said Rep. Ken DeGraaf, R-Colorado Springs. "This is not the purview of our charter to be meddling in contract negotiations."

Ahead of the vote, Republican lawmakers submitted several amendments — which failed — seeking to further increase the pet rent cap to $50, increase the pet deposit to $400 and allow insurance companies to deny coverage based on breeds that they've experienced to have caused damage in the past.

In contrast to his colleagues, Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, introduced an amendment that sought to strengthen the bill, also including hotels. Soper said many hotels charge "outrageous" fees for bringing along pets, and he wanted the bill to limit hotel pet fees to 10% of a listed room price or $50, or 5% and $25 if the pet doesn't shed.

Soper's amendment failed after Valdez said it was outside of the scope of the bill, but he committed to working with Soper to consider separate bill to address hotel pet fees.

Opponents of the bill assert that high pet rents and deposits are necessary to accommodate for the risks pets pose, while proponents argue that landlords often charge more than what is reasonable.

A 2019 national survey from the Michelson Found Animals Foundation found that damages were reported for only 9% of pets, with the cost averaging at $210. Only 2% of pets were reported to cause damages requiring a security deposit deduction.

At many Colorado animal shelters, housing instability is the No. 1 reason that pets are surrendered. So far this year, around 200 pets have been surrendered to Dumb Friends League shelters in Colorado due to problems with housing, not including homelessness, according to the organization.

HB 1068 will next be sent to the Senate for a vote in the coming weeks. If passed, it would need final approval from the governor before taking effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

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