Rental Regulations Monthly: Affordable Housing Post-Election; CA, MD & AR Updates

Welcome to Rentals Regulations Monthly, Obligo’s monthly digest of recent regulatory news impacting the rental market. Whether you’re a property owner, manager, or a renter, we’re here to highlight some key changes in the ever-shifting regulatory landscape of rental housing.

In recent months we have seen states enact restrictions on rent increases and suitable living conditions. Local governments have also launched programs to help renters and landlords who are still grappling with the financial aftermath of COVID-19. 

States To Tackle Affordable Housing After the Election

The November election saw a surge of initiatives addressing housing affordability across the nation. Minnesota leads the charge by passing two ballot initiatives around rent control – starting next year, the city of St. Paul will limit rent hikes to 3% within a 12-month period, and the city council of Minneapolis will be able to regulate rents on private residential property. 

Other states have proposed measures that target short-term rentals, which many believe contribute to the decline of affordable housing options. In Leadville, Colorado, a ballot initiative would put a 3% tax on tourists staying at hotels, motels and short-term rentals, to address the city’s housing shortage. Residents in Lincoln County, Oregon voted for an initiative to phase out licenses for short-term rentals like Airbnb over five years. In Massachusetts, the newly elected mayor Michelle Wu is also working on measures to balance home-sharing and long-term rental housing availability. Faced with rising housing costs, she called for some form of rent control in Boston.

Earlier this fall, Seattle’s city council passed two ordinances that would put tighter restrictions on rent increases. The first requires landlords to help cover their tenants’ moving costs if they increase monthly rent by more than 10%. The second ordinance requires landlords to provide at least six months’ notice before raising rent. These bills are part of the city council’s push to overwrite Washington State’s ban on rent control and protect Seattle residents from rapidly rising rents. 

Our Insights

For Renters: Despite a recovering economy, rents are soaring across the country. One in four renters in America spend over half of their income on housing, and now it’s even harder to save money for a rainy day. If you want more cash on hand in moving to a new place, consider living deposit-free with Obligo.  

For Owners & Managers: Recent regulatory changes addressing rent increases, security deposit refunds, and evictions have put additional operational stress on landlords. You can simplify your leasing and accounting operations by using Obligo to collect certified electronic payments, offer renters a flexible deposit alternative, or refund deposits electronically. 

Arkansas Updates Landlord-Tenant Law with Act 1052

The Arkansas General Assembly recently passed Act 1052, an important legislation detailing certain rights of renters and duties of landlords in the state. After November 1, Arkansas dwellings must have the following at the time of move-in and throughout the lease: hot and cold running water, electricity, potable drinking water, a sanitary sewer system and plumbing to code, a functioning roof, and functioning heating and A/C system, assuming there was a heating and AC system serving the premises at the time the lease was entered into.

A landlord in Arkansas will be considered in compliance under the following circumstances:

1- At the time of move-in, the landlord supplies the tenant with a form to note defects, and the tenant returns the form with no issues listed, or doesn’t return the form within two business days; OR

2- During the lease, if damages occur and the tenant submits written notice of such defects, but won’t allow the landlord access to their unit to fix the issue, or if the tenant (or tenant’s family or guest) caused the damages through “deliberate or negligent actions or omissions.” 

A landlord must remedy a noncompliant condition within 30 days of receiving notice from the tenant. If the condition is not remedied within this period, the tenant can terminate the lease (without penalty) and is entitled to their security deposit refund. 

Our Insights

For Renters: It’s important to know your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. Thoroughly inspect your unit right after move-in so your landlord knows about any issues and can remedy them for you. Take care of your living quarters to avoid deductions to your security deposit. For more information on your rights, consult your local government’s website.

For Owners & Managers: This legislation is part of a broader trend wherein local governments have put greater emphasis on renter rights. Maintaining your properties in good living condition is foundational, but there are other ways to power a better renter experience. You can utilize Obligo to offer deposit-free living as an amenity, which attracts renters and saves you valuable administrative time managing security deposits. You can also use Obligo to electronically refund traditional deposits already in place, providing instant value to renters and reducing your overhead.

San Diego, Santa Barbara and Baltimore Roll Out Rental Assistance Programs 

In September, San Diego County’s Housing and Community Development Services launched two initiatives to help landlords and renters overcome financial hardship caused by the pandemic. 

The Rental Assistance for Small Landlords Program will compensate landlords who own properties in San Diego County with five or less rental units for overdue rent accumulated since April 2020. To be eligible, owners must be San Diego County residents, and tenants in their units must be at least three months past due on their rent.  The second initiative – the Security Deposit Assistance Program – will help struggling tenants pay a security deposit amount up to two months’ rent, capped at $7000. At properties that have opted into the program, tenants can apply if they sign a 6-month or longer lease and meet certain income requirements. Payments will be sent directly to the property owner. 

Similarly, Santa Barbara County is preparing to channel $16.6 million to help residents affected by COVID-19, in addition to the $13.2 million spent in the first round of the county’s emergency rental assistance program. This new round of assistance can be used for a tenant’s relocation fees, including security deposit and first and last month’s rent. 

Over on the East Coast, Baltimore City Council passed a bill on September 20th to create a security deposit grant for low-income residents. The one-time grant will provide up to $2000 for a renter to pay their security deposit. The grant was first introduced in June, after a bill mandating security deposit alternatives was vetoed.

Our Insights

For Renters: Check your city government’s website to see if your city or state has an existing program in place to help with rent and security deposits. You can also free up some cash by living deposit-free with Obligo!

For Owners & Managers: While some landlords with smaller portfolios in San Diego may benefit from the financial assistance afforded by this new legislation, these government rental assistance programs may add more operational overhead for property owners and managers, including more payment sources to track. Obligo offers a holistic suite of deposit solutions that can simplify your leasing and accounting workflow. Schedule a demo to learn more! 

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As the only credit-backed deposit alternative, Obligo rids both landlords and renters from the burden of security deposits, making the move-in and move-out process as simple as checking in and out of a hotel. Learn how Obligo can help you streamline your operations, boost your bottom line, power a better renter experience and comply with ever-changing changing regulations!

 

*Disclaimer: The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. This publication does not render legal or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters, and should not replace consultation with an attorney. 

Posted By Cyan Zhong

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