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Multi-housing lobby seeks state-only purview of landlord-tenant relations

For Rent

Republican lawmakers agreed Thursday to put new limits on the regulations that cities and counties can enact on landlords.

The legislation, approved by the House Government Committee on a 6-5 party-line vote, declares all relations between landlords and tenants to be “a matter of statewide concern.” More to the point, HB2115 bars locally elected councils and boards from enacting new rules of their own.

Facing stiff opposition from cities and tenant-rights advocates, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, agreed to make the restrictions prospective only.

That would leave in place existing regulations that govern things like lighting requirements to non-discrimination ordinances, but only in the communities where they already have been enacted. It would bar other cities and counties from following suit.

That, however, did not blunt opposition amid concerns that it means council members in a city with no local regulations could not decide that the rules in an adjoining city make sense for their own tenants, as well.

“You’re mandating inequality,” said Ken Volk, founder of the Arizona Tenants Association.

Arizona Multihousing Association, an organization of landlords, is pushing the measure. Lobbyist Jake Hinman said uniformity is important.

“We think the state should have one state of rules for both landlords and tenants,” he said.

Hinman said basic rules already exist in the Arizona Landlord-Tenant Act. For example, he said, that law requires landlords to supply running water and “reasonable” amounts of hot water, heating and air conditioning or cooling.

Alex Vidal, representing the League of Arizona Towns and Cities, argued that local councils are in the best position to know the needs of their residents. And he said local laws can be more specific on things like what’s an appropriate minimum or maximum temperature.

Tempe is a good example of how specific these local regulations can be.

For example, under the category of personal cleanliness at facilities, it requires flush toilets, lavatory basins, bathtubs or showers, hot water of at least 110 degrees and water pressure of not less than one gallon per minute.

There also are requirements for either an eye viewer through doors or an adjacent window so that tenants can see who is outside. Other mandates include the number of electrical outlets, weather-tight exterior doors and guardrails.

The fact that some cities already have their own regulations annoyed Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert.

“Cities are not sovereign entities,” he said. “They are political subdivisions of the state.”

But Rep. Domingo DeGrazia, D-Tucson, said that’s looking at the issue the wrong way.

“I believe it is not the job of the state to get involved in the finite details of every municipality across the state,” he said.

Despite the party-line vote, the future of the measure is not assured.

Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, agreed to support the measure to get it to the full House. But he said his vote on the floor remains in doubt unless some of his questions about “government overreach” and state preemption of how cities regulate rentals can be addressed.

“The cities have a right to do that and they also know what’s going on in those cities and towns,” Blackman said. “They see things that we do not see at the local level.”

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