City staff to recommend landlord, complaint fees
The Laramie City Council will consider registration fees for landlords and complaint filing fees for rental tenants. The money raised will fund the enforcement of Laramie’s new Rental Housing Code.
Following the passage of rental regulations earlier this month, city staff will return to the Laramie City Council tonight, proposing property registration fees for landlords and complaint filing fees for tenants.
The fee schedule suggests a $20 registration fee per unit per year, but registration would be paid for two years at a time. So, for example, if a landlord manages five properties, they would have to pay $100 in fees for the year. Paying for two years at once, they would submit $200 for all of their properties. Two years later, they would have to pay again to stay in good standing with the city.
When the rental regulations were passed, landlords had warned that they might be forced to raise rents in response to registration fees and the price of upgrading rental units to the new code’s health and safety standards.
The Rental Housing Code requires that rental units be weatherproofed, structurally sound, free of pests and mold, and have professionally maintained heating, electrical and plumbing systems. It’s unclear how much these upgrades would cost the average Laramie landlord.
But the proposed registration fee of $20 would represent a $1.67 addition to monthly rent if landlords pass the cost onto tenants.
City Manager Janine Jordan has previously said she hopes landlords take care of the “nominal” fee.
“I know some of the landlords, as well as tenants, have expressed concern in public comment that this would drive up the cost of rental housing in Laramie — that is not our intention,” Jordan said. “And I would certainly hope that a minor fee like this — of $15-20 a year — would just simply be considered a normal cost of doing business and not be passed on, dollar for dollar, to our tenants.”
Mandatory registration for rental units will provide the city with data it doesn’t currently have, such as the number of landlords currently operating in Laramie. The $20 fee will help the city manager’s office run the registration program, Jordan said.
“Any fees that are paid would contribute to tracking licenses, making sure that they’re completed on time, and then support the complaint resolution process as well,” she said.
On Tuesday, city staff will also recommend a filing fee for tenants wishing to lodge a complaint with the city manager’s office.
The rental regulations are enforced through a complaint system. Upon noticing that one’s apartment falls below the standards of the Rental Housing Code, a tenant must first ask their landlord to address the issue. After ten days with no remedy — or 48 hours in some situations — the tenant may then lodge a complaint with the city, triggering a possible investigation that could result in orders or even fines for the landlord.
City staff is recommending that tenants lodging complaints pay a $15 filing fee.
Landlords praised the idea of a filing fee even as they argued against the rental regulations. The goal for such a proposed fee would be discouraging “frivolous” complaints.
But the idea has been met with criticism.
Councilor Andi Summerville has repeatedly said there should be no complaint filing fee because some portion of the city’s poorest residents would not be able to afford it.
“I don’t want that to be a barrier between them and safe housing,” she said.
The city estimates it can implement the registration fee by the end of June. The new standards will fully take effect on the first day of 2023. Only after that point will rental tenants be able to file complaints.
Resolution 2022-10 goes before the council during its meeting tonight. The council is also scheduled to consider changes to its budget for the current fiscal year, as well as grant applications for Spring Creek Trail construction and Laramie Regional Airport.