HB 2115 THREATENS CITIES AND TENANTS
HB 2115 is wending its way through the Arizona House of Representatives. It will preempt anyone but the State from regulating landlord-tenant relations, including housing matters. Landlords will be free to run down their properties with no recourse by municipalities because cities, towns and counties will be prohibited from regulating rental housing. Housing codes for Glendale, Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson, South Tucson, Surprise and Youngtown will be eviscerated. As renters comprise about one-third of the state’s population, most neighborhoods will experience decline.
An earlier version of this message led many readers to contact their Representatives, and it helped. On January 31, 2019 the bill passed out of the Arizona House of Representatives, Committee on Government, by a mere one-vote margin. At the time, Representative Walter Blackman, who cast the deciding vote, voiced that he could be persuaded to change to a No on the floor, based on additional community input.
Given that the party split in the House is very close (only 31 Republicans to 29 Democrats), to defeat the bill we need just one Republican to vote No. It is possible, but time is of the essence, and your help is needed. Please, once more, step up to the plate to provide that input before HB 2115 is called up on the House floor. Should HB 2115 pass the House, it will then move to the Arizona Senate for consideration. Killing it there would be particularly difficult because the Senate party ratio is more favorable for the bill (17 Republicans to 13 Democrats).
HOW YOU CAN HELP DEFEAT HB 2115
There are a couple of manners by which it is suggested for you to best assert your influence. The choice option is to email the legislators, and I have listed the priority contacts below. Emailing can have a dramatic impact because it confers more thought and effort, and also can be printed out and re-read, making the communication subject to weightier deliberation. Secondarily, you could telephone them, contributing a public voice to which many legislators will listen. Again, that information is listed below. Trying to personally meet with the House members may well be an act of futility. Chances are, they will be too busy to set time aside to meet with you. Still, if you are highly motivated or are familiar with politics, by all means, do your best.
Here are suggested names and contact information:
TOP TIER - Republicans most likely to be receptive
Nancy Barto, Republican, phone 602-926-5766 (room 316); email firstname.lastname@example.org
Walter Blackman, Republican, phone 602-926-3043 (room 345); email email@example.com
Noel Campbell, Republican, phone 602-926-3124 (room 304); email firstname.lastname@example.org
Joanne Osborne, Republican, phone 602-926-3181 (room 112); email email@example.com
SECOND TIER - Republicans that may be subject to persuasion
Timothy Dunn, Republican, phone 602-926-4139 (room 114); email firstname.lastname@example.org
John Fillmore, Republican, phone 602-926-3187 (room 303); email email@example.com
Anthony Kern, Republican, phone 602-926-3102 (room 224); email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bret Roberts, Republican, phone 602-926-3158 (room 344); email email@example.com
Ben Toma, Republican, phone 602-926-3298 (room 306); email firstname.lastname@example.org
THIRD TIER - all Democrats, just to keep them on the straight and narrow in opposition
To contact the Democrats, see the list of House members at the following link: https://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster/?Body=H
WITHOUT RENTAL CODES, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS
The State has a history of preempting political subdivisions from taking action on matters. For instance, A.R.S. § 33-1329 was enacted to preempt the right to control rents. Yet, to my knowledge there has not been a single instance whereby the State has exercised that authority. That is, preemption is for the purpose of prevention.
Let’s get real. For all the politicians’ protestations otherwise, the State is not about to engage in the interest of residential tenants. The State listens to its landlord buddies, who often write or sponsor the laws. It is wishful thinking, at best, that the State will ever legislate rental housing standards that come within a mile of the municipal codes.
Without municipal codes, the lack of standards at the state level gives rise to such matters being adjudicated each and every time, primarily in the justice courts without precedent established as a guiding principle. For example, what is the definition of reasonable heating or cooling? This constitutes a patchwork redundancy of function that taxes the court system while leaving tenants “out in the cold.” Moreover, it results in countless judicial opinions that are at variance with one another. Municipal standards clarify what the State does not, and will not.
Here’s a prime example of “will not.” I have twice approached Arizona legislators about the problem of landlords refusing to provide receipts for rental payments (or even refusing acceptance of the rent outright), and then evicting the tenants on the misrepresentation that rent was not tendered and remains unpaid. This predicament has cropped up hundreds of time in the decades I have been assisting renters, but the legislators turned away from providing any resolution at the State level. And no doubt if it were proposed, landlords would fight it tooth and nail. Under HB 2115 lawmakers are willing to preempt, but State consideration of tenant matters is hit-and-miss, and more often it’s a miss. Whereas, municipalities could deem such a matter to be in the community’s interest, enacting codes on the topic.
On top of all this, tenants will lose protection under A.R.S. § 33-1381 from landlord retaliation by way of complaint to “a governmental agency charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building or housing code of a violation applicable to the premises materially affecting health and safety.” Why? Because there will no longer be any such agencies. Arizona renters will lose remedies for such “presumptive” retaliation by landlords: meaning loss of our rights, under A.R.S. § 33-1367, to mount a court defense based on retaliation, recover possession, terminate a lease, and recover monetary damages.
As written, HB 2115 will invalidate all rental codes in Arizona. With real grandfather language added (see Background information page), it is still loathsome law.
HB 2115’s unstated purpose is for landlords to sidestep maintenance of their properties, whilst disempowering renters. It is a big-money power grab by landlord lobbyists, laying waste to our communities, a prescription for slum development. The bill is endorsed solely by the landlord lobby groups, Arizona Multihousing Association and the Manufactured Housing Communities of Arizona.
Tenants need the alliance of their municipalities to level the playing field in enforcement of living standards. Otherwise, the sole recourse for tenants to enforce landlord compliance would be court action, which is expensive, time consuming, fraught with risk, and impractical. Tenants are thrown to the lions in an unfriendly court system.
Glendale, Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson, South Tucson, Surprise and Youngtown are quite diverse. Their rental codes differ widely. But they are in place to improve their respective communities, having an impact that has benefitted all elements of the citizenry (including landlords), which is why Tempe, having the most stringent code, has flourished.
Municipalities need mechanisms to hold landlords accountable for violating housing standards. Municipalities need the right to keep and adjust their codes, and neighboring cities and towns need the right to adopt codes in fulfillment of their social obligations. It is ridiculous and, frankly, offensive for the State to presuppose knowledge of what is going on in your backyard.
Once we lose our rights it will be all but impossible to regain them. An overwhelming roar from tenants, neighbors and cities can make the difference. Please step up to the plate and make your voice heard. Thank you. Ken Volk founder, Arizona Tenants Advocates