|Our Senate Bill on eliminating Section 8 as a protected class, has been relentlessly hammered this week by housing advocates. We are confident we have the votes to pass it.
What this bill does:
It allows Utah landlords to opt out of working with housing authorities, by allowing us to refuse to work with the section 8 voucher program without being discriminatory. Here is the actual language of the bill:
In other words currently Section 8 is a protected class and refusing to work with Section 8 could get a landlord a $10,000 fine. This bill will allow landlords to opt out and not be liable for discrimination.
What the bill does not do
Housing Authorities and advocates say this bill will hurt affordable housing and low income tenants. We believe that is not true. Section 8, like Medicare, was designed as an optional government program. Doctors can opt out of Medicare if they don’t want to deal with the restrictions or bureaucracy of the program, and landlords should be able to opt out of Section 8. 41 states allow landlords to opt out of Section 8 and the program works just fine there. Texas and Indiana passed similar bills last year to what is proposed in Utah, and nothing bad happened to low income tenants. This is an issue of business freedom.
There are 11,000 section 8 vouchers in Utah, out of almost 300,000 rental units. That’s only 4%. Housing authorities Section 8 tenants, Property Managers, Landlords and attorneys testified last week at a hearing that if this bill passed only about 10-20% of landlords would actually stop taking Section 8 vouchers. But even if 50% of the 300,000 rental units became unavailable to Section 8 participants, there would still be almost 15 times as many units available as are needed. In addition, there are almost 20,000 government subsidized affordable housing units under various programs that would love to take section 8 tenants – and that’s even before the private market.
Here are links to more info on the bill:
This week one of our major bills went through committee on a 9-1 vote and is headed to the House floor!
HB 196, Unlawful Detainer Revisions, Sponsored by Keith Grover (R), Provo
This bill deals with squatters and changes the definition of something called peaceful possession. In our eviction (unlawful detainer) statute, we must go through a notice and lawsuit process to remove someone we created a tenancy relationship, because we gave them rights of possession. However, there are cases when someone simply breaks in or moves in to one of our rentals without permission or any rights to be there. In those cases, we don’t have to do an eviction, we can simply treat them as trespassers.
The bill’s sponsor is a landlord himself and has dealt personally with cases when people move in without permission. Sometimes, when police are called they are good and escort the trespasser out, other times they tell landlords to “do an eviction”. The problem with that is not only does it take time and cost money, but in some cases it hurts the previous tenant.
Up to now, if you had a tenant who moved out, but they had acquaintances who took advantage of them and then moved in, you would have to do an eviction of the previous tenant, and get a judgement on their record when they were being taken advantage of by someone. This law will clarify that if someone moves into your rental without your permission and you don’t know who they are that you can treat them like a trespasser. It’s good for tenants, landlords, and the courts because it will reduce the number of evictions being done.