A new bill this year in the Colorado legislature (House Bill 23-1068) appears to be a solution looking for a problem that will actually cause more problems. Here are the highlights of the bill:
- Prohibits landlords from charging additional rent for pets.
- Prohibits landlords from charging an additional damage deposit for pets.
- Requires the Department of Local to set up a “pet friendly landlord damage mitigation program” where landlords can get reimbursement of up to $1,000 for damages caused by a pet animal, apparently as a way to soften the financial hardship that the bill will cause to landlords.
This primary justification, as stated in the bill, is that too many animals end up in shelters because of “issues related to housing, moving, or landlords.” The bill also suggests that fees and restrictions make it harder for pet owners to find housing, apparently as compared to non-pet owners. This latter purpose represents an instance in which the government regulates private industry to correct perceived economic unfairness – in this case, unfairness to pet owners. However, is it really “unfair” to charge pet-owning tenants more? “Pet rent” and “pet deposits” exist is because pets cause more damage, wear, and tear on rental units. There is nothing wrong with having pet-owning tenants bear that cost. This bill shifts some of the cost to taxpayers with the “mitigation program.” The program gives landlords a possible reimbursement for pet damages, at least, in the words of the bill “on a first come, first served basis.” (The bill does not address where the subsidy money will come from).
There are multiple outcomes from this bill, and none of them are good. First, it might have the intended effect and make it easier for pet owners to find housing, thereby increasing the proportion of tenants who own pets. I don’t see that as a good thing, considering how much conflict pets cause between tenants and landlords. On the other hand, landlords will likely charge everyone more rent and deposits, which makes all tenants worse off and forces the non-pet owning tenants to subsidize the pet-owners. Finally, landlords may simply stop renting to pet owners altogether, thereby making worst the very thing the bill purports to fix.