House Bill 138 — Tenant eviction procedures

Phil Haunschild 2019 House bill ratings

Bill description: HB 138 would substantially revise the process for taking action against tenants who have unpaid rent or who have violated lease or rental agreements.

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A tenant of rented or leased property is guilty of an “unlawful detainer” if the tenant remains on the property after she is in violation of a lease agreement. Often, this is through a failure to pay rent or by remaining after an agreed upon lease has expired.

Current law allows a property owner or manager to evict a tenant if the owner or manager has reasonable grounds to believe that the tenant has engaged in the “unlawful delivery, production or use of a controlled substance on the leased premises,” regardless of whether that is a provision in the lease agreement or not.

As the law currently stands, a tenant who has drug paraphernalia, such as a pipe or pill bottles, in their home could face eviction as a result of the landowner’s suspicions, regardless of whether any damage has been caused to the property. HB 138 would remove this cause of action for an unlawful detainer, however, the prohibition on illicit substances could could remain a provision in the contract or lease agreement the landowner and tenant sign.

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HB 138 would require property managers to store any security deposits received for residential properties “in a trust account at a federally insured financial institution.” This would not apply to owners who manage their own rental properties, nonprofit organizations, or real estate licensees.

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HB 138 would streamline several procedures for tenants and landowners. Among the procedures, the bill would clarify the procedures an owner or manager would use to make an unlawful detainer action and to evict tenants if they are in violation of a lease, as would the procedures for tenants taking action against a landowner for violating the commitment to maintain the residence. Under current law, if a landowner fails to repair a facility, a tenant can only take legal action against the landowner. HB 138 would allow tenants to make their own repairs and receive reimbursement, thereby avoiding filing an action in court. Similarly, HB 138 specified how tenants can recover their security deposit prior to going to court.

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HB 138 would establish a new section of Idaho Code, which would specify a “crime victim’s rights to new locks” and a “crime victim’s right to terminate rental agreement.” As a result of this new right, property owners would be mandated to provide new locks of equal or greater value within 24 hours if the tenant has had a protection order issued by a court. Similarly, a crime victim would have a right to terminate a lease early should they become a victim of certain crimes. Further, the property owner would be obligated to refund the tenant any prepaid rent, and a prorated amount for the current month.

HB 138 would put the onus on property owners to pay for the new locks, as well as incur any losses as a result of an early lease termination, regardless of the fact that the property owner played no role in the perpetration of the crime.

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