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Renters' rights killed again

Merrifield withdraws enfeebled bill, looks ahead to 2007


A bill that would afford Colorado's renters some basic legal rights has been killed by the state representative who pushed the idea, Michael Merrifield.

House Bill 1333 would have required landlords to provide a written copy of a lease to tenants; called for a three-day grace period before landlords could charge fees for late rent; and required security deposits to be returned to tenants within 45 days of their departure from a residence.

Advocates for tenants and lobbyists for landlords and realtors agreed on his bill prior to the session, Merrifield says.

The bill fell apart, however, when the Colorado Apartment Association insisted on including a provision that would have allowed property owners to charge late fees of up to 20 percent of monthly rent, even if a tenant had made a partial rental payment, says Cyndy Kulp of the Tenants Rights and Action Coalition.

"When push came to shove, the landlords and realtors wanted to junk up the bill," Kulp says. "They're a very powerful group. We didn't want to see that signed into law."

Merrifield essentially withdrew the bill last week by asking an obliging Business Affairs and Labor Committee to postpone it indefinitely.

Since 2003, Merrifield, a Manitou Springs Democrat, has unsuccessfully tried to pass a renters' rights bill.

Merrifield says he will introduce a more comprehensive tenants' rights bill in 2007 that would allow tenants to break leases if their home is uninhabitable, or allow tenants to pay for repairs themselves and deduct the costs from their rent. Passage of such a bill likely would be contingent on a Democrat becoming state governor, Merrifield adds.

"Colorado has some of the weakest rights in the country," he says. "I'm hoping to see something stronger signed into law."

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