Arizona Bill Would Weaken Ability of Cities to Protect Tenants

Apartment building in Phoenix.
Apartment building in Phoenix.
Flickr user neepster, CC 2.0
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A bill introduced by a Republican lawmaker would strip cities of their ability to set their own landlord-tenant standards, potentially weakening housing codes on everything from cooling requirements to bedbug regulations.

Gail Griffin, a real estate broker from Hereford, introduced HB 2115 earlier this month. The bill is supported by the Arizona Multihousing Association (AMA) and the Manufactured Housing Communities of Arizona (MHCA), two trade groups aligned with landlords.

The House Government Committee plans to take up the bill at its meeting on Thursday, which begins at 10 a.m.

The bill would make the regulation of rental housing a “matter of statewide concern,” meaning Arizona law would trump any housing ordinances from cities, towns, or counties.

Local governments often pass housing codes that go beyond what the state requires. For instance, the city of Tempe’s rental housing code requires that all apartments include a refrigerator, as well as a cooling system capable of bringing all rooms down to 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

Arizona's counterpart makes no mention of refrigerators and simply states that all apartment buildings must have “adequate heating and cooling.”

Ken Volk, director of Arizona Tenants Advocates and a Tempe resident, said his city’s stricter regulations could be done away with if the bill passes.

"You’re not going to be able to hold landlords accountable to anything specific anymore,” Volk said. "It’s all going to be generalized, generalized, generalized."

Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell released a statement on Wednesday expressing concern over the bill and "potential of its far-reaching effects” on Tempe ordinances, if it were to pass.

"Cities should also be able to prevent our single family neighborhoods from blight caused by certain landlords who neglect their rental properties," Mitchell said. "These landlords show disrespect for their property’s neighbors and our community."

Neither the AMA nor the MHCA responded to a request for comment.

Jake Hinman, a lobbyist representing the AMA, told the Arizona Mirror that the organization supports the bill because it wants to eliminate the "patchwork" of regulations over rental housing to avoid confusion.

Hinman also said that a legislator will offer an amendment to "grandfather in" existing city codes so that they would still stand if the bill were to pass.

A shakeup of the Government Committee on Wednesday could potentially alter the fate of the bill. House speaker Rusty Bowers removed State Representative David Stringer from the committee on Wednesday, following a Phoenix New Times report on Friday that he was charged was multiple sex offenses, including child pornography, in 1983.

The move shifts the balance of the committee from majority Republican to five Democrats and five Republicans.

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