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Bill sponsor addresses controversial legislation on government involvement on residential rental fees

The proposed bill would prevent government organizations from controlling things like rental applications, instead leaving it to private business.

BOISE, Idaho — House Bill 442 has created a lot of conversation this week at the Capitol and online. There are a lot of questions, for starters, bill sponsor, Rep. Joe Palmer, explains what the bill does.

“All the bill basically does is go along, with what I believe, was the bill’s original intent to keep government out of the business of renting properties,” Palmer said.

Rep. Palmer highlights that under current Idaho law, the government cannot regulate rent prices. The proposed bill would simply add to that, preventing the government from regulating fees or deposits for residential rental property.

“Government cannot step in and tell you what to rent your property for but they can adjust any fees or deposits and I don’t think that is the right thing to do. I think business needs to make those decisions for themselves,” Palmer said.

Critics of the bill say it puts renters in a tough spot, especially low-income renters. In Boise, for example, there is a rule that rental applications be capped at $30. This legislation would remove that cap and any cap like it. Palmer says he understands that point, but that recent growth has made this a supply and demand issue, not a rental fees issue.

“The supply and demand is the problem, we have the demand right now, we just can't build them fast enough. People are building apartments as fast as they can and as they come here, as long as regulations are few and far between, they're going to continue to grow and build whatever product people are going to buy, whether it be an apartment for rent or anything,” Palmer said.

KTVB asked Rep. Palmer about concerns that this bill could promote price gouging or unfair renting practices. Palmer says there will always be bad actors out there that need to be addressed outside this legislation, he adds that he is open to taking on price gouging.

“If a bill is brought to me, that helps to protect people, that is not regulatory on somebody, absolutely I would be happy to look at that. As far as price gouging, you are going to have bad players do certain things,” Palmer said.

Palmer says he has heard criticism on the bill but says he has also had support from constituents who say rental caps make running their rentals difficult in terms of keeping up with costs.

“A constituent mine called me up was very happy that I was running this bill and said, I have four rentals inside Boise. I paid $90 apiece for every one of them for the background checks,” Palmer said.

Palmer says to him this is about keeping government out of business. He says alongside the topic he knows Idaho needs to keep up with growth by creating more housing and staying attractive to newcomers.

“It's just that easy. Any time you see more regulation, businesses go away from it because it costs them more to make their profits,” Palmer said.

Palmer has faced questions about if he himself owned or operated private residential rentals. He tells KTVB that is not the case, only owning commercial property for his business.

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