Application Fees and You – Changes Likely for Boise Policies

A Boise City Council member is shaking up the renting scene by drafting an ordinance that would place a cap on the rental application fees landlords and property managers charge. Proposed regulations look to make housing more accessible in a competitive market, and if it comes to take effect, it might change the way you charge potential tenants. But how likely is a new ordinance and what can you expect? We bring you all the details.

Proposed changes.

Lisa Sánchez of Boise City Council is working on an ordinance that would cap the fee that landlords and property managers charge prospective tenants to process an application. While many argue that these fees are necessary for the time and cost of vetting renters, the proposed changes are intended to curtail predatory fees.

The idea is to cap what landlords and property managers can charge for processing an application at $50 or less—the specifics are still being worked out. Sánchez expressed an interest in abolishing these fees altogether, but it is unclear at this time exactly what changes the Boise City Council might agree on. We can only look to what has been implemented in nearby states like California to see where Boise might be headed.

What California has done.

As the source of many of Boise’s incoming residents, California is a good indicator of coming ordinances regarding urbanization and real estate. With all of the growth in the Treasure Valley, our cities will look to what might have worked for other communities that went through periods of rapid expansion.

So when it comes to application fee regulation, what policies has California implemented?

Statewide, limitations on application screening fees in California work like this:

  • Landlords cannot charge more than $50.94 per applicant, as of 2019.

  • Each adult applicant for a unit can be charged this fee, even in the case of married couples.

  • These funds must be used only for the cost of checking background and history, including time reasonable spent checking references. Any funds not used for these purposes must be returned to the applicant.

  • A landlord accepting this fee must be able to provide the applicant with a copy of the applicant’s credit report upon request.

These measures are designed to protect applicants from potential fraud and exploitation while still allowing landlords to have the cost of background and credit checks covered. The maximum an applicant can be charged is dependent upon current consumer price index, so it is not a fixed-rate that will devalue with inflation. Soon, we may start to see policies like these implemented in Boise.

What Boise can expect.

With no limitations on application fees across the state of Idaho, it is only a matter of time before regulations are introduced to help manage the rapid growth and increasingly competitive rental market. The details on proposed changes have not yet been worked out, but it is likely Boise will implement similar limitations to those currently in place in California. These restrictions protect both renters and landlords, a compromise desired by many in the Treasure Valley.

208 Community

With changes to Boise ordinances on the horizon, landlords and property managers can expect new rules to application fees. To decide the best solutions for Boise, City Council members will want to know what both renters and landlords consider fair. In your opinion, what would be the best method for the city to regulate predatory charges? Do you think renters are being exploited in the Treasure Valley with overpriced fees? Share your thoughts, comments, and experiences with today. We can’t wait to hear from you.