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Bill Addresses Rental Application Fees: 'This Is Really About Fairness'

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) - It's tough finding an apartment in Colorado's tight market. Then add in the application fees -- it's costly -- before ever moving in. Now lawmakers are getting interested in the matter.

From $20 to $100 per person, and with apartment vacancy rates so low, renters can spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on applications before they even get a place. Some lawmakers say that needs to change.

"Being in your own place is best thing in world," said Julie Bennett.

(credit: CBS)

Bennett knows what it's like to be homeless. A year ago she was living in a shelter. Her daughter was pregnant and time was running out.

"A case worker; she had said there's a possibility the hospital may not release the baby to go home with her if she was in a shelter," Bennett said.

Finding an affordable place was challenging enough, but the application fees made it worse, according to Bennett.

"In about a year -- 12 to 15 month time period -- we spent $5,600 just on the application fees alone," Bennett said.

"I think it's something so many Coloradans are impacted by," said Sen. Steve Fenberg, D- Boulder.

Sen. Steve Fenberg, D- Boulder
Sen. Steve Fenberg, D- Boulder, is interviewed by CBS4's Shaun Boyd (credit: CBS)

Fenberg is a sponsor of a bill that would limit application fees to the actual costs of running a background, reference or credit check -- and require landlords to provide itemized receipts.

"This is really about fairness. This isn't about an overly burdensome requirement or mandate," Fenberg said.

Opponents say the bill doesn't account for administrative costs. They say processing an application is labor intensive and would be more so under the bill.

"We're talking about government red tape and regulation that would just drive those rent prices up even further," said Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs.

Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs
CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs (credit: CBS)

Hill says the bill would make it harder for those like Bennett, but she doesn't buy it.

"I'm personally not saying get rid of the fees altogether, just charge the correct amount," Bennett said.

The bill also requires landlords to refund money they don't spend.

(credit: CBS)

Violators will have to pay double the fees back to applicants plus attorney and court costs.

The bill passed the House but will have a tough time in the Republican controlled Senate, where it's in committee on Monday.

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