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Housing reform bill advances; would allow landlords to seize PFDs

Posted: April 9, 2014 - 11:15pm

An effort to modernize the Alaska Landlord and Tenant Act for the first time in nearly two decades cleared a House committee hurdle Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Doug Isaacson, R-North Pole, HB282 moved out of the House Judiciary Committee without objection.

“I really like the bill,” said a smiling Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage.

If approved by the House and Senate, HB282 allows a landlord to garnish a renter’s Permanent Fund Dividend for any repairs that cost more than the renter’s security deposit.

“(Landlords) have to have recourse somehow,” Isaacson said.

To avoid improper garnishment, landlords and tenants would be required to sign a checklist or other form describing the state of the unit before the tenant moved in.

According to an April report from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, approximately 91,100 housing units, or 36 percent of Alaska’s housing, are rentals.

The bill also allows landlords to collect an additional pet deposit, clarifies various terms and extends the deadline for a landlord to return a security deposit.

The bill legalizes rentals of units without running water or electricity, so-called “dry cabins,” if those terms are agreed upon at the beginning of the lease term. The section was added because Isaacson and his staff could not find any law that specifically authorized the agreements that are particularly common around Fairbanks.

“The whole idea is to provide protections for landlords and tenants so you have affordable and safe housing,” Isaacson said.

Currently, landlords are required to return security deposits within 14 days of the lease’s end — the bill changes that to 30 days.

The bill also defines “normal wear and tear” as “without negligence, carelessness, accident, misuse, or abuse of the premises or contents” by the tenant or visitors.

Alaska would join eight other states in defining the term, Isaacson said.

The bill allows landlords to require a pet deposit that could go beyond the current deposit limit: two months of rent. The pet deposit would be up to a third month’s rent, and under current law, the first month’s rent does not count toward the limit.

“Pets can be very damaging to an apartment, so a lot of landlords say no pets. This gives the landlord the ability to let the pet come,” Isaacson said.

Another section of the bill allows the landlord to evict tenants who engage in prostitution or other illegal activities.

The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote, and it still needs to garner the Senate’s stamp of approval with just 11 days left in the session.

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