Albuquerque city councilor pushes for more renter protection

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.– Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn is behind two new proposals aimed at regulating Albuquerque’s rental market. 

She says the goal is to give city leaders a better idea about how many rental units are actually out there. But it also gives renters a better idea about how much their new home will cost them before they’re handed the keys.

“Most of the landlords in our city are fair, transparent, very clear with what folks are going to get. It’s the few that are making it really hard,” said Fiebelkorn. 

Fiebelkorn has heard from plenty of renters who ended up paying a lot more for their apartments than they expected.

“One person was charged a $200 origination fee, and that seems to be for literally printing out the lease so that she could sign it,” Fiebelkorn said. 

Her newly-introduced “Residential Tenant Protection Ordinance” wants to make sure those kinds of surprises are disclosed ahead of time.

The bill requires landlords to post a list of application fees, minimum income and credit score requirements, plus items on a background check that could disqualify applicants.

“What we’re trying to do is make it real clear and transparent for people who are like looking for a rental unit,” said Fiebelkorn. 

Fiebelkorn’s bills are also going after for-profit charges. There’s language requiring landlords to return fees for unprocessed applications. It prohibits fees for different forms of payment, like cash versus check, and pet rent would be capped at $15 a month. 

“Fees should be a pass through cost, an actual cost, that is passed through to the consumer, and that’s all this bill says,” Fielkorn said. 

However, Fiebelkorn is proposing a new permitting process for all rental units which would include an annual fee for landlords. Those fees start at $50 for a single unit.

“We certainly aren’t doing anything here to make money for the city. This is really just to cover the cost of setting up that registry,” she said. 

While Fiebelkorn believes most landlords are not overcharging tenants, she says these proposals could keep some bad actors at bay.

“I think that there is always a role for regulation so that we can protect those that are most vulnerable in our community,” she said. 

Fiebelkorn says it could be several weeks before the full city council discusses the bills.

Landlords and renters say transparency is a good call, but they’re split on when it comes to regulating a process that affects thousands and thousands of New Mexicans.

“I’ve been in this business a long time, and so you know, we need to make it so, so it works for everybody,” said Chuck Sheldon, CEO of T&C Management. 

Sheldon agrees mandating transparency during the rental process is a good idea.

“There’s no reason not to be advertising years of qualifications to get into this apartment. Here’s, here are the fees associated with that,” said Sheldon. 

But he draws the line at restricting what fees landlords can charge, how they accept payments, and what they can require from applicants.

“The pushback is we’re going to have fewer owners, fewer people that want to manage and go through this array, fewer people constructing here,” Sheldon said. 

But some renters say the abuse of power from landlords has gone unchecked for too long.

“I would have never moved into this complex. If I had known what I was getting into,” said one Albuquerque renter. 

The renter we talked to lives near downtown Albuquerque and asked to stay anonymous for fear of retaliation.

He says he’s paying close to $200 a month in fees that he didn’t agree too, including one just to pay rent.

Watch the video above and below for more.

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