Feb. 28, 2023: Council Work Session to Consider Scaled Options for Rental Housing Program
During their Work Session on February 28, 2023, City Council considered three proposed options for a scaled Rental Housing Program and an appropriation to fund the start-up phase of the program. Council decided to move forward with Option 2: "Rental Registration with Delayed Proactive Inspections". Program specifics will now move to first reading on April 4th and second reading April 18th.
To view meeting documents and/or view a video of previous meetings, please visit https://www.fcgov.com/cityclerk/agendas and click on “City Meeting Portal”. (Note: Rental Housing is listed as item No. 3 on the Feb. 28 Work Session agenda)
To learn more about how to participate in Council meetings, please visit https://www.fcgov.com/council/councilcomments. You can also email thoughts at any time to email@example.com.
Jan. 26 Info Session
City staff hosted a virtual information session on the proposed rental housing regulations on Thursday, Jan. 26. via Zoom. A recording of the session can be found HERE
As part of the Housing Strategic Plan, the City of Fort Collins is considering new regulations for rental housing in the city.
The best available data suggest that more than 40% of all housing units in Fort Collins are renter-occupied. The renter community in Fort Collins makes up a significant portion of the population, and the City does not currently conduct proactive rental property inspections for health, safety, and habitability. The City maintains only a complaint-based rental inspection system to promote safe and habitable housing for renters at present.
Community comments during Housing Strategic Plan engagement indicated a range of concerns with the City’s current level of regulation: a need to proactively ensure healthy, safe units; fear of retaliation or loss of housing if renters report substandard or unsafe units; and concerns about discrimination. Feedback from landlords/property managers about a Rental Housing Program included concerns about the cost of the program, a desire to ensure fair treatment of both small and large landlords, a lack of trust in the City, a desire to keep the current complaint-based system, and concerns that mandatory rental registration/licensing may not be an effective way to address substandard units.
Based on policy direction in both the Housing Strategic Plan and the Our Climate Future Plan as well as City Council direction and feedback at work sessions in October 2021 and August 2022, City staff have designed a Rental Housing Program for Council review in early 2023.
Should the Council choose to approve the program, it will require all property owners to register their rental properties with the City and complete inspections for minimum life, health, and safety standards once every five years.
The proposed regulations are scheduled to go to City Council on first reading on Jan. 17, 2023. A public information session will be held before the proposal goes to second reading in February.
This program is not the same as Occupancy Regulations (ex. U+2), nor is it related to the Land Development Code.
If approved, this page will become the online home for rental regulations in Fort Collins.
What's being proposed?#
The proposed program design aims to address concerns about the lack of proactive inspection and to ensure safe, healthy, habitable housing for all Fort Collins residents. It also strives to thoughtfully address concerns expressed by landlords and others in the rental industry regarding fairness, unnecessary regulation, and increased costs.
The program includes two primary components:
- Property enrollment and
- Proactive rental inspections.
The program would begin with a "start-up phase," which would focus on outreach, education, and feedback from those entities participating in the initial stages of implementation. Landlords/property owners would be required to enroll their properties into the program, update contact information annually, and submit their rental businesses to property inspections once every five years to ensure compliance with minimum life, health, and safety standards.
Rental Property Enrollment
All property owners who rent to tenants would be required to enroll their rental properties into the program, including both owner-occupied rental properties and fully renter-occupied properties. The enrollment information collected would include:
- Name and contact information of the property owner(s), whether LLC or natural person;
- Contact information for the property manager if one is used;
- A local contact located no more than 70 miles from the property;
- A complete list of additional rental properties owned by the property manager, if applicable;
- Types of units at the property;
- Age of unit(s); and
- Whether HUD inspections are already being completed at the property .
Property owners would be required to update their enrollment information annually to ensure that local contact information is up to date, which ultimately helps facilitate a streamlined rental property inspection process.
Proactive Rental Inspections
The second element of the Rental Housing Program is a proactive inspection program for all renter-occupied properties in the City of Fort Collins. Inspectors would evaluate the health and safety of units based upon a comprehensive list of minimum habitability standards. Limited exemptions from property inspections are proposed for properties less than 10 years old and for affordable housing developments that are already inspected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
All single detached, attached units, and individually owned units, regardless of property type, are proposed to be inspected once every five years.
For multi-unit buildings in which units share the same property owner, properties will be inspected on a percentage basis. The program will require buildings with 0-10 units to be 100% inspected, 11 to 100 units to have 10% of units inspected and buildings with greater than 100 units to have 5% of units inspected. The percentage-based inspections will allow building inspectors to identify the general state of repair for multi-unit buildings, reinforce the City’s rental housing standards of habitability for multi-unit buildings, and relieve the burden on staff and property owners of inspecting every unit in large apartment complexes with several hundred units.
The implementation of inspections would be staggered, with city staff inspecting roughly 20% of the rental housing stock each year. As a result, the program will not reach full implementation until five years after end of the initial start-up phase. Units will then be inspected every five years after their first, initial inspection.
In addition to the implementation of proactive rental housing inspections, the current complaint-based rental inspection system would remain in place.
Proposed Fee Structure
The proposed Rental Housing Program fee structure has been designed to cover all administrative costs as projected for the first five years of implementation. As proposed, the fee for a property that requires inspection would be $53 per property and $19 per unit annually. A property owner whose units do not require inspection would incur costs of $21 per property and $6 per unit annually. Regular analysis of fees to evaluate cost recovery would be included in the administrative tasks of the Rental Housing Program staff, similar to many other fee-based City programs.
Where can I find a copy of this proposal?#
The proposal consists of two ordinances before City Council.
The first ordinance establishes the program, and the second appropriates start up funding for the program.
The program establishment ordinance is Ordinance 009, 2023, and can be found in the Council packet and individually as a PDF. This ordinance contains the legal language for the establishment of the program.
The funding ordinance is Ordinance 010, 2023, and can also be found in Council materials and individually as a PDF.
Finally, a summary of the entire program is available as a Council Agenda Item Summary document at the link below.
The Jan. 17, 2023, City Council agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link. Rental Housing is Item 19 on the agenda.
If approved by City Council, this program would operation later in 2023 after the City has acquired the necessary staffing and software. Full implementation of the program would begin in 2024.
- First Reading of Proposed Regulations
The first reading of the proposed regulations for City Council is planned for January 2023.
- Council Work Session
Council considered scaled Rental Housing Program options.
- First Reading of Proposed Regulations - Scaled Option
First Reading of Proposed Rental Registration with Delayed Proactive Inspections.
- Second Reading of Proposed Regulations - Scaled Option
Second Reading of Proposed Rental Registration with Delayed Proactive Inspections.
- Staffing and Software Acquisition
If approved, the City will begin hiring needed staff and acquiring software for the program.
- Start-Up Phase
- Full Implementation
Frequently Asked Questions#
- Why do we need this program? What's wrong with the complaint-based system?
The Housing Strategic Plan is the most recent update to the City’s adopted housing policy with a vision that everyone has healthy, stable, housing they can afford.
The HSP identified 7 “Greatest Challenges” to achieving the vision and prioritized 26 strategies designed to address one or more challenges. The proposed program aligns with Greatest Challenge # 7: Housing policies have not consistently addressed housing stability and healthy housing, especially for people who rent; and Strategy 20, "Explore the option of a mandated rental license/registry program for long-term rentals and pair with best practice rental regulations," was identified to address this challenge.
Community comments throughout the Housing Strategic Plan engagement process indicated a range of concerns: a need to proactively ensure healthy, safe units; fear of retaliation or loss of housing if renters report substandard or unsafe units; concerns about discrimination; and lack of choices and affordable options because of the current restrictions on occupancy. Rental registration was a common suggestion for addressing these concerns.
The complaint-based system will continue to operate in tandem with the proposed rental housing program should City Council adopt it. The complaint-based system will remain a valuable tool for addressing off-cycle violations, and it will also leave opportunities in place for renters in multi-unit buildings whose units are not selected for inspection to report concerns.
- Do we have a current problem with substandard housing in Fort Collins?
Under the City's current complaint-based system, City inspectors respond to reports of building code violations for rental units.
Violations have been recorded in all housing types (single family detatched, multi-unit, etc.) in all six City Council districts. Types of violations most frequently identified are electrical issues and lack of smoke/carbon monoxide alarms. A range of other types of violations also occur, including problems with windows, plumbing, HVAC, pests, and general maintenance, among others.
- How will the City enforce these regulations?
Enforcement checkpoints have been built into the proposed Rental Housing Program’s design to ensure compliance at each stage.
Staff intend to partner with property owners to achieve voluntary compliance with the program requirements whenever possible. A critical task of the start-up phase (and beyond) is education and outreach to landlords, property owners, property managers, and tenants to increase awareness of and compliance with the proposed program. If Council chooses to adopt the proposed program, staff expects that there will be some situations that may require enforcement to address violations that have not been successfully resolved through voluntary compliance.
Staff has proposed a range of penalties for failure to comply with the requirements of the Rental Housing Program that include fines, civil penalties, and, upon several repeated instances of noncompliance, misdemeanor charges. If property violations are found upon inspection, property owners will receive a notice of violation with a specified amount of time to cure the violation(s) that is dependent on the severity and implications for renter life, health, and safety. Properties with violations upon inspection will require subsequent reinspection to ensure compliance. If unpermitted work is identified during the rental housing inspection that presents a life, health, or safety concern as defined in the Building Code, a violation notice and enforcement actions would follow the current Building Code processes and codes.
- How much will the program cost the City?
On Dec. 1, 2022, staff presented initial estimates of the proposed rental housing program’s initial and ongoing costs and anticipated fee structure, which has been designed to make the program self-sustaining upon full implementation. The cost to fund the first two years of the program in its start-up phase is estimated to be about $1.6 million ($750,000 in 2023 and $850,000 in 2024). After the first two years, the program will become self-sustaining based on its fee structure.
- Does the data available from the current complaint-based system demonstrate a need for proactive inspections?
The research that Staff has conducted to date indicates that rental housing programs – particularly those that include proactive inspections for health/safety concerns – are an effective way to improve both renter health/safety and housing quality.
Without proactive inspections, rental programs are less effective at ensuring health/safety but do have other positive benefits including better communication with renters, landlords, and property managers and more up-to-date information on rental housing. Ultimately, whether the City will adopt a rental housing program and what components it includes is a decision made by City Council.
- Does this affect occupancy regulations (like U+2)?
No, these rental regulations do not affect the City's occupancy restrictions, like U+2. However, City staff is exploring changes to occupancy regulations later in 2023.
Information about occupancy is available on the City's occupancy webpage.
- Is this related to the Land Development Code (LDC)?
No, these proposed regulations are separate from the Land Development Code (LDC).
Information about the Land Development Code can be found at that project's webpage.
- Does this punish good property managers? Why not just focus on bad actors?
More than 40 percent of housing units in Fort Collins are rentals and close to 50 percent of our population rents rather than owns their home. It is important that all rental housing consistently offers basic health, safety, and habitability to residents.
The Housing Strategic Plan adopted a vision of everyone having healthy, stable housing they could afford. It also identified one of our challenges is that housing policies have not consistently addressed housing stability and healthy housing, especially for people who rent.
The expectation is that many landlords and property managers, especially those who already prioritize providing healthy and safe housing for tenants, will be able to meet the program guidelines with minimal effort or administrative burden.
Education, outreach, and resource sharing will be a part of the program and is designed to support all landlords and property managers to meet the program guidelines.
- Will this program cause rents to go higher?
Working to keep costs as reasonable as possible has been a critical component of designing the proposed rental housing program.
These administrative costs are minimal and may increase rent proportionally. The greater risk for increased rent comes when properties do not pass the inspection and incur costs for required repairs that may be passed on to the next renter.
- What outreach has the City done for this issue?
Discussion of rental licensing and regulation has been a topic in discussion in Fort Collins several times over the years, including in 2005, when the City made changes to the enforcement of the occupancy ordinance.
The most recent community discussion about occupancy and rental housing strategies occurred in 2020 as part of the development of the Housing Strategic Plan. In December 2020, the Council Ad Hoc Housing Committee expressed interest in exploring rental licensing to support healthy, stable housing for people who rent their homes. The Committee encouraged consideration of a pilot program for rental registration or licensing.
Building on the dialogue and recommendations of the Housing Strategic Plan, City staff used a variety of outreach and engagement strategies to explore and ultimately propose these rental housing regulations.
This process included, but is not limited to, the following:
Rental Industry Questionnaire, February/March 2022: This online questionnaire was primarily focused on
soliciting feedback from rental owners, property managers, and landlords to better understand how
potential rental programs (e.g., registry and occupancy regulations) might impact the industry, and to
explore specific elements of program design. Assessor’s data was used to identify and mail flyers to nearly 9,000 likely owners of rental property within Fort Collins to ensure wide awareness of the questionnaire. A total of 1,912 people responded to the questionnaire: 68% identified themselves as rental owners, managers, or landlords, 20% were residents who live or work in Fort Collins but do not own or manage rental property.
Rental Housing Task Force, March-August 2022: In early 2022, the City convened a Task Force to support deeper exploration of the three strategies and to work collaboratively to propose modifications to current rental housing policy for consideration by staff, the broader public, and Council. A total of 76 people applied for 20 spots, and applications were reviewed by a committee of staff. The top scoring applications for landlord/property managers, renters, and others were invited to participate. Staff consulted with the City Attorney’s Office on the criteria utilized for selection and the information shared with the selection team.
Demographic information was collected from applicants but was not used in the selection process; it was
considered in aggregate for the entire application pool to evaluate the task force’s representativeness. A panel of applicants was selected to represent a diversity of perspectives, including rental housing
tenants, property owners/landlords and property managers, and people who fit neither category.The total composition of the group was 19 members, and all meetings were facilitated by a professional third-party facilitator.
Community Questionnaire, August 2022: This questionnaire sought opinions about how much the City’s
approach to rental housing regulation and occupancy should change, if at all. The questionnaire also asked respondents their opinions about a range of potential next steps for rental registration/licensing and occupancy ordinance revisions. Additional “pop-up” engagement utilizing the Neighborhood Services
lemonade stand was conducted to increase awareness of the community questionnaire and encourage
participation; particularly in areas where changes to occupancy and extra occupancy have been raised as a concern. A total of 1,739 responded to the questionnaire: 64% indicated that they owned their home,
31% of respondents indicated that they rented their home, 19% of respondents were landlords
More detailed information on community engagement is available in a City Council work session report from August 2022. You can find that information below.
- Rental Industry Questionnaire, February/March 2022: This online questionnaire was primarily focused on
Have a question?#
Do you have a question about the proposed rental housing regulations? Ask it below: