The U.S. Goverment requires Lead Paint notifications be made prior to signing a lease on properties built prior to 1978. This information and copies of the required federal booklets and forms are also available free to BARHA members.
In 2007 the Environmental Protection Agency conducted a surprise audit on realtors and residential rental owners to insure that these federal requirements were being met. BARHA members were alerted via our email system that these audits were occurring allowing our members to be prepared. It was great to have the auditor tell our director that the BARHA members he audited had the best understanding and had kept the best records of any group he had audited- not a single member of BARHA was fined.
Unfortunately, many non-BARHA members had not followed the law and suffered significant fines as a result.
Boulder’s “SmartRegs” Energy Efficiency Requirement
The energy efficiency component of SmartRegs mandates that rental property owners meet an efficiency standard of 100 prescriptive points or a HERS (Home Energy Rating Score) of 120. These measurements take into account items such as a property’s insulation, heating and cooling systems and physical building design. These energy efficiency benchmarks must be achieved by January, 1 2019. BARHA members have been provided with helpful advice as to best work with this rather confusing City of Boulder requirement. BARHA has been involved from the inception of this program and we continue to monitor and work to improve the system for the good of all rental property owners in Boulder.
SmartRegs Presecriptive Pathway Checklist
The City of Boulder had sent letters to any property owner they thought was not in compliance with the State mandated Backflow regulations that the City began to enforce. BARHA was able to get the City to agree to exempt all properties that were eight units or less (we very much appreciate the City’s cooperation on this matter).
Hundreds of rental properties eight units or smaller were spared significant expense to install the backflow preventers as well as more costs in the future for required annual inspections by BARHA’s involvement in this issue.
An ordinance passed May 1, 2007 that significantly expanded the scope of Nuisance Abatement actions in the City of Boulder. This ordinance makes property owners (both commercial and residential) liable for violations of municipal and state laws by their tenants.
When tenants break the law, the property in which they live or where the violation occurred can receive a strike. Two strikes in one year or three strikes in two years can result in that property owner being called into a mandatory “settlement” meeting. This meeting can result in the owner being forced to apply certain conditions and/or actions on his property. If the owner refuses to agree to the conditions or fails to meet the conditions, the City can take the property owner to court and ask a judge to dictate terms as to how the property is to be managed. This Ordinance has been fought intensely by BARHA. We have spent hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses on this ordinance. We were unable to prevent its passage, but we were able to get terms altered in ways that made the bill less onerous.
We worked hard to redesign our Rental Inspection Program four years ago. BARHA took the lead on creating this improved program and we are very proud of the excellent inspection program we were able to create. Moving to professional licensed home inspectors instead of city inspectors has been such an improvement. In addition, we created inspection checklists so that owners and inspectors are both clear on what will be inspected and we wrote the lists in clear, simple language. These checklists were a huge improvement over the old system where an inspector did inspections randomly and very subjectively.
The response to this new Rental License Program has been excellent. The value of it has been evidenced by the fact that (knock on wood!) not a single catastrophe has occurred in Boulder that has been building caused. That is quite a record when 57% of everyone who lives in Boulder rents!
The City decided to move away from the Boulder Housing Code which has ALWAYS been the basis of building codes in the city to a new International Property Maintenance Code. There had been an effort to alter our existing Checklists in order to match the new IPMC codes. BARHA worked hard to keep the same philosophy with the new checklists – easy to understand, focused on basic health and safety issues and a checklist that is followed objectively by all inspectors.
The City of Boulder requires a rental license for all rental properties in the city. If a property is occupied by a family member of the owner then no license is needed. The only other exception is if a property is going to be rented for no more than one year, with the owners returning to reside on the property after a year, then no rental license is required.
In 2004 BARHA worked hard with the City of Boulder to create a new rental inspection program. This new program was a great improvement over the old system. Currently a baseline inspection is required in order to get a license and the inspection is based upon a fixed checklist of items that are inspected. All inspections are conducted by professionally trained, professional inspectors who are hired directly by the property owner/manager. Additional safety/mechanical inspections are then required every four years, again based upon a fixed inspection checklist. At the time a property is sold, a baseline inspection must be redone in order for the new owner to get a new rental license. Often the new baseline inspection can be combined with a property inspection done for a potential buyer.
This new program is a huge improvement over the previous inspection system and the quality of the inspections is much higher. The checklist is oriented toward important issues of health and safety concern and the costs are more reasonable. BARHA is proud of the contribution is made to improve this system for all residential property owners.
Since the early 1980s, the City of Boulder has required that interest be paid on Security Deposits. A fixed amount of 5.5% was set at the time the law was passed and that amount remained in effect until 2004. In 2004 BARHA was able to convince City Council members to change the fixed 5.5% interest requirement to a floating interest rate that is re-established in December of each year that would be based on real market interest rates. Owners had been losing money on the 5.5% for years since they were unable to obtain that high interest level at the time they were being forced to pay out that rate. The new system is much fairer and more reasonable and will keep up with real market rates.
It should be noted that the rate of interest to be paid is based upon the rate in effect at the time the security deposit money is received, not at the rate in effect when the refund is issued. All property owners have saved significant amounts of money because of this important interest requirement change that BARHA was able to negotiate.
Boulder’s trash/recycling program bundles required recycling services as a percentage of the trash service. It also allows all recyclables to now be put into one container-no need to sort into two different containers as in the past. This is a good thing as it will mean fewer containers on site, although the one container needs to be larger than previous two. In 2016 the city mandated that composting is required at every rental unit. Even though BARHA was unable to stop this mandate, as composting becomes a huge mess at the rental units, BARHA pushed the City to require that every property had their own trash service. This alleviates the problems owners have had with illegal dumping.
As of January 1, 2008 all properties in Boulder were assigned a water budget. Water budgets included assigned water usage into five categories. The first two categories had water rates assigned at somewhat less than previous years. The upper two categories included water at a high cost – in fact the fifth category has water billed at $12.50/1000 gallons making it the most expensive water in the nation. If you exceed your allocated budget, the “extra” water used becomes more and more expensive.
The water budgets were created based upon different sources. For multi-family properties, the budgets were based upon a flat 4,000 gallon allocation for each unit regardless of the size of that unit. In other words, a four bedroom with eight occupants was allocated the same 4,000 gallons as a one bedroom with one occupant.
Single-family properties were given a budget based upon aerial photographs of the property including measurements of irrigable square footage. Each single family home was allocated about 7,000 gallons (some went up to 8,000) plus a bit more for outdoor watering in the growing months.
Many people got their bills and saw that the budgets and related square footage of irrigable land numbers looked inaccurate, but didn’t see huge increases in their bills or no increases at all and therefore ignored the matter.
Just because one’s bills did not increase too much this year or maybe not at all; one should still take the time to consider the budget. It is likely in future years that the cost of all water, especially the first two least expensive categories may be increased. It may be that in future years the city may say that since an owner did not appeal their budget this year when they had the chance to do so, their budget is locked in for the future.
Morale of this story: it is probably worth the time to analyze your bill and appeal for an adjustment if you find justifiable reasons for doing so.
We have provided our members with information that will be a great help to them in analyzing their bills and appealing for an adjustment to their budgets. We also have made available links to all the important website locations that are useful in looking into these new budgets and knowing the basis upon which the city created your property’s budget and also the contact sites needed for appealing the bill.
After three years plus of effort, BARHA is pleased to announce that City Council passed the ordinance that defined that when a property is transferred into an LLC by the current owners, Owners will NOT need to act as though this is a sale and begin rental inspection as a new license holder. This means that no new baseline inspection will be required.
Please note this law applies when a current owner(s) decides for estate planning or tax purposes to create an LLC to own their property, it will not be considered a sale of the property and therefore will not be required to repeat the baseline inspection. This ordinance DOES NOT apply if a property is legitimately sold to an LLC. At least 40 properties currently in the Association that will be positively impacted by this ruling and dozens more will benefit in the years to come. BARHA leadership felt that this situation could have been rectified in a few minutes simply by interpreting that if no money changed hands, no sale had occurred. However, the wheels of the city often turn in strange directions and this issue took on a life of its own taking months of intense work to get the ordinance passed.