A step forward for tenant protections

After months of debate over whether we should enact tenant protections, Town Council voted today to get started with a “30-day notice requirement” ordinance. This is a good first step for our tenants, and we’re excited that the Council is taking action.

What are tenant protections? Wyoming laws disproportionately favor landlords and provide virtually no protections to tenants, and our local ordinances contain nothing at all on the subject of landlord-tenant law. When we don’t take care of our employees, it’s not only bad for them as human beings, it harms our community and economy by making it difficult for business owners to retain quality employees. Read more details here.

Who doesn’t want tenant protections? Town Council heard a report from the stakeholder taskforce they appointed a couple months ago. Three people on the taskforce were landlords or property managers who absolutely refused to even consider new ordinances for tenant protections. Kevin Kavanagh of the Clear Creek Group (known for $100,000 a week short-term rentals and for breaking short-term rental rules) spoke at today’s meeting, saying that any ordinances would be “governmental overreach,” and claiming that even a 30-day notice requirement would result in landlords taking rentals off the market. Kavanagh also said that there’s no “data” to show that we have a problem, so any tenant protections are “a solution in search of a problem.” This idea is astonishing to those of us who rent and experience problems every day. Another landlord, Todd Oliver of the Blair Place Apartments, who tried to raise rents 40% in one fell swoop two years ago, said that people should just get leases – something that is impossible for many tenants who have no negotiating power.

Who does want tenant protections? A number of tenants, including Jorge Moreno and Jeremy Weiss, spoke about their experiences being evicted with little notice, ranging from 3 to 20 days – after years of renting the same house. Jessica Chambers also asked the council to enact tenant protections, for the most vulnerable members of our community. And Mary Erickson and Rosie Read, both on the task force, spoke in favor of tenant protections – not just 30-day notice, but also non-discrimination (based on immigration status and gender identity / sexual orientation) and repairs to major appliances. Read, who is an attorney, noted that even she hasn’t been able to obtain a lease for her current residence. “Just get a lease” is not a solution.

What did the council decide? The council voted to direct staff to prepare a tenant / landlord education resource (which is great, but not tenant protections), and to bring back more information about a 30-day notice ordinance. Mayor Muldoon tried to expand the motion to include research into non-discrimination, requiring leases, and restating and clarifying the state tenant/landlord laws, but Councilor Hailey Morton-Levinson shot that down, twice. Morton-Levinson said she wouldn’t consider those other ideas (which we’ve been asking for) now, but that the mayor could bring back more-detailed proposals for the council to discuss.

What’s ShelterJH’s take? We’re glad the council is taking a first step towards tenant protections. We hope the council will quickly write and adopt a tenant protection ordinance that includes a 30-day notice requirement – and also include non-discrimination, as well as a requirement for leases and the repair of major appliances by landlords.

What’s your take? Email the council and mayor at council@townofjackson.com to let them know!

And please become a ShelterJH member today, to help build power for tenants through work like this!