Alaska rental laws could change under GOP bill

  • By MATT WOOLBRIGHT
  • Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:02pm
  • NewsBusiness

JUNEAU — A North Pole Republican is trying to change the Alaska Landlord and Tenant Act for the first time since the early 1990s.

House Bill 282, sponsored by Rep. Doug Isaacson, R-North Pole, includes minor technical updates and serious alterations to the tenant act, such as a section authorizing landlords to collect unpaid rent from a tenant’s Permanent Fund Dividend.

The House Labor and Commerce committee listened to testimony on HB282, but took no action Friday. Isaacson called his proposal the “never-ending bill” because it’s been tinkered with regularly over the past year.

“In contact with a lot of Realtors, tenants and constituents, people just started coming, and we saw a common thread (of different issues from different people) so they all kind of congealed,” Isaacson said.

“The current statute is in dire need of updating, and this bill addresses many of the deficiencies in the current statute,” Kris Abegg, a broker with Paragon Properties, told lawmakers in an email.

Lisa Mariotti, the policy program director for the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, praised a portion of the bill that allows victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to get out of their leases early if they were attacked at their rental.

“This is going to be a great benefit for many people in this state,” she said.

The provision requires the victim to present the landlord a copy of the criminal complaint, details about the incident and a move-out date.

Mariotti asked lawmakers to consider a confidentiality clause to protect victims’ sensitive information.

Other measures in the bill would allow landlords to evict tenants who engage in illegal activities including prostitution, alcohol, gambling or drug use.

The bill also clarifies in statute that a pet deposit does not count against the state’s security deposit limit — two months’ rent.

Under the current law, security deposits are required to be refunded to the tenant within 14 days. This proposal would extend that timeframe to 30 days if damage to the apartment needs to be repaired.

“If there are significant repairs that need to be made, I need that time, and right now 14 days does not always work,” said PeggyAnn McConnochie, a Juneau-based broker at ACH Consulting.

Isaacson said he thinks the bill can move forward.

“There’s widespread agreement,” Isaacson said. “The majority and the minority members all feel it’s a well-balanced bill.”

Matt Woolbright is a reporter for the Juneau Empire.

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