Provo rental contract law won’t be enforced until March 1

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Pioneer Condos in southeast Provo is one of the neighborhoods affecting the zoning law. (Photo courtesy of provocondos.us)

A new Provo ordinance requiring landlords to have signed contracts with all adult tenants became law in mid-December. It had an effective date of Jan. 1. But it’s not being enforced and likely won’t be until March 1, and it may be amended before then.

The law, passed in a 5-2 vote, requires landlords and tenants to have a written document that acknowledges the person is living in the dwelling, a copy of the rental dwelling license agreement with the city that outlines occupancy and parking limits, and a list of tenant rights and responsibilities under state law. Because it didn’t become law until Dec. 17, the city couldn’t get notifications out to landlords in enough time, said Community Development Director Gary McGinn.

So, after spending a few hours discussing the law, the council voted on a few things. Members decided to vote in their regular meeting on Jan. 9 on changing the effective date from Jan. 1 to March 1. And they directed staff to work on tweaks and bring a new version to the city’s zoning committee and then to the council.

Councilmen Dave Harding and Dave Sewell abstained from voting on Wednesday. They each have ideas on how to amend the ordinance. The ideas include changing penalties from criminal to civil and eliminating the 30-day grace period for people to come into compliance once the city finds a violation. They also discussed changing the word contract to disclosure and acknowledgments, and making it a one-page document.

Sewell said he thinks the main goal of the law should be to increase compliance with existing zoning laws. “I think that should be the overarching goal.”

But Councilman George Stewart disagrees, because without penalties landlords won’t comply with the law. “I would like compliance to be the first principle, but it hasn’t occurred without some kind of enforcement. … If there’s no penalty there’s no compliance.”

The city’s zoning committee spent six to seven months coming up with the proposal that the council approved in November. It’s meant as a way to combat over-occupancy in parts of the city, and make enforcing existing zoning laws easier. Supporters of the ordinance — not council members — have said in public meetings that over-occupancy, especially in the southeast part of the city, has caused inflated housing prices, parking issues, declines in school enrollment and wards without children. But many single people, mostly young single professionals, have said the law is targeting them — attempting to force them out of areas that were once single-family neighborhoods.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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