The act addresses the following items related to landlord and tenant rights in residential rental agreements:
- After a complaint is filed by a landlord, the clerk of the court or the attorney for the plaintiff shall issue a summons, including information concerning filing an answer and legal aid. A court shall not enter a default writ of restitution before the close of business on the date upon which an appearance is due.
- Provides additional details regarding the defendant's answer, including that a defendant does not waive any defense related to proper notice by filing an answer; that the court shall set a date for trial no sooner than 7, but not more than 10, days after the answer is filed, unless the defendant agrees to waive this provision and schedule the trial for an earlier date, except that a court may extend beyond 10 days if either party demonstrates good cause for an extension or if the court otherwise finds justification for the extension. In the time after an answer is filed and before a trial occurs, the court shall order that the landlord or tenant provide any relevant documentation that either party requests.
- A landlord who provides a tenant with proper notice of nonpayment shall accept payment of the tenant's full amount due according to the notice, as well as any rent due under the rental agreement, at any time until a court has ordered a writ of restitution;
- Eliminates the bond requirement for the warranty of habitability and allows the
- Establishes allowable court procedures and remedies in cases of an alleged breach of warranty of habitability;
- Bans unreasonable liquidated damage clauses that assign a cost to a party stemming from a rental violation or an eviction action;
- Prohibits rental agreements that contain one-way fee-shifting clauses that award attorney fees and court costs only to one party; and
The act prohibits a landlord of a mobile home park or a residential premises (landlord) from:
- Charging a tenant or mobile home owner (tenant) a late fee for late payment of rent unless the rent payment is late by at least 7 calendar days;
- Charging a tenant a late fee in an amount that exceeds the greater of:
- $50; or
- 5% of the amount of the rent obligation that remains past due;
- Requiring a tenant to pay a late fee unless the late fee is disclosed in the rental agreement;
- Removing, excluding, or initiating eviction procedures against a tenant solely as a result of the tenant's failure to pay one or more late fees;
- Terminating a tenancy or other estate at will or a lease in a mobile home park because the tenant fails to pay one or more late fees to the landlord;
- Imposing a late fee on a tenant for the late payment or nonpayment of any portion of the rent that a rent subsidy provider, rather than the tenant, is responsible for paying;
- Imposing a late fee more than once for each late payment;
- Requiring a tenant to pay interest on late fees;
- Recouping any amount of a late fee from a rent payment made by a tenant; or
- Charging a tenant a late fee unless the landlord provided the tenant written notice of the late fee within 180 days after the date upon which the rent payment was due.
A landlord who commits a violation must pay a $50 penalty to an aggrieved tenant for each violation. Otherwise, a landlord who commits a violation has 7 days to cure the violation, which 7 days begins when the landlord receives notice of the violation. If a landlord fails to timely cure a violation, the tenant may bring a civil action to seek one or more of the following remedies:
- Compensatory damages for injury or loss suffered;
- A penalty of at least $150 but not more than $1,000 for each violation, payable to the tenant;
- Costs, including reasonable attorney fees if the tenant is the prevailing party; and
- Other equitable relief the court finds appropriate.
In an action for possession or collection based upon nonpayment of rent, the tenant may assert, as an affirmative defense the landlord's alleged breach of the warranty of habitability, provided that the landlord had previously received notice of the alleged breach of the warranty of habitability. If a county or district court is satisfied that the defendant is unable to deposit the amount of rent specified into the registry of the court because the defendant is found to be indigent, as described in the act, the defendant shall not be required to deposit any amounts to raise warranty of habitability claims as an affirmative defense and the claim will be perfected.
For the 2021-22 state fiscal year, the act appropriates $15,756 to the judicial department. This appropriation is from the general fund and is based on an assumption that the department will require an additional 0.2 FTE. To implement this act, the department may use this appropriation for trial court programs.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)