State Rep. Merrifield to lead downtown renters' rally

       Hoping to "make the public aware that the governor is not interested in helping low income renters," District 18 State Rep. Michael Merrifield will lead a "Rally for Renters Rights" Saturday, June 11 at the corner of St. Vrain and Tejon streets starting at 10:30 a.m.
       Merrifield, a Democrat whose district includes the Westside, is displeased that Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, vetoed his House Bill 1061 in the last Statehouse session that would have given new rights to renters. These would have included faster repayment of security deposits, limitations on the amount of late fees and requirements on the wording of eviction notices.
       Merrifield said he hopes the rally will "get some public support and put pressure on the governor when I bring the bill back next year."
       According to Owens' veto letter, dated May 4, "House Bill 1061 is designed to increase protections for tenants, but does so unfairly (and) injects the state government unnecessarily into the lease negotiations between property owners and prospective tenants."
       His chief concerns, stated twice in the veto, are summarized in his final paragraph: "(The bill) creates disincentives for tenants to pay on time and limits the ability of tenants with limited economic means to negotiate a more favorable lease."
       Merrifield termed these objections "just bogus." He charged that Owens' veto arguments were the same as those of the Realtors who had argued against the bill and that, try as he could during the session, he was unable to find out what, if any, compromise language Owens might find acceptable.
       "Obviously, the governor has never been poor enough to have a late fee on an apartment," Merrifield commented.
       He recalled a witness at a hearing on his bill who described getting a $100 late fee for being just one day tardy on rent payment.
       The bill went to the governor on a 33-31 House vote, chiefly following party lines.
       State Rep. Keith King, a Republican whose District 21 includes the northern part of the Westside, said he opposed the bill because he thought the new regulations would cause more problems than they solved. "Land-lords are going to do everything they can to keep good tenants in their buildings," he said, adding his opinion that the main impact of the law would have been to "keep lawyers busy."
       The rally is sponsored by the Colorado Springs chapter of TRAC (Tenants Rights and Action Coalition), a statewide group seeking improvements in Colorado's landlord-tenant statutes. A "town hall meeting" will follow at the First Congregational Church, 20 E. St. Vrain, at which renters "will have the opportunity to speak out about their concerns and experiences with landlords," a TRAC press release states.

Westside Pioneer article