The Landlord Tenant Act was updated 20 years ago, so now comes some tweaking. On Monday, HB 282 goes into effect. This bill sponsored by Rep. Doug Isaacson, R-North Pole/Eielson, fine-tunes the Landlord Tenant Act while still balancing the needs of tenants and landlords.
Under this bill, landlords can now require a property condition checklist as part of the rental agreement. When used at move-in time, this checklist can document the dents and dings of the floor, ceiling, and walls in each room, as well as the condition of furniture and other household items the tenant will use. Tenants and landlords might supplement the written word with video and photos from smartphones if traditional still-picture cameras and video cameras are not available.
A lot can happen to a property and furnishings between the first and the last day of tenant use, so a new section was added to define "normal wear and tear" as deterioration not caused by negligence, carelessness, accident, misuse or abuse.
When signed by both parties at move-in, the checklist serves as an excellent way for landlord and tenant to establish a property condition (minus normal wear and tear) on the move-out day.
HB 282 includes two provisions governing pets. For a tenant, having a pet can limit available rentals. No matter how small or well-behaved a pet, some landlords just don't allow pets because pet damage can exceed potential income. A new provision created an additional pet deposit, separate from the security deposit or prepaid rent. This allows a landlord to collect up to an additional month's rent to offset damages specific to the tenant's pet.
The other pet provision defined "service animal." While many people feel their pets serve a mental or physical need, the definition is specific to an animal's training to assist someone with a disability.
HB 282 also added a provision addressing properties in rural areas without wells or water. The national uniform code requires a landlord to provide a tenant with basic running water and reasonable amounts of hot water and heat. Unfortunately, Alaska has a number of remote areas where a "dry cabin" is normal. The new provision allows a tenant to waive this requirement in the rental agreement if water is not provided by, or available from, a well or public utility.
Under tenant obligations, a provision added another tenant action that is a breach in the rental agreement. This breach occurs if the tenant allows the number of occupants to exceed the number allotted by law, use or rental agreement.
Another area was tightened in three ways: how the landlord handles security deposits.
1) The landlord must keep prepaid rents and security deposits separate from other types of funds.
2) To prevent a "robbing Peter to pay Paul" scenario, a landlord can only use the security funds from a specific tenant to remedy damages/charges for that specific tenant.
3) If damages occur to a property, the landlord has 30 days to provide the tenant with the written notice and any balance of the security deposits or prepaid rent, instead of the typical 14 days with no damages.
Finally, the most noticeable change that will affect tenants and landlords is to the Permanent Fund dividend statues and regulations. Under AS 43.23.065 (exemptions of and levy on Permanent Fund dividends), landlords have another avenue to collect for excessive damages. The new Item 8 allows the landlord to garnish a tenant's Permanent Fund dividend if a landlord obtains a judgment against a tenant for unpaid rent or damages. A tenant is defined as a person entitled under a rental agreement to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others.
Updated information is available at law.alaska.gov. At the home page, click on the consumer protection tab; then look on the right-hand side under topics index for landlord and tenant.
Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in Alaska Dispatch News. Their e-mail address is email@example.com.
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