HELENA, Mont. – Tuesday morning the session will consider Senate Bill 241, which would reduce and refund rent application fees. The process could become cheaper but not everyone’s on board.
Most apartments, condos, and home rentals require an application fee just to be considered. This money can add up quickly if renters apply to a few places, but many people can’t afford to pay the price.
Senator JP Pomnichowski is trying to address many housing crisis across the state after receiving many complains of landlords "price gouging” and even pocketing application fees that do not guarantee housing. She tells us she has also received reports of higher application fees within senior care facilities, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Pomnichowski’s bill could hold housing managers accountable and possibly save you hundreds in the long run by cutting unnecessary costs. If passed, an application fee would go toward background or credit checks, and landlords or property managers must tell the applicant exactly how they're using the money that excludes landlord or property manager compensation. Some people believe this is wrong. Jason Johnson has been renting an apartment for close to 9 years and works as a Property Manager.
"You may be making a property manager spend a whole entire day of his time doing nothing but looking through those applications and then you give 6 people their application fee back, there's no compensation for that person's time,” Johnson said.
Opponents say the fee is standard business practice and helps pay their bills. According to Johnson, he’s lost hundreds over the years applying to apartments and never hearing back. He understands both sides and believes education is the most important part of the process and people should be aware of all restrictions before sending in any money.
"If you have something on there and you send in the application knowing it, you're spending money knowing that you're going to be denied,” Johnson said.
He explains how people should also know how many others are applying and secure their finances ahead of time to cut down money lost simply through the application process.
If the bill is passed, things could take a few weeks or months before landlords would be able to reduce application fees, meaning more money in renters’ pockets. The bill would have to be passed by the full Senate and House before Governor Gianforte could sign off, which could take weeks or months.