Legislature(2005 - 2006)
05/09/2005 01:22 PM JUD
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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SB 137 - EVICTING INSTITUTIONAL PROPERTY USERS 2:09:39 PM CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the final order of business would be SENATE BILL NO. 137, "An Act providing that an institution providing accommodations exempt from the provisions of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act may evict tenants without resorting to court proceedings under AS 09.45.060 - 09.45.160." [Before the committee was HCS SB 137(L&C); included in members' packets was a proposed House committee substitute (HCS) for SB 137, Version 24-LS0739\I, Kurtz, 5/4/05.] REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM began a motion to adopt [one of the bill versions] as a work draft. CHAIR McGUIRE interrupted the motion. The committee took an at-ease from 2:10 p.m. to 2:11 p.m. JOE MICHEL, Staff to Senator Ralph Seekins, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, said on behalf of Senator Seekins that SB 137 seeks to clarify that institutions [providing a residence] exempted from Alaska's Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act do not have to comply with certain other statutes which outline actions that must be taken by individuals and companies currently governed by that Act. For example, AS 34.03.330(b)(1) specifically exempts residence at an institution, either public or private, if that residence is incidental to detention or the provision of medical, geriatric, educational, counseling, religious, or similar services. The heightened protections designed for residential renters, he opined, are not applicable to those obtaining residence at such institutions. MR. MICHEL relayed that the University of Alaska asked Senator Seekins to introduce SB 137, and that this request was engendered by situations in which university students violating the terms of their student housing contract have used the court system to stall eviction proceedings. The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act was designed to alleviate injustices inflicted on residential renters by private landlords, he explained, and was taken almost verbatim from the national Uniform Residential Landlord And Tenant Act outlined in the federal Fair Housing Act. Senate Bill 137 is meant to fix the discrepancy between the legislative intent of the state's Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and the recent lower court decision regarding the eviction/removal of individuals residing in a residence that is owned by an institution described under AS 34.03.330(b)(1). MR. MICHEL then read AS 34.03.330(b)(1), and posited that this language means that a student who has been expelled from school should not be able to insist on remaining in student housing until a court order is obtained. He offered his understanding that the university has put in place a "three-strike" system intended to work with students residing in university housing, that there is a long review process, that students have a chance to appeal a decision, and that [eviction and charges of trespass constitute] the university's last line of defense. In conclusion, he mentioned that a representative from the university was available for questions. 2:15:05 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARA said he has problems with the bill applying in situations involving those who, for purposes of geriatric care, reside in a residence owned by an institution providing such services; therefore he prefers HCS SB 137(L&C) over Version I. 2:15:43 PM MR. MICHEL offered his belief that under current state law, institutions providing residence for the purpose of geriatric care [are already allowed to evict residents without a court order] because those residents sign contracts authorizing such action; furthermore, there are already agencies involved in overseeing the treatment, care, and placement of seniors in such institutions. He noted that members' packets include comments by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) regarding its intent behind recommending the language now included in AS 34.03.330(b)(1); those comments read in part [original punctuation provided]: This Act regulates landlord-tenant relations in residential properties. It is not intended to apply where residence is incidental to another primary purpose such as a residence in a prison, a hospital or nursing home, a dormitory owned and operated by a college or school, or residence by a landlord's employee such as a custodian, janitor, guard or caretaker rendering service in or about the demised premises. This Act is intended to apply to government or public agencies acting as landlords .... REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON noted that the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee narrowed the bill such that it would only apply to the university. MR. MICHEL, in response to a question, reiterated that the situation involving the university was the impetus for the bill, and that it was the university that asked Senator Seekins to introduce the legislation. Though the sponsor's intent, he remarked, is for the bill to remain broad in its application because the sponsor doesn't want to have certain private institutions being forced to "hold a bed" for someone when that person could actually be receiving services elsewhere. If an institution owns a residence for the placement of those partaking of its services, and if there is a violation of the residential housing contract signed by those individuals, the institution should be able to remove those individuals without having to go through a court action. 2:20:22 PM MR. MICHEL, in response to comments, reiterated that the sponsor prefers a more expansive approach, and remarked that the sponsor views the bill as merely a clarification of existing laws. CHAIR McGUIRE asked for a list of all the institutions that would be affected by the adoption of a more expansive version of the bill. MR. MICHEL, in response, relayed that according to a word search, the word "geriatric" is only found once in statute. He then reread portions of AS 34.03.330(b)(1): (1) residence at an institution, public or private, if incidental to detention or the provision of medical, geriatric, educational, counseling, religious, or similar services; CHAIR McGUIRE surmised, then, that Mr. Michel doesn't really know what specific institutions would be affected by a broader version of the bill, nor all of its implications, adding that [this latter point] is of concern to her. She said she can understand what is meant by, and can support the use of, the term "University of Alaska", but not simply the reference to "an institution" as described in AS 34.03.330(b)(1). She concluded by saying that she doesn't want to make a mistake regarding taking away someone's legitimate rights under the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. 2:23:59 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARA again expressed a preference for HCS SB 137(L&C). REPRESENTATIVE NORMAN ROKEBERG, Alaska State Legislature - Member, House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee - opined that HCS SB 137(L&C) is appropriate in as much as it limits the scope of the application. Additionally, HCS SB 137(L&C) maintains the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure; there are other causes of action, he remarked, under "unlawful detainer," that may be prohibited under a more expansive version of the bill, adding that he doesn't believe there is any need for such a prohibition. In response to a question, he said he would be willing to serve on a conference committee should one be appointed for SB 137. 2:25:41 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARA said that [the more expansive version of the bill] causes him alarm, and again reiterated his preference for a bill that applies only to the university. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG offered his recollection that the HCS that became HCS SB 137(L&C) was brought forth by the sponsor's staff. REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON offered his recollection that the HCS was brought forth by the sponsor's staff in an effort to appease Representative Rokeberg's concern. 2:27:12 PM CHAIR McGUIRE, after ascertaining that no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony on SB 137. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT, noting that HCS SB 137(L&C) was automatically before the committee, moved to report HCS SB 137(L&C) out of committee [with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes]. There being no objection, HCS SB 137(L&C) was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.