Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 17
04/25/2005 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 137-EVICTIONS FROM UNIV. STUDENT HOUSING 3:48:18 PM CHAIR ANDERSON announced that the next 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." JOE MICHEL, Staff to Senator Ralph Seekins, Alaska State Legislature, informed the committee that Senator Seekins sponsored this legislation upon the request of the University of Alaska. The legislation stems from a few cases in which disruptive students have used the court system to stall eviction from a unit until a time more convenient for the student. The infractions of these students were beyond what was allowed under their student housing contract. Therefore, the university needed to remove the students from the housing before their disruptive behavior impacted other students. He explained, "The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ULTA) was designed to alleviate injustices inflicted on residential renters by unscrupulous private landlords." The State of Alaska's Act is taken almost verbatim from the federal act. Mr. Michel specified that the intent of SB 137 is to fix the discrepancy between the legislative intent of the ULTA and recent lower court decisions regarding the eviction and removal of individuals residing in residential housing such as [dormitories at a university]. 3:50:00 PM MR. MICHEL then highlighted AS 34.03.330, which specifies that public service institutional entities aren't compatible with the heightened protections designed for residential renters under ULTA. Therefore, these larger institutions aren't in the business of long-term residential housing and have been exempted. For example, a hospital shouldn't be required to obtain a court order to remove a patient who no longer needs its services. Furthermore, a student expelled from school shouldn't be able to insist on remaining in student housing until a court order is obtained for his/her removal. Mr. Michel noted that he has reviewed the university's housing policies and has determined that it's a lengthy process of reviews and appeals prior to eviction. The university is requesting this legislation because going to court is costly, he related. 3:51:27 PM CHAIR ANDERSON said that he liked the idea behind SB 137. However, he inquired as to whether SB 137 includes sideboards so that an individual who is treated unfairly would have an avenue for redress. MR. MICHEL answered that there aren't sideboards, per se. However, the contract the individual signs contains rules and specifications that the facility wouldn't be able to violate. CHAIR ANDERSON surmised then that an individual could be evicted, but if that individual feels that he/she is being treated unfairly he/she could seek an injunctive relief or sue the [facility] on a contract basis. 3:54:03 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN noted that he liked the idea of getting unruly students out of universities because it isn't fair for someone to be disruptive to the point of impacting others. However, this legislation would also include nursing homes and thus he asked whether a [disruptive] individual with dementia living in a nursing home could be evicted without a court order. MR. MICHEL answered that technically, institutions [such as nursing homes] could evict someone, but there is a contract by which the institution must abide. Mr. Michel clarified that this is already in statute; the problem has arisen with lower court decisions that haven't applied it to cases involving students living in the university dormitories. 3:55:41 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN said that he had no problem evicting a problem student out of a university dormitory. However, he inquired as to how those residents in a nursing home who can be very difficult can be protected. 3:56:45 PM MICHAEL HOSTINA, Associate General Counsel, University of Alaska - Fairbanks (UAF), opined that there are a variety of safeguards in place for most university students, hospital residents, and nursing home residents. In the case of a nursing home resident, there are specific laws as well as an ombudsman for the elderly to help safeguard the rights of the patient. He further opined that most nursing homes wouldn't think to resort to an eviction process to remove a patient. The nursing home would simply discharge the patient. However, if the patient objected, the nursing home would have to seek injunctive relief to enforce the contract. This proposed law wouldn't change much of that, save that a patient wouldn't be able to claim that an eviction was necessary. He noted that the courts could still address the merits of any injunctive action. MR. HOSTINA informed the committee that at UAF there have been one or two students who have been dorm room lawyers with lots of time on their hands. In those cases, the students have a ready argument that the university has to [go through the eviction process]. In a couple of cases with UAF, the courts agreed with that argument. Mr. Hostina suspected that the university is the major beneficiary of this legislation because the other categories of institutions aren't likely to face the aforementioned argument. 3:58:44 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN inquired as to the difference between a discharge and an eviction for a patient; either way the individual is not residing in the facility. Representative Lynn expressed concern that perhaps SB 137 is casting too large of a net. Therefore, he asked if the legislation could include some protections for the categories beyond those addressing the university students. 3:59:12 PM CHAIR ANDERSON urged Mr. Michel to obtain an opinion from Legislative Legal and Research Services on Representative Lynn's concern. However, Chair Anderson said he didn't think that there was any need to delay the bill. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX echoed the same discomfort with SB 137 as did Representative Lynn. Therefore, she said she would feel more comfortable adopting a conceptual amendment that would eliminate the [nursing homes and hospitals] from this proposal. 4:01:01 PM CHAIR ANDERSON related his understanding that ULTA doesn't apply to [a private] nursing home. 4:01:35 PM MR. HOSTINA confirmed Chair Anderson's understanding, and added that the university, hospital, nursing homes, and prisons are already excluded from ULTA. However, because the university provides housing, it made for an easy argument for a student to say that he/she must be evicted rather than merely removed from housing. Although he reiterated that he didn't believe such an argument would come up, he would favor addressing it with respect to institutions beyond the university. He specified that SB 137 is merely requesting a clarification of ULTA. 4:03:05 PM CHAIR ANDERSON pointed out that perhaps the confusion has arisen from the text in the sponsor statement that specifies that this legislation would apply to nursing homes and hospitals. Therefore, he suggested that it would be appropriate to check on this question with Legislative Legal and Research Services. 4:03:35 PM REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG stated that ULTA doesn't apply to [hospitals and nursing homes] under AS 34.03.330(b)(1). He characterized the situation that SB 137 is addressing as one in which rogue judges aren't enforcing the law. 4:04:50 PM REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG clarified that this legislation is not an amendment to ULTA, rather it's an amendment to actions relating to real property. MR. HOSTINA agreed. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG further clarified that SB 137, through its amendment to actions relating to real property, makes it crystal clear to the courts that [the university shouldn't have to go through an eviction process for a student]. CHAIR ANDERSON asked whether the title of the legislation is accurate. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG replied, "It's actually probably more than accurate because ... they're providing the exemptions under the Landlord/Tenant Act ... and that they can't resort to proceedings under the real property to make the ... eviction. They can't use a court action to recover possession." 4:06:10 PM MR. HOSTINA, in response to Representative Rokeberg, confirmed that [the university] used a trespass action rather than an eviction action. He explained that the ULTA unlawful detainer action wasn't used because those take 10-20 days to remove someone from housing. In the case of the disruptive student, the student had went through the university's process and the university understood the law to mean that there was no reason to resort to forcible entry and detainer action. Therefore, the university understood the law to allow simple notification of a trespass and an arrest could ensue if the student insisted on remaining. However, the courts disagreed and insisted that the university go through a forcible entry and detainer action. 4:06:56 PM REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG surmised then that the university wished to remove the student sooner than under the unlawful detainer process because the student was destructive to the population of the dormitory. MR. HOSTINA agreed, and added that generally these students have been given plenty of notice regarding the need to change their behavior. Even if the student continues to be disruptive, the university provides yet another process such that he/she has a right of appeal within the university if the individual believes his/her constitutional rights have been violated. The student can appeal to superior court. After the aforementioned, the university doesn't want to have to go through a court process for an eviction. Mr. Hostina agreed with Representative Rokeberg that currently the ULTA doesn't apply in any of these cases, this legislation merely clarifies that the forcible entry and detainer action shouldn't be required of those institutions for the same reasons. 4:08:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD commented that he is becoming more and more confused. He expressed concern because when his father who was living in a nursing home was diagnosed with Alzheimer, the nursing home said that it didn't take care of Alzheimer's patients. Therefore, Representative Crawford was told that he would have to find another residence for his father. Upon finding a Veterans' Administration hospital, his father had to wait until there was an opening. Fortunately, in Louisiana his father was protected from being evicted from the nursing home. He asked if this legislation would provide nursing homes the ability to evict people in the aforementioned situation if the Alzheimer patient becomes disruptive. Representative Crawford opined that it seems like there are two different questions. He further opined that the committee would probably support the legislation in relation to cases involving a disruptive university student. However, he expressed interest in obtaining more information on the appeals process. CHAIR ANDERSON related his understanding that Representative Crawford was interested in knowing who this legislation encompasses and how it would apply in the various types of institutions. REPRESENTATIVE LYNN suggested limiting the legislation to apply only to student housing. CHAIR ANDERSON related his belief that the sponsor wanted the legislation to be more expansive than merely student housing. 4:11:03 PM MR. MICHEL reminded the committee that SB 137 isn't changing [Alaska's Landlord Tenant Act], the legislation merely addresses the court decisions [that are incongruent with the Act]. He offered to obtain information regarding the questions asked today. 4:11:31 PM REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG pointed out that SB 137 changes the civil procedures for real estate actions. He suggested that perhaps, this legislation is too broad [as written]. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG acknowledged that the disruptive student situations have been problematic over the years. Therefore, Representative Guttenberg inquired as to why the student housing contract doesn't address the ramifications of a disruptive student in regards to his/her housing. 4:13:17 PM MR. HOSTINA answered that it is addressed in the housing contracts. In fact, some of the housing contracts are terminable at will. Still, the courts have read such contracts and the Code of Civil Procedure under Title 9 to require an eviction to recover possession of the student housing unit. Therefore, the university was arguably prevented from doing anything other than going to court to recover possessions. From that case it would seem that it doesn't matter what the contracts include, he opined. 4:14:40 PM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX requested a copy of the decision in such cases. 4:15:42 PM REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD referred to the following language in the sponsor statement, which read: "A hospital should not be required to obtain a court order to remove a patient who no longer needs its services." He questioned who decides when a patient no longer needs its services. Representative Crawford expressed the need to be sure what this legislation actually does. 4:16:31 PM CHAIR ANDERSON announced that SB 137 would be held over.