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BOISE — After days of largely negative testimony from several nonprofits, a bill that would expedite evictions in Idaho failed to pass the House Monday by two votes.

The bill, carried by Reps. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, and Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, would have streamlined all evictions into a process that takes less than a month no matter the reason for eviction. It also would have added protections for renters in properties where landlords have not completed repairs, and allowed victims of domestic violence to more easily break a lease.

In the House debate, legislators sparred over the constitutionality of the bill, its potential effect on due process for tenants and the impacts some of the added tenant protections could have on landlords. Supporters argued that it would add clarity to Idaho’s laws and help landlords evict problem tenants before they cost them thousands of dollars, but opponents said it could have unintended consequences.

Currently, landlords in Idaho have to file two separate suits in court to evict a tenant, one to return the property to the landlord and another to file for monetary damages. This legislation would combine the eviction process into a single court filing and would hasten all evictions regardless of circumstances down to a month or less.

There are two processes for evictions in Idaho. If a renter has illegal drugs or is behind on rent, they can already be evicted within less than a month. Other lease violations like noise complaints or property damage take longer to move through the courts, but this bill would put all evictions regardless of cause through the same process.

Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, fiercely opposed the legislation because he viewed it as an affront to due process in the state. He argued that the expedited eviction process for questions of rent owed or illegal activity is warranted, but speeding up the process for problems like property damage or noise complaints would prevent people who might be discriminated against from adequately fighting the eviction.

“As I listened to the people who have put this bill forward explain to me what they're trying to accomplish I can respect it, but I don't actually see indications of what they’re trying to accomplish actually happening,” he said. “While I believe everybody has good intentions, we don’t vote on the statement of purpose, we vote on the actual words in the bill.”

Arguing for the bill, Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, said the changes would prevent eviction cases dragging on for months while landlords worked through the court system. By expediting the process, she said it would help landlords pay their bills and avoid costly legal proceedings.

“When it comes to somebody and their property, the landlords are not reasonable to carry the debt of someone else,” she said. “They’re not responsible for that and oftentimes they are dependent on that money to pay for their own properties and their own family.”

Margaret Carmel covers the city of Boise. Follow her on Twitter @mlcarmel or reach her by phone at 757-705-8066. 

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