A bipartisan proposal to give mobile home residents more rights and protections advanced in the Iowa House Monday.
Restricting rent increases, mandating 180 days’ notice before raising rent, and requiring good cause to evict tenants are just some of the provisions in the lengthy bill. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate crafted it together after an out-of-state company bought some Iowa mobile home parks in 2019 and started phasing in steep rent increases.
Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, one of the bill sponsors, said it’s clear that mobile home owners need more legal protections.
“It doesn’t make sense that, somehow, someone can lose their home, something they’ve invested in, simply because of some vague reason that a mobile home park has come up with,” Lohse said.
The Iowa Manufactured Housing Association is one of two groups lobbying against the bill. Attorney Jodie McDougal said park owners need to be able to raise rent to pay for maintenance and improvements.
“These guys are in the business to maintain this source of housing, and our fear is the restrictions and regulations are going to make that much more difficult,” McDougal said.
And McDougal said more regulations for mobile home parks could lead to a reduction in that much-needed form of affordable housing.
“I’ve yet to be convinced that this will crush affordable housing opportunities in the state,” said Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, who voted to move the bill forward.
Candi Evans lives at Golfview Mobile Home Park in North Liberty, and received notice last March that her lot rent would go from $285 a month to $475. She talked about her neighbors who have disabilities and live on fixed incomes, residents who can’t afford that kind of a rent hike.
“We’re not treated like people,” Evans said. “We’re treated like a dollar sign on a lot number. We need protections against these type of things happening in our parks.”
The park Evans lives in was bought by Utah-based Havenpark Capital.
Cedar Falls City Council member Dave Sires, who owns a mobile home park, said it was wrong for Havenpark Capital to raise rent so much. But he said he has done a lot for his tenants, and said the bill could put him and other family-owned parks out of business.
“There’s no way I’m going to let people who have no idea what the mobile home business is all about, or the tenants, tell me how to make my park home,” Sires said. “I provide sewer and water and garbage, and my lot rents around 300 bucks.”
Supporters of the bill acknowledged there are a lot of local mobile home park owners who treat their tenants right.
But Nathan Blake with the Iowa Attorney General’s office says the bill is needed to protect mobile home residents from bad actors and to put their rights on par with Iowans who rent apartments.
“Ultimately this bill provides more balance in a space that’s been tilted unnecessarily toward landlords for too long,” Blake said.
The three-person subcommittee advanced the bill and agreed it will likely need some changes. The bill must clear a full committee by the end of this week to remain eligible for debate.