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State Government News

A bill aimed at protecting Iowa mobile home residents is advancing in the House

03012021-Mobile-Home-Protections
Kassidy Arena
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IPR file
Mobile home residents across Iowa met through Zoom last year to "raise their voice" about the issues they have faced in the past years.

Lawmakers who have been working for a few years on legislation to protect Iowa mobile home residents say they now have a compromise, and a House panel passed the bill Wednesday with bipartisan support.

The bill, which key lawmakers say will be amended with the compromise language, would require 90 days’ notice for rent and utility hikes, and for terminating a rental agreement. That’s up from 60 days under current law.

It would increase the amount of time tenants are protected from retaliation by a landlord after making a complaint from six months to one year. Tenants would have the right to get money back from the landlord if the landlord fails to provide basic services. And the bill would make several more changes to Iowa law related to mobile home parks.

But this bill would not limit mobile home park rent increases like lawmakers proposed in past versions.

“We went as far as what we could,” said Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant. “I believe it’s a meaningful bill. I believe it has some very good provisions for the tenants. And in the long run, we can look down the road and maybe we can do some other things as issues pop up.”

Lohse said he wanted to do more to protect residents. But he said this bill was a compromise with Iowa Manufactured Housing Association, which represents mobile home park owners and home manufacturers.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers started working to strengthen mobile home resident protections after an out-of-state company bought some mobile home parks in 2019 and quickly raised the rent. Those efforts failed to pass the legislature in the past few years.

Lohse said getting the IMHA to support the bill this year means there will likely be enough support from Republican representatives to pass the bill in the Iowa House.

Matt Chapman, a Waukee mobile home park resident, said the bill is a great place to start. He said his rent has nearly doubled in three years, and he asked lawmakers to consider ways to prevent that in future legislative sessions.

“We used to have like a covenant between us and the park owners, and they would raise our rent a little bit here and there, and it was fine,” Chapman said. “And now it’s a business model. And the model is to exploit as much wealth as you can, because they know these people can’t move.”

Nathan Blake with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office said there are some good things in the bill, but overall, he said it’s worse than the status quo. Blake said lawmakers excluded many of the office’s ideas.

“There’s still no for-cause requirement before a landlord could terminate a tenancy,” Blake said. “There’s still no limit to rent increases, either amounts or frequency. There’s still no limitation on landlords’ abilities to charge extra fees and overcharge for utilities.”

Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, represents the residents of a mobile home community who have been pushing lawmakers for more protections.

The challenge of these out-of-state corporations exploiting our residents here in Iowa is significant,” James said. “This bill is not going to be the end-all solution for this. I think it’s one step forward in making sure that these residents have protections.”

Andy Conlin is executive director of the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association, which has opposed past versions of the bill that included limits on rent hikes. He said he worked with Lohse on the bill to get to an amendment that IMHA supports.

“I don’t think that our association is in love with everything that’s in this amendment,” Conlin said. “I think there are some groups out there that may not love everything that’s in this amendment. But I think that’s how compromise is supposed to work.”

Lohse said he expects the House Judiciary Committee to consider the bill and amendment next week.