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Mobile home residents and advocates say a bill in the Iowa House won't do enough to protect them

The sun reflects off the golden dome of the Iowa Statehouse on a sunny winter day.
Madeline King
/
IPR file
A bill aimed at increasing protections for Iowa mobile home residents advanced Tuesday through a House committee.

A bill aimed at increasing protections for Iowa mobile home residents advanced Tuesday through a House committee, but advocates for mobile home resident protections say it doesn’t go far enough.

It would require 90 days’ notice for rent and utility hikes and for terminating a lease, up from the current 60 days. The bill includes some property tax relief for mobile home residents and extends the time period for which residents are protected from retaliation by their landlord after making a complaint.

But mobile home residents and their allies, who have been pushing for changes for a few years, say the bill excludes key protections like limiting the amount and frequency of rent increases.

Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty, said one of her constituents referred to the property tax relief in the bill as “crumbs” that will only cover one month’s rent increase.

“I’m glad to see this issues is getting some attention, but unfortunately, we’re not doing anything to help the people who are being hurt by these predatory practices,” Nielsen said.

Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, said Iowans facing steep rent hikes from out-of-state mobile home park owners have presented a list of things lawmakers could do to help.

“And those don’t, at least the top five ones, do not appear in this legislation,” James said. “And so that’s why you’re hearing a constituent saying so strongly that this is not enough. And I concur. It is not enough.”

But James said it’s a small step forward, so she voted yes.

Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, said several other recommendations from mobile home residents are in the bill.

“I would’ve liked to have seen a lot more,” Lohse said. “But at this point, this is the compromise that I could achieve in order to move the bill along.”

At a recent subcommittee, Matt Chapman, a mobile home park resident in Waukee, said out-of-state companies are extracting wealth from vulnerable Iowans. He urged lawmakers to consider a previous bill that was drafted by the Iowa Attorney General’s office and Iowa Legal Aid.

“So I don’t know if there’s any way that we can look at that as a template,” Chapman said. “And maybe in the future, think about the Iowans a little bit here, especially the ones that have lived there their whole lives, and they’re getting exploited.”

At the same meeting in early March, Andy Conlin with the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association said the bill is the result of IMHA conversations with Lohse.

“This bill extends the notice period for rent increases and for non-renewals. That’s not something that IMHA necessarily is in love with,” Conlin said. “But we felt as though that was an important thing to get resolved, and we were okay moving forward with that.”

The House Ways and Means Committee passed the bill with a 16-9 vote. The next step is a vote by the full Iowa House of Representatives.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter