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Lead advocate for Iowa mobile home residents says a bill meant to address their concerns won't help

candi evans speaks at a press conference
Katarina Sostaric
IPR file
Candi Evans, pictured at a news conference in 2020, says a bill awaiting the governor's signature won't help her or other mobile home residents.

A lead advocate for fair housing practices in Iowa’s mobile home parks says a bill aimed at protecting mobile home residents will not help them.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate sent a bill to the governor’s desk Tuesday that they say is a response to mobile home residents’ concernsabout predatory practices by out-of-state park owners.

Candi Evans, co-chair of the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents’ Network, said the bill sent to the governor’s desk this week didn’t address any of the group’s five priorities.

“Legislators said, as they began to work on this, that they were anxious to balance the power of ownership between the landlords and the residents, the homeowners,” Evans said Thursday on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River. “That did not happen. They gave more power to the landlords. And they took away more from us.”

Evans and other mobile home owners started asking lawmakers for help in 2019 when an out-of-state company bought the North Liberty mobile home park she lives in and announced steep rent increases.

The bill passed Tuesday would require 90 days’ notice instead of the current 60 days’ noticefor rent increases. Utility rate increases would also need 90 days’ notice, unless the landlord isn’t informed of the increase that far ahead of time. Landlords would have to give 90 days’ notice instead of 60 days before terminating a lease.

The bill would extend the timeframe in which mobile home owners are protected from retaliation by landlords. It would also prohibit landlords from requiring homeowners to change their homes in ways that would make them unable to move the home out of the park.

Evans said lawmakers should’ve included protections like limits on rent increases, requiring that landlords show “good cause” to evict someone, limits on late fees, requiring fair leases, and giving residents the chance to purchase their park if it’s up for sale.

“We only want to save our home,” Evans said. “We are not asking for anything that we have not earned on our own. We are asking that they help us so it’s not taken away from us.”

Republican lawmakers said the bill is a step forward in protecting Iowans who live in mobile homes, though several said they would like to do more.

Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said the bill strikes a balance between mobile home owners and park owners.

“This bill is not worse than nothing,” Sinclair said. “This bill provides protections to mobile home owners. I understand that it might not be everything that everybody wants, but sometimes striking that balance means that not everybody is happy with the end result.”

Earlier in the legislative session, Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, said the bill was a compromise with the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association, which represents mobile home park owners. He said he wanted to do more for residents, but he said the IMHA’s support meant there would likely be enough support among House Republicans to get the bill passed.

“While, again, it’s not the bill I’d like to have, it’s the bill I can get,” Lohse said recently during House debate.

Almost all Democrats in the Iowa Legislature voted against the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said the bill does some positive things.

“Those improvements are so common sense that to try to sell them to this body as a material improvement is an insult to the people who need more protection,” Wahls said. “Because this bill also places homeowners in substantially worse condition in a multitude of ways.”

Wahls said the bill’s proposed changes to the definition of rent could make it easier for residents to be evicted.

Senate Republicans rejected Democrats’ attempts to add more resident protections to the bill, even though they’ve previously voted for some of those proposals.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter