Submit the mobile home garden bill at home

A bill that would extend the notice period given to mobile home park residents for evictions and rents from 60 to 90 days was introduced by the Iowa House Committee Tuesday despite objections that it does not include other provisions to provide further protections for these residents.

House File 2441 was previously approved by a different House committee last month, but the Ways and Means Committee took it up because of a provision exempting mobile homes located in such parks from property taxes.

Representative Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said the tax credit does little to allay the concerns of some mobile home owners whose gardens have been purchased by out-of-state companies in recent years that have dramatically increased rents or other fees.

“Even though we’re technically cutting costs by $200, it’s easy for my rent to go up 500%,” Jacoby said Tuesday of mobile homeowners.

Relief for these residents has been elusive at the Statehouse in recent years. In January 2020, Attorney General Tom Miller said Iowa law should be amended to limit rent increases to a certain percentage that can only occur once a year and include increased eviction protections, among other things.

Consumers reported rent increases of up to 69 percent; utility charges that exceed the actual costs of the service to the owner; arbitrary fees and fines that increase their costs; lack of a clear bond for their manufactured homes; being forced to move for no reason and then losing their homes; and other problems,” Miller’s office said at the time.

Legislation proposed last year that has the same features as the current House bill but also limited one-time-a-year rent increases did not get enough support to become law.

Rep. Brian Lohs, R-Bondurant, the lead sponsor of both bills, said his current reduced proposal is an acceptable compromise for fellow lawmakers that would provide some help for mobile home park residents.

The Iowa Industrialized Housing Association has been a major opponent of previous bills but has announced its support for the current bill.

Extending notice of rent increases and termination of lease agreements is important for mobile home park residents who own their home but may have difficulties moving it, logistically or financially. Some parks have asked residents to modify their homes in a way that makes them less mobile, such as removing obstacles to make them more aesthetically pleasing. The new bill limits these amendments.

While some elements of the bill are useful, the Attorney General’s office opposes it because it does not limit rents and increase fees, does not require legitimate grounds for eviction and has the ability to shorten eviction schedules in some circumstances.

“Given the fact that it doesn’t address the biggest issues that brought everyone to the table, our concern is that people feel like they did something that would help their tenants a lot, and they didn’t,” Nathan Blake, the state’s chief deputy attorney general, told Iowa Capital Dispatch. Sometimes when they feel they have done so, attention is not paid in future (legislative) sessions.”

Aside from notice extensions and tax deductions, the new law also:

Specifies that utility costs and other fees are subject to the same notices of increases as rent, with some exceptions.
Protects mobile home owners from retaliation by landlords for up to one year after the occupant alleges infringement of the tenant’s rights.
– Provides treatment to residents in the event that the owners do not provide basic services such as running water.
Requires landlords to provide written justification for refusing a new tenant purchasing an existing park mobile home.

“It’s great that we are finally seeing some light on the mobile home dilemma we are facing right now,” Jacoby said, “but I also know that one of the families who have been working on this so hard is saying, ‘Again, we’re zero to five on either side of things. Which we’ve been asking for some improvements, and we just want to make improvements so we can go to work tomorrow morning. ”

The bill was recommended Tuesday by a 16-9 vote in the House Ways and Means Committee. No similar bill is currently under consideration in the Senate.

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