February 28, 2022
Mobile Home Residents Say Proposed Bill is “Totally Unacceptable”
We don’t have another year to wait for protections
For over three years, Iowans who own manufactured homes have expressed growing concern about mistreatment from out-of-state park owners, particularly private equity firms and large corporations that continue to purchase Iowa parks. We have reported scores of abuses and deteriorating park conditions ranging from illegal lease provisions, outrageous repeated lot rent increases, no-cause evictions of long-time residents, utility overcharges, faulty water meters, drastic new fees (for fewer services), and maintenance failures.
For the past three years, bi-partisan groups of legislators worked on bills proposing some limited but positive improvements. These bills were moved through legislative committees, but not passed. We are deeply disappointed and angered that this year, rather than making a good faith effort to finally strengthen resident protections, Republican legislators have completely replaced proposals from prior years with new bill language that would make conditions worse, not better, for residents.
Iowans continue to ask for better protections and instead, this week Republican leaders are advancing a bill that offers more rights to out-of-state landlords.
HF 2441, now being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee, does not include a single one of the priorities identified in our Manufactured Home Residents Bill of Rights. It does nothing to limit the size or frequency of lot rent increases and offers no protection against unjust evictions, abusive fees, or utility overcharges. While the bill expands some notice periods (from 60 to 90 days for a rent increase, for example) and exempts mobile homes from property tax, it places no limits on park owners’ ability to raise lot rent by as much and as many times as they please, offsetting many times over the anticipated $200 annual savings any individual homeowner can expect from the proposed tax code change. The tax exemption is instead yet another a huge gift to corporate park owners, who may own and rent out scores of homes in multiple parks, and will now contribute even less to the local tax base of the Iowa communities they profit from.
Instead of increasing protections, this bill would leave residents more vulnerable than ever, shrinking the time residents are allowed to respond to certain types of eviction notices and giving owners more options and longer timelines for issuing eviction notices.
We urge House Ways and Means Committee members to show the courage to turn this bill around and to stand up to the park owners’ lobby and the out-of-state corporate funders that continue to stand in the way of essential protections Iowa manufactured homeowners need and deserve. We urge lawmakers to amend HF 2441 immediately, at the very least to include proposals introduced in past bills to limit rent increases, prohibit utility overcharges, create just cause eviction standards, and take first steps toward ensuring manufactured home residents have rights as least as strong as those of other Iowa renters.
Legislators have heard our voices and repeatedly indicated to us they too understand that Iowa Code Chapter 562B, covering manufactured homes, has over decades become severely imbalanced in favor of park owners over residents. It’s long past time to protect Iowans and affordable housing.
HF 442 is now HF 833. With proposed amendment H1235, HF 833 includes many but not all of the changes proposed in HF 442
Under current Iowa law, manufactured home (MH) residents have far fewer protections against predatory or abusive practices than apartment renters do. HF 442 establishes important equal protections for MH residents to bring their rights in line with those of other Iowa renters. Proposed changes in this bill include:
· Protections against retaliation: This bill extends protections against retaliation if a resident reports a civil rights violation, equal to those in place for other renters.
· Recourse if landlords violate lease agreements or fail to provide essential services: Proposed changes would give MH residents the same ability as other renters to counterclaim against landlords who violate lease agreements, and legal remedies if a landlord fails to provide essential services promised in the lease.
· Fair and legal leases: MH homeowners lack several basic protections concerning leases that cover traditional renters. Proposed changes would create equal protections, including a requirement for fair and legal fees, and remedies for illegal rent agreements.
HF 442 requires 120-day notice of a rent increase and limits increases to once per year. It clarifies that a decrease in services will be considered the same as an increase in rent.
HF 442 requires that owners explain utility charges to residents in writing, prohibits owners from charging residents more than the actual cost of a service provided through a public utility, and limits monthly administrative fees to no more than five dollars for providing a utility.
HF 442 requires 90-day notice to residents before the sale of a mobile home park, limits the power of a new owner to change lease terms, and requires 90-day notice of such changes.
Iowa MH residents currently have virtually no protection against eviction; homeowners can be evicted by a park owner for any reason or no reason at all. This bill extends eviction notice requirements from 60 to 90 days, but does not go far enough toward prohibiting unjust evictions. The bill defines the standards owners should use to show “good cause” for eviction, but still allows an owner to evict a resident for any reason with a 90-day notice. Even worse, rather than requiring owners to show proof of a good reason for eviction, this bill shifts the burden of proof onto residents to show an eviction was unjust.
This bill does not protect against extreme rent increases like the multiple 30-60% hikes many Iowa residents have faced, though it does limit increases to once per year.