MASON CITY – At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, fourth ward council member Janet Solberg said she wants to require people in Mason City who pay rent and take HUD assistance to buy renter’s insurance.
Citing “a couple of fires” that she says were “due to tenant’s negligence,” Solberg claimed that Mason City is “losing these houses on our property tax payroll.”
Solberg, a long-time insurance salesperson, said she was interested in this idea because “the landlords are just bulldozing them in,” referring to the damaged homes. She claims to be concerned about the loss of property tax after the homes are gone. “I’m kinda concerned about the house fires as well,” Solberg said.
City Administrator Brent Trout, acknowledging that Solberg, himself and the city’s legal representatives have traded emails on the matter and are pursuing it, said in response to Solberg that “the city attorney was very interested in trying to see what we could find out. I think it would be a good enhancement to the program. The concerns that he and I expressed are can we legally require that. I think that that’s something worth pursuing. We’re going to try and pursue that to the end and determine whether or not we can establish that as a requirement.”
“So if it’s just something that maybe potentially look into to see if there is any possibility there … I’d keep as many properties on the tax roles as possible,” Solberg said.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Rights division was contacted today for their opinion on any requirement by a city that would force HUD recipients to purchase renter’s insurance.
“That would be discriminatory,” a case worker said. “That would be a bad thing. Forcing or requiring a group or class of people to do something, but not making the same requirement of all renters could be considered discrimination.”
Solberg sells insurance for Corcoran & Associates, Inc. A call to their Des Moines office today confirmed that they do offer renter’s insurance. “You need to call our Mason City office, they can assist you with that,” the woman at the Des Moines office said.
Watch video of council discussion: