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OPINION: Mobile home residents say proposed Iowa bill is “totally unacceptable”

Today, the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network, representing mobile home owners and park residents from across Iowa, issued the following statement on HF 2441, currently under consideration in the Iowa legislature:

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.

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