House passes pared-back mobile home tenant protection bill

By: - April 5, 2022 6:30 pm

Rep. Kenan Judge, D-Waukee, spoke on a bill to expand legal protections for mobile home residents. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

State lawmakers have worked for several years on legislation aimed at protecting mobile home residents from predatory, out-of-state park owners. The Iowa House passed a bill Tuesday, but even supporters of the legislation said it doesn’t do as much as they had hoped.

State Rep. Brian Lohse is a Republican from Bondurant. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Legislature)

“It’s not the bill I’d like to have,” said the bill’s floor manager, Rep. Brian Lohse. “It’s the bill I can get.”

House File 2562 requires more communication between mobile home park owners and tenants. Before a park owner evicts a tenant or raises rent or utility fees, the bill would require them to give notice several weeks earlier. The proposal would also introduce new protections for tenants when landlords do not provide essential services like running water, or if park owners require certain modifications to mobile homes.

“House File 2562 reflects agreed-upon changes that would provide some meaningful protections to mobile home park residents across the state,” Lohse, R-Bondurant, said.

The issue of mobile home protections rose to prominence in 2019, when residents reported rent spikes as out-of-state investment firms purchased mobile home parks across the state. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office reported a surge in complaints from mobile home park residents last year, and residents rallied at the Statehouse in 2020 seeking attention from lawmakers.

Lawmakers have struggled since 2019 to pass new tenant protections. The Des Moines Register reports manufactured home owners lobbied heavily against any new tenant protections, which Lohse said contributed to “a lack of parity in the law.”

The initial version of the bill this session exempted mobile homes from property taxes, but Lohse said it “complicated too many things for cities and counties.”

“We’ll try to focus this down to help the people that we’re truly intending to help through the change,” Lohse said.

Democrats agreed the bill didn’t go far enough to combat out-of-state venture capitalist park owners. They called for a 12-month lease and additional protections against rent increases and eviction, as renters have in apartment complexes.

“These are not crazy ideas that are far out there,” said Rep. Kenan Judge, D-Waukee. “We’re not asking for too much here.”

The bill received some bipartisan support, with two Democrats voting in favor: Judge and Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque.

“We do have a bill before us that had a lot of work put into it, a lot of effort, and it makes incremental changes to the law,” Judge said. “But at the end of the day, we really missed the mark on what we needed.”

The rest of the Democrats voted against it, as did Republican Rep. Jeff Shipley of Fairfield.

“I am angry that, in the three years since we started working on this, this is the best we could come up with,” said Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty. “This is crumbs. This is nothing.”

The House passed the bill, 60-37. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.