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Pending Iowa Legislation

Our state association (LLIA) would GREATLY APPRECIATE it if each of you would send emails to your respective representative and senators for each of the 3 bills below. This legislation will affect you if it is passed or not…
These are HSB (House Study Bills) and there are three of them: HSB 28, HSB 13, and HSB 9.

If you do not know who your legislators are, you can find them by going to and entering your information on the left-hand side of the screen. You will find each legislator’s contact information (including email) by clicking on their name.

Again…HSB 28 – Landlord/Tenant Law Reform

Landlords and tenants enter into a binding legal agreement. The vast majority of leases are broken because tenants do not hold up their end of the agreement. Following are things that are long overdue to improve the existing law.
1. HSB 28 allows for late fees to be increased. ($40 is not enough to encourage timely payment on the amounts of rent that are being charged for larger units. We are proposing a percentage rule that would protect small units from excessive late fees while providing more appropriate incentive for larger units. After all, the landlord still has to pay the mortgage timely or pay a much heftier late fee to the lender, so the incentive for the tenant to pay timely need to be adequate.)
2. Method of notice is changed from 4 days to 3 days. When a tenant is behind on rent or has abandoned a property, they know it. The additional day of notice (factoring in postal delivery times, etc.) when we are also hand delivering or posting the notice personally, should not make a large difference. Our experience is that most tenant do not pick up the certified letter anyway.
3. Many changes simply bring applicable laws “under one roof” so that they are easier to access/reference.
4. Allows the granting of reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.
5. Makes it possible for criminal charges for intentional destruction of property. This is soooo important!

Current law gives most rights to the tenants. Equal protection will help prevent one party from consistently taking advantage of the other party. Currently, laws protect the tenant to the point that landlords are losing right and struggling to continue to provide affordable housing.

We wish that every tenant honored their legal agreement with us, but when they don’t, we need to have enough rights to protect our own property/ies. We aren’t asking for much, just enough to provide more incentive for the tenant to honor their end of the lease.

HSB 13 – Expands limitations on rent judgment from 2 to 10 years

Back in the 1930s, Iowa passed legislation that placed a 2 year statute of limitation on rent judgments, making it different from all other money judgments for reasons specific to their economy and time period. (All other money judgments have a 10 year statute of limitations.) Rent owed is a monetary debt and should be treated the same as all other money judgments. This bill simply brings rent back into line with all other money judgments, making it a 10 year judgment.

It is incredibly difficult to collect outstanding rent from delinquent tenants. When tenants take occupancy of a home, they sign a legal document agreeing to pay rent. The landlord must still pay the mortgage and other related bills but lacks the income to do so. Because rent is a service that is gone with the passage of time, landlords cannot recoup lost rents in any other way than to collect from the tenant who owes the money. With the limitations placed on garnishing and the difficulties of finding past tenants who do not want to be found, the 2 year limit in place is unrealistic.

It seems appropriate to hold tenants responsible for rent judgments for the same amount of time that all other money judgments last.

HSB 9 – Occupancy

This bill prevents cities from adopting local codes that discriminate based on the relationship status of individuals.

This is a very simple bill that solves a very large problem. In some Iowa cities and towns occupancy of homes is being limited to not more than 3 unrelated people, regardless of the number of legal bedrooms the home has. A property can be an efficiency with very minimal square feet or a spacious 5 bedroom/3 bath home but cities are saying that size doesn’t matter – only relationship matters.: it can’t house more than 3 unrelated individuals. These codes are unjustly affecting renters (who are typically in the lower income brackets) of many ages and lifestyles. Why should a renter, just because they can’t afford to own the home themselves, be told they can only use 3 of the 5 bedrooms when the owner next door can use all 5?

· HSB 9 affords unrelated individuals the same rights and privileges as related individuals relating to how they use a home.
· HSB 9 eliminates discrimination based on home ownership.
· HSB 9 states that use of the HUD prescribed standard of bedroom square footage can be used to determine how many people can safely live in any given structure.
· HSB 9 does not remove home rule to regulate occupancy based on other physical limitations of the property.
· HSB 9 does not take away police powers for regulating occupant behaviors.

(Two examples of how cities are abusing their home rule powers to discriminate against unrelated renters)
· A four bedroom, three bath home was rented to two sisters, a friend whose parents had died, and a 4th roommate. Parking was sufficient per the city planning and zoning department. The four girls were living as a family unit (shared meals, expenses, religious support, etc.). The neighbors agreed that the girls caused absolutely no problems in the neighborhood and were, in fact, excellent neighbors. Two of the girls were young professionals while the other two girls were upper classmen at the local university. The city required the girls to be move because they were unrelated. (The city’s rationalization was that to the 3rd and 4th roommates, there were 3 other unrelated residents, making them the 4th.)
· A mother and daughter applied to share a 3 bedroom apartment to share expenses and responsibilities for raising the daughter’s daughter (3 generations would live together). Because the mother had a boyfriend who was not related to the mother, the daughter, or small child, the city refused to allow them to move into the unit. A total of 5 calls to the city yielded no change in the decision. A call (placed by the landlord) to the HUD regional director in Omaha confirmed that the city’s ruling was in violation of the fair housing act. The landlord could not win. They were placed in an impossible situation between the city codes/ordinances and the federal law.

(Our thoughts and responses to points being argued by cities who are against this bill)
· We cannot find any examples where an occupancy sign in a building says “Occupancy 200 if related / Occupancy 150 if unrelated).”
· The recent US Census illustrates a change in nationwide demographics. Over 50% of United States households are headed by unmarried adults and that number is steadily climbing.
· We’ve ben told that “Nobody wants Animal House in their neighborhood.” Nobody does. Landlords don’t either. Poorly behaved tenants cause expensive damage and a lot of bad will in a neighborhood. But tenants are not special in this. There are owner occupied “problem homes” too. Our answer to this is that police powers already exist to address behaviors. Under-utilizing a property does not guarantee a happy ending. Instead, it causes higher rents which in turn makes it more difficult to fill a property which leads to landlords being less selective when signing tenants (an empty property is a huge liability). Police powers are the answer, not limiting the use of the property.
· Cities are arguing that they do not have the infrastructure (specifically sewer) in place to handle increased occupancy. We say, shame on the city for allowing a 5 bedroom home to be built and not having adequate sewer in place to handle 5-6 people. The reality is that the sewer doesn’t know the difference between whether or not people are related, so how is that relevant?
· Inadequate parking (also an infrastructure issue) has also been by cities as another potential problem.
o The example we were given involved a college neighborhood where large homes have been converted to rooming houses that “bring in too many cars.” This bill does not limit the cities’ ability to approve or not-approve the conversion of single family homes into rooming or boarding houses. Cities could still decide to not allow conversions for limited parking reasons. In fact, cities can still limit occupancy on most anything . . . but not on the relationships status of the occupants.
o Parking is also a police power. If there are parking problems, cars can be ticketed or towed. Relationship status has nothing to do with it.
o Owner occupied homes also cause parking problems….especially families with numerous cars or frequent parties. Home owners do not have special rights given to them with regards to parking that unrelated occupants don’t have.
· Current ordinances and codes using related/unrelated status discriminates against the young, the elderly, the low income, the unmarried, the divorced/widowed, and those who choose to share living expenses (for other reasons). Just because someone is lucky enough to live in a “traditional family” shouldn’t give them exalted rights regarding habitation of a property.
· Profiling is illegal in our country. Yet some cities are requiring landlords to ask questions prior to renting to people that would be considered taboo in a job interview and definitely a violation of federal laws. If four adults sat in front of you, could you tell which ones were married or related and which ones were not?
· The latest numbers presented in REALTOR magazine indicate that 16% of home buyers are single women, many of whom intend to find renters to fill the other rooms in their home. Currently in Iowa, those single women buyers would need to be very careful in selecting their home or they might be told by the city just how many bedroom they are allowed to use.

In conclusion: it stands to reason that a 5 bedroom home was intended to house at least 5 people. Why limit who can live in the structure for only people that own the house and furthermore only for those that are unrelated? It places landlords in a position where city ordinances and codes require them to be discriminatory, which just isn’t right.