DES MOINES — The Iowa Attorney General’s office saw a spike in complaints last year from mobile-home owners, some of whom faced drastic increases in their rent.
In 2019, the attorney general received 23 such complaints, compared to 10 in 2018, said Lynn Hicks, spokesman for the office. The increase in complaints might be the result of new landlords raising rent, news coverage of the issue, and the attorney general accepting more complaints, Hicks said.
The tenants complained of losing their homes; rent increases of up to 69 percent; utility fees exceeding the landlords’ actual costs; and a lack of clear titles to homes.
“Our ask to lawmakers is simple: Iowa law should recognize that these consumers own actual homes and treat manufactured-home park residents as equal to apartment tenants, if not better,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller in a news release.
In 2019, there was a public outcry from the tenants of mobile-home parks after Havenpark Capital, a Utah real estate investment firm, purchased several parks across the state. The company announced to tenants it was raising rent at Golfview Mobile Home Park in North Liberty by 58 percent and Midwest Country Estates in Waukee by 69 percent. It also purchased mobile-home parks in Iowa City and West Branch, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
Five of the complaints the attorney general received last year were about Havenpark, Hicks said.
Iowa Senate Democrats introduced a bill during the 2019 legislative session to combat evictions and sudden rent increases, proposing a change in law that would require landlords to have just cause to terminate a rental agreement. It also gave the attorney general the power to oversee some park owners. .
A proposal requiring 180-day notice of rent increases passed the Iowa Senate, but stalled in the House, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
This year, the attorney general’s office is continuing an effort to create more protections for consumers through changes in Iowa law. One proposal would limit rent increases to one per year and cap the percentage increase. The office is also pursuing measures that would require landlords to show cause — such as renters violating the terms of their lease — before they could terminate a lease agreement.