Gov. Kim Reynolds signs law granting more protections to Iowa mobile home park residents

Residents who live in Iowa's mobile home parks will receive a slightly longer notice of rent increases or nonrenewal of leases under a law Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Tuesday.

The new law, which includes several other tweaks to Iowa's mobile home park law, comes after years of residents asking for more protections from dramatic rent hikes that come with little warning.

But the long-awaited legislation falls far short on key elements those residents have asked for, such as provisions that would limit the frequency or amount of rent increases.

"The real concern is private equity is moving in and gouging Iowans — and this does nothing to stop that," said Matt Chapman, a resident of Midwest Country Estates in Waukee. At that park, rent has increased from around $300 per month to $525 since it was purchased by the Utah-based Havenpark Capital in March 2019. Residents also pay more for utilities than they did under previous ownership.

Havenpark officials have have said they needed to increase the rent to come closer to the area's market rate. But, Chapman said, the scale of the rent increase shows that residents remain vulnerable and need more protections.

The Iowa Manufactured Housing Association, which represents the state's park owners, has strongly opposed many of residents' main requests. It was the only group registered in favor of the law. Its leadership has said the law is an acceptable compromise that contains good changes for both landlords and tenants.

Republicans have said the law, House File 2562, is a small win for mobile home owners, one that helps fix inequities in Iowa's law that have favored landlords in previous years.

But many Democrats accused Republicans of caving to park owners and creating legislation that sacrifices meaningful changes to win the owners' approval. The lobbying group has successfully rallied against previous versions of the legislation that went further.

Reynolds signed the legislation Tuesday without comment.

New law comes as private equity firms increasingly buy Iowa parks

Housing experts say mobile homes are the most common type of unsubsidized affordable housing in the United States.

Residents of mobile home parks nationwide have a median household income of $34,000 — lower than that of other homeowners and apartment renters — according to 2019 statistics from the American Housing Survey. Eighty-five percent of their households qualify for food stamps, and one in three households includes a person with a disability.

Over the past several years, several out-of-state investment companies across the country have purchased mobile home parks, at times dramatically increasing rent and adding new charges such as utility costs and service fees. Iowa law has historically placed no limitations on the amount or frequency of rent increases at the parks, as long as mobile home park owners give residents at least 60 days’ notice.

Out-of-state investors owned about 25% of Iowa's nearly 550 mobile home parks in 2019, according to data analyzed by Leonard Sandler, a University of Iowa law professor whose students research mobile home park issues.

Compared to other states, Iowa's mobile home park law has been weaker on several measures. A Freddie Mac analysis from 2018 found Iowa’s state requirements had only 13% of its recommended tenant protections for manufactured housing residents, putting it below 32 other states.

Some of the recommended protections that Iowa has been missing, according to the report, include a right to a renewable lease, a five-day grace period for rent payments, the right to sell a home without relocation and a 60-day advance notice of the planned sale or closure of a mobile home park.

More: Iowa mobile home park residents are fighting for expanded rights. Will state lawmakers provide them relief?

Many residents have told the Des Moines Register they felt trapped with little recourse or protection. Residents often own the home they live in but rent the ground underneath it. Since the homes can be expensive or impossible to move, residents risk losing their home if they are evicted or need to leave.

Chapman and many of the state's other mobile home park residents have advocated for protections such as requirements for yearlong leases, limitations on rent increases and requirements for landlords to specify a "good cause" before not renewing a lease for another term.

Changes under the new mobile home law

The new law will lengthen the required notice period for a rent increase from 60 to 90 days, although it won't limit the frequency or the amount of increases.

The law will also require landlords to give mobile home owners at least 90 days' notice if they are not renewing their lease, also an increase of 30 days.

In addition, it will make several other adjustments, including:

  • Giving mobile home owners 12 months of legal protection against retaliation, the same amount of time apartment renters have from landlords.

  • Including utilities in the definition of "rent" and making increases subject to the same notification period. However, no advance notice is required in situations when landlords don't receive 90 days' notice of increased cost from utilities.

  • Giving tenants legal remedies if a park owner is not providing essential services, such as running water.

  • Requiring landlords to provide a general reason for refusing to accept a new tenant who has purchased another resident's home at the park.

  • Prohibiting landlords from requiring tenants to modify their homes in a way that would make the structures more difficult to move later.

The portions of the law covering rent increase notifications and failure to supply essential services will go into effect immediately.

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Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at, at 515-284-8254, or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: New Iowa law grants more mobile home park protections for residents