While this report is state specific, the issues it describes apply in dozens of states, so it merits this national audience. Further below this will include some relevant pull-quotes from two politicos – Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Kim Reynolds – who provided comments last night on the ‘state of the union’ that arguably apply to this vexing scenario in surprising ways. But initially, MHLivingNews will consider specifics raised by KGAN CBS2. “Candi Evans, a Golfview resident and co-chair of the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network, says they’re experiencing outrageous rent increases and no-cause evictions,” KGAN CBS2 said. Evans said, “As of April 1st, this year, my rent will have increased by 73 percent.” Per CBS 2, “A bill working its way through the Iowa House would increase the number of days a landlord has to notify residents of an increase in rent, from 60 to 90 days,” which explained that Evans told them residents don’t need more time before a rental hike, they need lower costs.” That was reported on 2.28.2022, which said that on that pending bill HF 2441, that “the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network is urging lawmakers to make amendments to this bill that would better protect residents.”
Notice for first-time visitors who began here seeking information on manufactured homes and community living: click here, here, here, here, and here before circling back to this report. That segue noted, let’s return to the troubling issues that thousands of mobile home and manufactured home residents face from specific – not all – manufactured home community operators who have earned the moniker of “predatory” from their residents for reasons Evans stated.
The video below is from a protest against Havenpark Capital, an apparent member of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and/or of the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association (IMHA). This and the next video paint the picture that Iowa residents have been battling this issue of what they’ve called “predatory” community operators for the past few years.
Some of the personalities in those videos are involved in the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network. Per their website is the following statement on the pending legislation.
RESIDENTS’ STATEMENT ON 2022 BILL – HF 2441
February 28, 2022
Mobile Home Residents Say Proposed Bill is “Totally Unacceptable”
We don’t have another year to wait for protections
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.” ##
This has similarities to the federal legislation that is described in the report linked below.
Additionally, the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network website says that they seek specific protections they have described as a bill of rights.
“IOWA MANUFACTURED HOME RESIDENTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS
Right now, with only 60-day notice, park owners can impose rent increases of any amount they choose. We can no longer allow predatory out-of-state investors to target Iowa residents of manufactured housing communities with rent gouging. We need statewide protections against unjustified rent increases, including a statewide cap on frequency and percentage of rent increases and a much longer notice period for proposed increases.
Good Cause Eviction Standards
Owners must be required to show good cause before evicting a resident. Standards for good cause must be consistent and enforced across the state.
Fees must be capped at reasonable levels and tied to good cause, so that owners cannot abuse fee systems to circumvent rent protections or target individual families for eviction. We need statewide limits on how much owners can charge in late fees, and a standard time frame before late fees can be assessed.
Fair, Legal Leases
State law must require lease provisions that spell out park owners’ responsibilities to maintain clean and safe parks and prohibit abusive lease provisions. The state must adopt a clear, effective mechanism for enforcing these guidelines and requiring owners to remove illegal provisions from leases.
Resident Rights if Property Up for Sale
To prevent mass displacement of low-income Iowans and destruction of affordable housing stock, local residents must be offered first right of purchase when their communities are up for sale. Current owners should be barred from evicting residents for a period long enough to allow residents to pursue local ownership. If residents are forced to move as a last resort, owners profiting from the sale of park must be required to provide significant relocation assistance.” ##
The manufactured home related bill posted on the Iowa legislature’s website on this date is linked here.
Additional Information, More MHLivingNews Analysis and Commentary
Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Affiliate, the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association (IMHA)
The IMHA’s Andy Conlin and Becky Kinney were contacted to obtain their input on the report and to obtain a copy of their IMHA ‘Code of Ethical Conduct.’ Per a source deemed reliable, IMHA received the message, decided not to provide the requested item, but notified numbers of their members of the MHProNews/MHLivingNews inquiry. Somebody’s nervous about this spotlight?
Per the IMHA’s published membership and board listings, notorious Frank Rolfe is a board member.
At least one of the communities shown as a member is apparently owned by Havenpark Captial, which has created its own notorious reputation for predatory behavior.
Another IMHA member is Joanne Stevens, see the report and related download of letters in the report linked below.
Against that backdrop, a few pull quotes from the State of the Union (SOTU) and the GOP response to the Biden SOTU address are insightful.
“I’m a capitalist, but capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation—and it drives up prices.” That’s per the White House Transcript of Joe Biden’s State of the Union (SOTU) address on 3.1.2022.
“The President and Democrats in Congress have spent the last year either ignoring the issues facing Americans or making them worse. They were warned that spending trillions would lead to soaring inflation.”
“Americans are tired of a political class trying to remake this country into a place where an elite few tell everyone else what they can and cannot say. What they can and cannot believe.”
“Frankly, they’re [Americans] tired of the theater. Where politicians do one thing when the cameras are rolling and another when they believe you can’t see them.”
“It seems like everything is backwards.”
Citing the Iowa state moto: “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”
“You shouldn’t have to wake up every morning and worry about the next thing the government is going to do to you, your business, or your children.”
“If we, as elected leaders, are doing our job, then the government is working well but operating in the background…It’s keeping them safe, not restricting their freedom.”
Ironically, both the Democrat (Biden) and the Republican (Reynolds) raised relevant points. A big part of the problem with the challenge of predatory community operators in Iowa and beyond is because there is as Biden said, too few competitors. What competition that does exists isn’t effective. Who said? Tim Sheahan, a volunteer manufactured home resident advocate in California who has served nationally.
Related to that are the remarks of the late resident-advocate, Bob Van Cleef.
Related MHLivingNews Analysis
In no specific order of importance, some facts and common sense ‘deductive reasoning’ may shed light on what needs to occur.
- A) Listening closely to resident concerns, they often follow a familiar pattern. The residents were routinely happy with their ‘mom and pop’ family-owned community management. But when they family sells out to a consolidator, that’s when everything in the residents’ lives are rapidly turned upside down.
- B) The so-called solutions proposed rarely do what their proponents claim. For example, Democrats in Delaware passed legislation some years ago that included resident protections, rent control “rent increase justification,” etc. Much to residents’ dismay, their problems persisted.
Manufactured homeowner and resident-activist Rob Weymouth said in a letter to the editor in his Delaware newspaper began his thoughts by saying, “The manufactured housing tenants must unite to effectively stop landowners from continuing predatory pricing practices.”
“In 2013, then Governor Jack Markell signed the Rent Justification Act sponsored by Democrat Bruce Ennis and co-sponsored by several others in his party. The law was enacted to finally give over 70,000 tenants in almost 200 manufactured home communities protection from unscrupulous landowners that have been using predatory pricing practices against defenseless low cost/low income tenants.”
Weymouth then laments, “The new law’s intent is to provide protection to tenants from landowners that continue to believe they have the right to raise rents for basically any reason…
Unfortunately, over the past few years since the law was enacted, various actions or inaction by our state’s legislative, judicial and executive branches and by some landowners has effectively rendered the law useless. While the law enacted was extremely vague and ambiguous, one thing that was clear was that landowners needed to actually justify their rent increases in writing and that tenants are protected against unreasonable and burdensome rent increases.”
Let’s sum up to this point. Weymouth says there’s a problem. Democrats united to legislatively ‘solve’ that problem. But a Democratic dominated state executive, legislative and judicial process has rendered – in Weymouth’s own words – “…the law useless.”
- C) To shed light on what Weymouth said is this statement from one of the companies that Weymouth and fellow Delaware resident advocate – Fred Neil – has lashed out at. As Equity LifeStyle Properties (NYSE:ELS) president Marguerite Nader explained on an earnings call, ELS (and other community operators who are routinely MHI and/or state association members) have learned how to ‘navigate’ the rent control laws.
- D) While ‘rent justification’ may offer a desired-by-residents short-term relief, Weymouth’s and Nader’s ironically similar points, it is demonstrably not a solution. What must occur is more practical and legal options have to be offered to residents when confronted by predatory operators. Additionally, state and/or federal officials should press existing laws. Among those that may apply? The Hobbs Act, RICO, and antitrust violations. Each of these can offer criminal sanctions for demonstrably illegal behavior.
- E) Once a few predatory manufactured home community operators are lawfully put in prison for violating the rights of their residents, the trend toward predatory behavior may slow. As Van Cleef noted, bringing on more supply is another step that should occur.
Nothing is changed until it is properly challenged. Certainly, other positive goal- and solution-oriented elements to resolve the woes faced by residents like those complaining in Iowa should be pursued. But part of the solution should be to use existing laws in a manner that punishes the guilty but doesn’t harm the honest and ethical community operators who routinely have a good relationship with their residents. It should be obvious that applying existing laws could be a faster path to resolution.
Strommen “Felony” “Conspiracy” Case-“Monopolization” of Affordable Manufactured Housing and Manufactured Home Communities “Rube Goldberg Machine of Human Suffering” by Manufactured Housing Institute Firms – Knudson Law
The most basic job of government is to protect its citizens. There are thousands of citizens like those in Iowa that are facing the same types of perplexing issues. But when the patterns are peeled back, understood, and if existing laws would be applied, the problems could often be dealt with far more swiftly and effectively than the currently elusive ‘solutions’ others chase. To learn more, see the related and linked reports to learn more. ##
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
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