We must prevent predatory rental practices against our friends and neighbors

Representative Abby Finkenhauer

In communities across Iowa, we’ve seen numerous instances of out-of-state companies buying up mobile home parks, jacking up the rent, imposing surprise fees, and intimidating Iowans – many of whom live on a fixed income.

It’s unfair, wrong, and un-Iowan – and it must be stopped. We must protect our friends and neighbors from predatory investors who treat their residents’ hard-earned homes like pieces on a Monopoly board.

That’s why I’ve introduced the Helping Owners Meet Essential Standards (HOMES) Act of 2020. This bill aims to stop the ongoing abuses by mobile-and manufactured-home community landlords in Iowa and across the country by saying that if your business model threatens and preys on vulnerable Iowans, you won’t get the benefits of a federally-backed loan. We shouldn’t be using your taxpayer dollars to subsidize bad actors.

Earlier this year, I went to Table Mound Mobile Home Park in Dubuque to sit with residents and hear how their new landlord is making life so much harder. The Iowans I met that night are not alone – I’ve read many letters and messages asking for help as these corporations try to get rich off the backs of folks who are often on a tight budget. These are stories that stick with me, and I’m proud to stand up for my friends, neighbors, and Iowans – its why I ran for office in the first place

Predatory corporations and private equity firms keep buying up manufactured-and-mobile home communities, using a business model that relies on hiking rents and fees and forcing tenants into contracts that leave them vulnerable to eviction. Right now, many of these corporations can take advantage of government-backed lending, allowing them to grow their predatory operations and put even more communities at-risk.

The HOMES Act would restrict these companies’ access to federally-backed loans unless they write basic protections into tenant leases. Those protections include:

One-year renewable lease terms

Advance written notice and justification of rent increases

Advance written notice of the planned sale or closure of a community

Protection against arbitrary evictions

Rights for residents selling the manufactured or mobile homes they own without incurring the significant expense of moving those homes out of their communities

I was proud to introduce this legislation with Iowa Reps. Dave Loebsack and Cindy Axne – both of whom have seen similar issues in their districts in Iowa.

The HOMES Act is just the latest way we’re working on behalf of those who are being wronged and trying to solve this problem. We’re still calling for a federal investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, and we want to see these companies held accountable.

I’ll continue standing up and doing everything I can to fight for the folks in our district who are being hurt by corporations who think there’s easy money in taking advantage of hard-working Iowans.

This is about our friends, our families and our neighbors. It’s personal to you – and it’s personal to me.