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Iowa City Landlords: There's a New Sheriff in Town!

Caption: Stan Laverman, Iowa City senior housing inspector ... Stan said he's been busy visiting every real estate business in town, presumably to let them know what's coming, and will continue doing so. He said, "If you own your own home for two years ...

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Caption: Stan Laverman, Iowa City senior housing inspector, Iowa City landlords and tenants, listen up! There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Stan Laverman, senior housing inspectorHe's getting two new staff, tooNot a lot of Iowa City departments areYou can reach Stan at his email address above or at his city phone number: 319-356-5135At a neighborhood council meeting February 15th, 2018, Stan announced that "the state took away our no more than three unrelated people in the same dwelling" ruleAs a consequence, some landlords began turning every room in a rental house into a bedroom: kitchens, living rooms, and so on There's now a new rental unit cap of 30% for single-family and duplex propertiesStan showed us a "heat map" for problem areas in the cityI wish I could have taken it home with me, but it was now you see it, now you don'tThe 30% cap went into effect January 1st, 2018 Stan said he's been busy visiting every real estate business in town, presumably to let them know what's coming, and will continue doing soHe said, "If you own your own home for two years, you can probably rent it if you're on sabbatical, an estate is being settled, or you've committed to military service and will be gone; those are exceptions that can be considered." Note that apartment complexes aren't included in the 30% rental unit cap In any case, if the deed on the rental property changes, the rental permit goes with the property and you have to use the permitYou can't live in the property yourselfNuisance complaints against rental properties will now include tall grass, weeds, and other violations too, beginning July 1stAfter two complaints over a 24-month period (not 12 months), on the third violation Stan and his staff will ask, "What is your plan to solve the problem(s)?" If the problem-solving plan isn't acted upon, on the fourth violation the landlord will receive a six-month suspension of the rental permitIf the renters are causing the problem, then they deserve the inconvenience of the suspension of the rental permitHowever, if the fault is the landlord's, the tenants can receive a rental abatement and stay in the rental unit for freeTenants had rights in Ithaca, New York when I left Ithaca in 1974 to come to Iowa CityIf an apartment was uninhabitable, you could either have the problem fixed and deduct the plumber's bill or whatever from your rent or you could walk without paying rent, which was called a "constructive eviction." Iowa City's new rental policy on rent abatement for tenants is not exactly the same thing, but it's the spirit of the new policy that mattersJust think of how many years it's taken for tenants to develop any rights at all in Iowa City versus what I had in Ithaca in 1974 Actually, Stan said, rent abatement is part of the Iowa CodeI guess it just hasn't been enforced up till nowOne landlord didn't repair a sewer line so Stan threatened a rent abatement and the landlord fixed the sewer lineMoney and the loss of it seems to be one thing landlords understandBedrooms, now that landlords are converting living space into bedrooms, must be 100 square feet with smoke alarms interconnectedExisting duplexes must be permanently separatedYou can't have a door connecting the two duplexes"You can't have it both ways," Stan saidDeadbolts on all unit doors are requiredOwner-0ccupied dwellings with more than one tenant are required to obtain a rental permitAfter November 21st, 2017, you couldn't pave the entire backyard of your property beyond 20 feet and you must have five feet off to the sideThe rest of the backyard must be landscapedIf you're a tenant responsible for mowing the lawn at your rental unit, and you don't have a lawnmower and the landlord hasn't provided you with one, call Stan at 319-356-5135I don't know what the answer is to that oneI do know that a young man of my acquaintance was renting an apartment and bought a long fluorescent light and tried to install itHe found out later that his landlord was responsible for buying and installing new fluorescent lights.Subscribe Back to the Iowa City Patch Thanks for your feedback.Thanks for your feedback! 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