On Friday, April 21, 2017, Governor Branstad signed two bills into law that are favorable to Iowa residential landlords -- one, HF134, concerns occupancy regulations, and the second, HF146, concerns evictions.
The Occupancy Bill - HF134
HF134, an act relating to the authority of cities to regulate and restrict the occupancy of residential rental property, prohibits cities from using “familial status” to determine occupancy for rental properties. Specifically, a city shall not, after January 1, 2018, adopt or enforce any regulation or restriction related to the occupancy of residential rental property that is based upon the existence of familial or non-familial relationships between the occupants of a rental property.
For years, this occupancy issue has been hotly contested because certain cities in Iowa had enacted laws limiting the number of unrelated people who could live in a rental premises, often limiting it to no more than three unrelated people. In particular, Iowa college town representatives opposed this bill as they claimed it substantially restricted those municipalities' ability to regulate occupancy, while Iowa landlords were strongly supportive of the bill because under the bill landlords would more easily be able to rent out their larger, multi-bedroom houses, including to four or more unrelated student-tenants. Iowa civil rights associations were also supportive of the bill.
Iowa residential landlords have finally prevailed on this issue after several years, and we should all keep in mind that cities are still permitted to regulate occupancy using all non-discriminatory bases, including square footage per occupant, off street parking requirements, and other bases.
The Eviction Bill - HF146
HF146 is an act relating to eviction actions (also known as FED actions) under Iowa Code Chapter 648. The new law provides that the notice requirements under section 648.5 are satisfied by the landlord assuming the defendant or the defendant’s attorney appears at the eviction hearing. With this change, defendant-tenants will no longer be able to raise technical arguments regarding alleged insufficient notice in order to get the eviction action dismissed even when they appear at the hearing.
Finally, please be advised that landlords should continue to ensure that service of the eviction action and original notice are served at least three days before the hearing date, as is required under current law, or otherwise the judge, under this new law, is required to inform the defendant-tenant that he or she has the right to a continuance.