(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rep. Abby Finkenauer is continuing her work to protect mobile and manufactured home residents in her district. 

In June, Finkenauer introduced the Helping Owners Meet Essential Standards (HOMES) Act of 2020, which would provide basic tenant protections. The new legislation would require that mobile home park owners use fair leasing, rent and eviction practices in order to receive federally-backed financing. 

“We’ve seen over and over how these out-of-state companies buy up mobile home parks, jack up the rent, impose surprise fees and intimidate Iowans — many of whom live on a fixed income,” Finkenauer said in a statement. “The HOMES Act says if your business model threatens and preys on vulnerable Iowans, you won’t be eligible for federally backed loans.”

Finkenauer has been working to protect tenants of mobile and manufactured homes for months, after hearing about unfair practices from the Table Mound Mobile Home Park in Dubuque. Back in January, she sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation into the company that runs the park, called Impact Communities. 

“This is personal,” Finkenauer said. “We’ve got to protect our friends and neighbors from predatory investors who treat their residents’ hard-earned homes like pieces on a Monopoly board.”

According to her office, in recent years corporations and private equity firms have increasingly purchased manufactured and mobile home communities. Once purchased, the companies rely on a business model that uses rent increases and predatory lease agreements. Currently, these companies still qualify for and take advantage of government-backed lending that allows them to expand their operations to more communities. 

“If you like having a monopoly, holding all the cards, knowing the tenants won’t move their homes out, never worrying about someone building a new property near you, and taking one of the tenant’s biggest assets if they default, then you’re going to love mobile home parks,” Frank Rolfe, who is the business partner of Impact MHC Management LLC, wrote in marketing materials for Manufactured Home University.

Finkenauer’s new legislation would restrict government lending programs that are available to predatory companies unless they write basic protections into tenant leases. Protections would include one year renewable lease terms, advance written notice and justification of rent increases and protection against arbitrary evictions, among other protections. 

The new bill has received support from other members of the house and local community leaders. 

“This bill is a step in the right direction to make sure manufactured home community owners that access Fannie and Freddie-backed loans meet basic standards,” Candance Evans, a manufactured home owner from Golfview Mobile Home Estates in North Liberty, Iowa, said. Evans is also a community leader with MHAction. 

“As a resident who lives in a community that was purchased via a Fannie-Mae backed loan, we will keep fighting for the full protections we need to make sure that we can afford our homes and our communities are not destroyed.”

The bill has also received support from the National Consumer Law Center, the National Housing Law Project Prosperity Now.