OCCUPANCY BILL: Cities, Landlords At Odds

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

It's been dubbed the "occupancy bill" and its supporters say it's meant to make more money for landlords. Iowa's largest cities are lining up to fight it.

You`ll find plenty of single family homes turned into rental properties in the Drake neighborhood.  In Des Moines, each unit can be occupied by no more than four unrelated adults.

Supporters of House File 2331 would like that to change.

“We think we`re on the right of this, it`s rental property owner rights,” Andrew Lietzow of the Iowa Landlords Association says.

But that suggestion has cities across Iowa recoiling. It would take away their right to put limits on the number of people who could occupy rental properties.

“We could have houses in our neighborhoods that have significantly more people and that means more cars in the street, more traffic, more noise,” Des Moines city council member Chris Coleman says.

And, less property value for homeowners that might suddenly find themselves flanked by halfway houses or even shelters.

This legislation was last shot down in 2007 when the city of Ames maintained its right to keep limits on student rental properties.  This time around, the landlords association is fighting harder.

“What they tell you is `Oh, if we let all these students have access to larger properties that have lots of bedrooms, all of a sudden you`ll have Animal House,” Lietzow says.

Most of Iowa`s major cities are fighting the bill and picking up supporters.  They think this challenge might be tougher, but common sense will again prevail.

“Senators and House members have to do what`s best for the people that elected them and not a few business owners,”

The bill needs approval by the judiciary committee before it could be brought before the full House.  The judiciary committee meets Wednesday but has not yet set an agenda for the meeting.