New Landlord Law Begins Friday in Cedar Rapids

By Rick Smith, Reporter

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By Kelli Sutterman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The city’s Code Enforcement Division says about 1,100 landlords have paid the city’s new $50 landlord license fee and registered some 12,700 rental units as required by the city’s new landlord licensing law.

By one estimate, that might equal about half of the city’s rental units.

Friday is the deadline for landlords to sign up after which a $1,000-a-month penalty is slated to be assessed against those who have not complied with the new law.

Matt Widner, the city’s code enforcement chief, on Thursday said he intended to enforce the penalties, but he also said that his office will work with people and will see if it can bring more landlords into the fold via a mailing.

It’s not entirely clear how many landlords operate in the city, which city officials have said is one reason to have a licensing program.

Dick Rehman, a longtime landlord and a member of the Legislative Committee at Landlords of Linn County, said the city has told the landlords’ group in recent years that it had about 23,000 rental units on its inspection lists.

So it appears the city now may have licensed owners of about half of the rental units in the city, Rehman said.

The city’s new ordinance also grandfathers in an inspection-fee scheme that will require landlords to pay annual inspection fees for their units rather than paying a larger fee every five years when the inspection actually occurs. The new set up will about double fees, Rehman said.

Rehman didn’t think it was possible for larger landlords not to know about the new rules even as Widner said he would be willing to work with “hardship cases” and those “completely unaware” of the license requirement.

“We’ve accepted this,” Rehman said of the licensing fee and the rental-unit registration requirement in the new law. “This is the law, so you might as well do it.”

Even so, Landlords of Linn County continues to pursue a lawsuit against the city about a couple parts of the city’s new landlord law that it considers overly vague. Those include the required crime-free lease addendum and certain definitions of what a nuisance property is, Rehman said.

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