Wednesday, January 9, 2013

City of Cedar Rapids adopts Chapter 22A - Nuisance Property Code; turns to Chapter 29 discussion

The City Council has adopted a new ordinance on Tuesday that will impact all property owners in the City of Cedar Rapids.  The City of Cedar Rapids adopted Chapter 22A, despite concerns voiced by REALTORS, Landlords, the social services community, people who attended a Rotary Club Meeting, an attorney for the ACLU and an attorney for the housing community.  Link to Letters objecting to Chapter 22A

The public hearing and first reading was held Tuesday, December 18, 2012, a week ahead of Christmas.  Many people likely are not aware of the impact on property they own, due to the busy time of the year.  Despite the objections, the City passed quickly on Tuesday, January 8th the second and third readings.

As KWWL-TV asked me last night, the ordinance includes a 1, 2 or 3 strikes and the property owner could be subject to 12 months or more of civil fines from the City of Cedar Rapids.

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -Robin Tucker is a realtor and property manager in Cedar Rapids.  As someone in charge of many homes in the city, he's not happy the city council adopted a new code Tuesday that will define a home with multiple small offenses as a nuisance property.

"A lot of it is due to the behavior of people," said Tucker.  "But to stigmatize the property specifically...that is kind of new territory."
For Tucker, the new code leaves a lot of unanswered questions.  "There's a lot of uncertainty to it," said Tucker.
The City of Cedar Rapids of Cedar Rapids will now begin taking public input for a new Chapter 29 ordinance covering Rental properties.  A public-comment session on the upcoming changes to Chapter 29 will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. today in the council chambers at City Hall, 101 First St. SE.  The Gazette article on this public-comment forum.
The City is interested in hearing feedback on the following topics which are part of the code;
1.  Tenant background checks
2.  Landlord training requirements
3.  Rental Inspection schedules
4.  Fee schedules for inspections
5.  Additional topics related to the ordinance
Individual's comments will be limited to 3 minutes so that more people may heard.  The meeting is limited to 2 hours.

The City of Cedar Rapids has not at this point answered a lot of the questions, associated with the language in the new Chapter 22A.  Chapter 22A and likely Chapter 29 reference each other in the City's language. What are some of the questions remaining with the new Chapter 22?
  • Impediments to housing and homelessness
  • Impact on Fair Housing
  • Impact on Affordability in rental housing
  • The ACLU attorney pdf is concerned about Chapter 22A on tenants and property owners
  • Undermines law enforcement and hurts domestic abuse victims per ACLU
  • Conflicts with Fair Housing obligations in City per ACLU
  • Code fails to protect innocent victims per ACLU (see letter below)
  • Code fails to protect due process rights of landlords and tenants per ACLU
  • Is the proposed tax legal under the State of Iowa?  Attorney for housing community has asked questions to City Council
  • Impact on Tenant Rights
  • Impact on Property Rights
  • Due process in 1, 2, 3 strikes system of new Chapter 22A, when the property owner is a victim of crime, due to a customer, resident, tenant, family member or member of the public.  (this covers commercial and industrial property, as well, so a business open to the public could be impacted by the public's behavior)
  • Landlords, REALTORS and the Gazette Editorial board suggested that Chapter 22A and Chapter 29 be discussed at the same time, prior to passage by the City Council
  • There are questions on how the City intends to administer the new Chapter 22A?
  • City has failed in the past to protect Landlords to the fullest extent of Iowa Code (issue of criminal mischief by residents in possession) raised by members of both Landlords of Iowa and Landlords of Linn County
The following was an e-mail shared with us by a concerned Landlord this morning in Cedar Rapids:


This is the Gazette article that was published 1-7-13.
Nuisance ordinance going too far

Proposed Chapter 22A Nuisance Ordinance goes too far to try to place the blame on innocent property owners of Cedar Rapids for crime in our city. Chapter 22A includes violations for owner-occupied and rental residential, commercial property and all other property in Cedar Rapids.

It is incomprehensible that property owners could be considered in violation when they are the victims of a crime. Because the owner of a property allowed someone onto their property or within 1,000 feet of their property and that person committed a crime, the property is considered in violation under Chapter 22A.

When in the history of our country have we thought anyone else other than the person who committed the crime was guilty of anything? How can anyone predict what someone else is capable of doing?
We all need to use good judgment when we choose the people we associate with, but how do property owners know when they allow someone into their door or within 1,000 feet of their property that that person is not going to do anything which may be considered probable cause for a crime?

The criminal does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt guilty of anything and the property is considered in violation of this nuisance ordinance. Chapter 22A nuisance ordinance goes too far.
Sheryl Jahnel Cedar Rapids