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Dubuque mobile home residents continue fight against high rent, push for new state laws

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) – Residents of a local mobile home park are continuing their fight against what they call "predatory practices" by the company that owns their property.

IMPACT Communities purchased the Table Mound mobile home community in the summer of 2017. Since then, residents have complained that their rent has increased as much as 60 percent.

"They can make a lot of money on these mobile home parks because there is a big turnaround, and they can make a big profit on it," Table Mound Neighborhood Association President Karla Krapfl said. "There is really not a whole lot that the residents can do. They have to pay the prices, or they get kicked out."

According to residents, rent was previously $270 a month with water, sewage and trash included. Now, rent has increased to $470.

According to IMPACT Communities, Table Mound residents were previously not paying the actual costs of water and sewer being used by residents.

"We installed submeters and began billing for the water, sewer, and trash based on actual usage by residents," IMPACT Communities President and CEO Dave Reynolds said in an email. "The amounts billed to residents are simply a pass-through billing of the actual costs of those utilities to Table Mound, including the actual amounts charged by the utility providers plus the $5 per month amount charged for the meters by the meter company."

The annual increases in monthly lot rent increase per year since IMPACT purchased the Table Mound has ranged from $35-$40, which Impact said is "fair market value."

Some residents said they have struggled to keep up with the rising rates.

"A lot of these residents are on a fixed income," Krapfl said. "We can't afford for this to keep going up. We need laws changed here in the state of Iowa."

During a picnic and listening session for mobile home park residents Sunday in Dubuque, State Representative Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, shared a story of the tough choices one of her constituents had to make.

"He was in a situation where he was going to have to choose between paying his rent and keeping his mobile home or choosing to pay for his insulin," James said.

State Sen. Pam Jochum joined James. Dubuque City Council members Danny Sprank and Laura Roussell were also in attendance.

In January 2020, then Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer called for an investigation into Impact Communities' business operations. Finkenauer called Impact Communities practices predatory and said big corporations are exploiting communities like Table Mound.

Some residents have also complained about having issues with waste sewage and broken fire hydrants. Stevens has complained to management for years about the breaker outside his trailer he continually has to reset if he uses more electricity than it can handle.

"The box gets really hot, and I have heard some sizzling noises," he said.

Since 2017, IMPACT Communities said it had implemented more than $2.5 million in property enhancements at Table Mound.

Reynolds said the work included upgrading utilities, buildings, roads, driveways, and signage. The company also 'enhanced' the community entrance and installed a new community playground.

Still, some residents said they did not feel like they saw enough return on investment.

"If they raise it, they have to do something in return," Krapfl said. "They promise to do all this yard work and streets. They have not done anything but keep raising the rates."

In July 2020, IMPACT communities installed new windows and roofs and painted on 60 homes in the Table Mound community through the IMPACT Cares project. The project helps residents' homes and yards at no cost to them. According to the company, all of the projects are personally funded by Reynolds and his family.

With management unresponsive to their concerns, they turned to the City of Dubuque and state lawmakers.

"They basically said there is nothing they can do because there are no laws," Jeff Stevens, who has lived at Table Mound for 21 years, said.

In addition to forming their own neighborhood association, residents also helped create the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents Network, a collection of mobile home parks from across the state.

Residents also started working with lawmakers like James to develop legislation that would increase protections for tenants. One bill made it through committees and subcommittees this past session but died on the house floor.

James said Sunday she believes it was because of the lobbying efforts and political donations from large mobile park owners.

She plans to re-file the legislation and make another run at it in the 2022 legislative session. She says lawmakers need to act now more than ever.

"It is yesterday that we needed these protections," James said. "The pandemic has clearly exacerbated these circumstances, and a lot of people are now reeling. This is the time we need to rally around these protections."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include comments from IMPACT Communities.

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Daniel Perreault

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