The City of Iowa City is in the process of implementing changes to the rental permit process in an effort to preserve neighborhood stability.
New state legislation goes into effect on January 1, 2018, and requires the City to change the way it regulates the occupancy of rental properties. City Code previously limited occupancy to no more than three unrelated people in the same dwelling, which was critical in regulating density and overcrowding.
The City's new ordinance establishes a 30 percent rental permit cap on single family homes and duplexes in several Iowa City neighborhoods. This limit, specific to single family and duplex homes, will not impact apartment buildings or condos. All existing rental permits for single family and duplex properties within capped neighborhoods will be grandfathered in.
The rental permit cap helps keep owner occupied homes available to families as the value of rentals can price them out of these desired neighborhoods.
Six neighborhoods currently exceed the 30 percent limit and new single family and duplex rental permits will not be issued in those locations. Three other neighborhoods are approaching the cap. Maps with specific locations and numbers are available online. Exceptions will be made for owner-occupied duplexes, bed and breakfast home-stays, inns, and accessory dwelling units. The City can, under limited circumstances, also issue temporary rental permits that are good for up to two years.
"Housing occupancy impacts utility infrastructure, parking availability, and housing options for a diversity of households," Senior Housing Inspector Stan Laverman said. "Maintaining a healthy mix of long and short-term residents, addressing nuisance complaints, and protecting existing infrastructure are all critical to preserving the health and livability of our core neighborhoods."
In addition to the established rental permit cap, safety requirements have also been added, including deadbolts and the physical separation of duplex units. Restrictions on paving backyards, and bedroom additions are also part of the changes.
The frequency of rental permit inspections will also increase. Revenue from these inspections will fund a portion of an additional Police Officer and additional Code Enforcement Officers tasked with addressing rental housing and nuisance violations like noise complaints and property maintenance standards.
As an existing policy, rental tenants, as well as single-family homeowners, must follow the City’s Property Management Policy and mow grass, shovel sidewalks and pick up trash. Continued complaints will result in repercussions, including the possibility of suspending a landlord’s rental permit. Enhanced rental permit sanctions will be enforced beginning in July 2018, and the time period for City review will increase from 12 to 24 months.
The City will continue to evaluate these changes to the rental permit process.