WAUKEE – Local 5 On Your Side is working to get answers for frustrated neighbors. We’re talking about the Midwest Country Estates. Local 5 first told you this story when a renter called us for help. The complex has a new owner and their rent is going up about $300.
It’s been a really uncertain few weeks for folks at the Waukee trailer park. They were bought out and their new owners want to raise their rent 70-80 percent. This is one of the few places that is affordable to live in Waukee and now these people don’t know how they are going to pay their bills.
Tuesday night neighbors met with Iowa Legal Aid about the new lease they were given and the red flags they have with it. Iowa Legal Aid says the fight is not over, and that there are several things in the lease they think are against Iowa code.
“It is the rent increase, it is going to be catastrophic for these people and that is the thing that we hope to be able to do something about and we’ll see what happens,” said Iowa Legal Aid Litigation Director, Alex Kornya.
The question of if it’s illegal to raise rent this much was a tricky one for Kornya to answer.
“There are some justifications under the law but we are not prepared to concede that this was done the way it should have been done,” he said.
In other words, there’s still a fighting chance that things might turn around for these frustrated neighbors.
“It’s terrifying, there’s a lot of scared people,” said 10 year resident Matt Chapman. “They are angry and they are scared and a lot of elderly.”
“Somewhere in my budget I’ve gotta come up with $180,” says one longtime resident. “When you live paycheck to paycheck $180 is dramatic change.”
300 neighbors live at the complex. Many of whom aren’t just worried about the rent hike, but also they way the lease is written.
“The first one they sent us said that you would have to get in writing permission to move your home to deny it with or without cost,” said Chapman.
Jo has lived at the complex 29 years and has some concerns with a paragraph that talks about the rules and regulations for evictions.
“It says that we could be evicted for any and or reason,” she said. “I have a great problem with that because they need to have a good reason if I’m going to be evicted.”
Iowa Legal Aid says they are going to do everything they can to not let that happen.
“And our next step is to meet with and talk to with council with Haven Park and try and see what we can do to come up with a more fair deal,” said Kornya.
In the past weeks, Haven Park has told Local 5 they are increasing rent so they can afford to renovate the complex.
Other lawmakers have told Local 5 in the past that there are no laws in Iowa that can prevent companies from raising rent whenever they’d like.
But what about at the city level? We asked Waukee that. They told us they have no ordinance in place that could do that. They said if they were to create one, it would take years of planning and research before it happened.
These new rates take effect July 1st. Residents have 30 days to decide if they want to sign a new lease or leave.