Ex Officio Student Liaison to Ames City Council Devyn Leeson discussed issues important to those who rent in Ames, such as health and safety hazards, during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Leeson said he had spoken extensively with “Student Government, tenants, activists and others” about issues they have in rental housing.
Leeson said what he found in meeting with those individuals is landlord-tenant relations “are controlled by and for the landlord rather than the tenant.”
The number one issue listed in its importance to, or frequency mentioned by students, is the regulation of “mold/vermin as health hazards,” Leeson said.
“[N]othing in city code regulates mold or vermine a health hazard to occupants of a unit or home,” Leeson said in an email to City Council members. “As a result, landlords are not required to fix these issues if a resident brings [them] to their attention.”
Leeson added that on at least one occasion a resident had to receive a rabies vaccination as a result of a bat infestation their landlord “refused to fix.” Leeson said he thinks council “could add language to a rental ordinance deeming mold and vermin as health hazards that would require action by a landlord if a tenant complains about the issue.”
Ames Mayor John Haila responded to Leeson’s email with his own.
“City council does not have ‘standing’ on issues related to landlord/tenant leases or disputes or issues based on the following comments,” Haila said.
However, during council comments at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Haila thanked Leeson for the work he had done in preparing the list of concerns students have.
“We appreciate all the recon [Leeson] did … if I might just interject to suggest that — his email was nine different points,” Haila said.
Haila agreed with Leeson they should be referred to the Campus and Community Commission (CCC).
The nine points are:
Regulating mold/vermin as health hazards
Impact analysis and discussion with landlords on lease gap solutions
Fair utility cost advertising
Americans with Disabilities Act requirements in rental housing
Closing lease loopholes
Right to withhold rent if a landlord is not following the terms of a lease
Right to legal counsel for housing
Information packets attached to leases, eviction notices
Right to proof of non-refundable fees
The council unanimously voted to refer the email Leeson sent them to the CCC. The CCC’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
“In some of these instances, I do believe that the city can affect [these issues],” Leeson said to the Daily after the council meeting. “Although in some of these issues I do believe the city can affect them, for example: when it comes to utility, fair pricing — I think the city can definitely at least provide the resources available and say this is the average utility pricing on a unit-to-unit basis.”
Leeson said that the referral of the points to the CCC “in a large way” addresses his concerns.