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Under new Iowa law, landlords can turn away Section 8 Vouchers

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program helps people pay off their rent if they need it. But there are changes coming in the state of Iowa.
Posted at 5:58 PM, May 04, 2021

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa. (KMTV) — Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law ensuring landlords can turn away renters who have Section 8. It changes the ordinances of three cities that prevented landlords from discriminating against renters with Section 8 vouchers. Those cities are Des Moines, Iowa City and Marion.

"All we're trying to do here is control the expenses and the people that get into this business get in voluntarily," Andrew Lietzow, the Executive Director of the Iowa Landlord Association said. "The more government restrictions that come in and say you must do this or that, the less they want to stay in the industry."

Lietzow backs the bill and his members take issue with the program since the parameters of Section 8 can be overwhelming for landlords.

"The different inspectors, a one year lease is mandatory, a re-inspection every year, they cannot be guaranteed market-rate rents, and then sometimes they won't allow proration of rents, so when a person moves in, if they move in in the middle of the month, you can't charge for the subsequent 15 days, they used to be able to do that," Lietzow said.

He says the Governor's action is necessary.

"Some of the things have changed to be negative, we want it to be voluntary," Lietzow said.

But the bill is sparking outrage from opponents like State Senator and Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls.

"There are two concerns, the first is the fact that this is going to make it easier for landlords to discriminate against people based on how they make their housing payment and I think most Iowans oppose that kind of discrimination and this is just yet another example of an assault on local control," Wahls said.

Wahls worries families in need could struggle.

"I worry this bill will create more fragility for families at a time when affordable housing is more difficult to find than ever," Wahls said.

But Lietzow insists that this isn't about discrimination. It's looking out for the welfare of landlords.

"It's about what's the quality of the resident and obviously the government checks are still good, so if 90% of the rent's being paid by the federal government, that would be a huge plus, wouldn't it," Lietzow said.

The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

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