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'A basic need' | Iowa bill would create resource hotline for renters

State Rep. Cindy Winckler wants to create a statewide hotline renters can call for legal and financial advice or for help finding new housing.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — A new bill recently proposed in the Iowa legislature would create a statewide hotline to help connect renters who are experiencing issues with resources.

State Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, proposed the law in January. 

"It's a basic need," she said. "We need to provide some support that helps them with that problem solving around the housing needs. And we know that affordable housing is a huge issue, not only in our community, but across the nation."

The hotline would be run under the Iowa Finance Authority. She envisions renters being able to call, explain their situation and get legal or financial advice or be given a list of alternative available housing.

"It would be a situation where individuals who are in more or less an emergency situation for no fault of their own, would have one phone number to call that they can then have someone help them," Winckler said.

The other part of the bill proposed a way for renters, in certain circumstances, to get rental reimbursements. 

Under current codes, if "the landlord deliberately or negligently fails to supply the running water, the hot water, heat or essential services … the tenant may give written notice to the landlord specifying the breach and may recover damages," Winckler said.

She wanted to add a section about safety hazards, so if a landlord failed to rectify safety hazards, tenants could also recover damages. 

Winckler proposed the bill after residents were evicted from multiple Davenport apartment complexes over the summer. 

In one instance, in the apartments on East 35th Street, residents were living on a month-to-month lease, but the complex was sold and residents received letters that said their leases weren't being renewed and they had a month to vacate the property.

Residents at the Crestwood Apartments on East 37th Street were also evicted after the City of Davenport condemned the buildings. The apartment complex owners ignored requests from the city to fix multiple code violations.

RELATED: 'It's scary': Crestwood Apartment tenant struggles to find new housing after the city condemned the building

Having an added safety hazard section would have helped some Crestwood tenants, Winckler said. 

It's all about making a stressful situation a little bit easier, she added. 

"When you are in that situation, it's hard to think strategically what you need to do, and what the first step is that you have to take in order to have resolution," Winckler said. 

As of Tuesday, Feb. 9, the bill was still in its very early stages, and Winckler said she was working to get a subcommittee assigned to it. 

"Every house bill has to come out of a committee by the end of next week, by Feb. 18," she said. "So we have a short timeframe in order for that particular piece of legislation to move forward."

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