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Rent Abatement Ordinance - FAQ

1. What is a Rent Abatement Ordinance?

A Rent Abatement Ordinance can allow the inspections department to temporarily relieve tenants of the duty to pay rent when there is a threat to life and safety.

Or, in simple terms: tenants shouldn’t pay if they can’t stay!

RENT ABATEMENT ORDINANCE A. The building official may order rent abated when the building official determines that the owner has, after issuance of a notice of violation of this chapter: 1. Failed to provide an essential service (water, sewer, electricity, heat); 2. Failed to remedy a condition that poses a substantial risk to the health or safety of the tenant; or 3. Rented a dwelling unit without a rental permit. B. Rent abatement means that the owner may not recover rent from the tenant. Rent shall be abated until the condition for which rent abatement was ordered has, in the judgment of the building official, been remedied. C. The building official shall provide a copy of the rent abatement order to the owner at the address on the rental permit and to the tenant by U.S. mail and by posting the entrance door to dwelling unit. Notice of termination of the rent abatement order will be given in the same manner.

2. How does a Rent Abatement Ordinance protect Davenport tenants?

A Rent Abatement protects tenants by providing an alternative to involuntary displacement.

Tenants can use the rent money they save to for relocation expenses if an evacuation must happen later on

It provides a safety net for tenants who report substandard housing.

3. How does a Rent Abatement Ordinance preserve existing rental housing, addressing the QC rental housing shortage of 6,645 units?

By incentivizing owners’ compliance with building code, a Rent Abatement Ordinance ensures proactive investment in safe and decent housing

Bringing substandard housing to the attention of inspectors sooner improves owners’ attention to maintenance responsibilities

4. How does a Rent Abatement Ordinance affect nonprofits dedicated to providing housing opportunities and supportive services?

By avoiding emergency evacuations with early repairs/maintenance and preserving existing units, a Rent Abatement Ordinance reduces the burden on caseworkers and makes placement easier.

Nonprofits who provide rent assistance and rental housing placements must follow federal standards. Rent abatement prevents misuse of federal dollars.

5. Is it easy to enforce a Rent Abatement Ordinance?

Yes–Enforcement is easy! Landlords and tenants are informed by posting notices on buildings–which inspectors already do–and notifying both parties via mail.

Iowa City has enforced the ordinance 14 times in 7 years without major issues.

Davenport inspectors will save man-hours with better tools for enforcement, such as a Rent Abatement Ordinance.

6. Will a Rent Abatement Ordinance create legal trouble for Davenport?

No–in fact, a Rent Abatement Ordinance will decrease Davenport’s liability! Substandard buildings increase Davenport's liability and threaten human life.

This ordinance is anchored in International Building Codes and has received no legal challenges from the state legislature.

Iowa Law encourages cities to pass a rent abatement ordinance, in order to prevent displacement

POWERS AND DUTIES OF CITIES, §364.17: City housing codes. 1. A city with a population of fifteen thousand or more may adopt by ordinance the latest version of one of the following housing codes before January 1, 1981: a. The uniform housing code promulgated by the international conference of building officials. [...] 3. a. A city which adopts or is subject to a housing code under this section shall adopt enforcement procedures, which shall include a program for regular rental inspections, rental inspections upon receipt of complaints, and certification of inspected rental housing, and may include but are not limited to the following: [...] (8) Authority by ordinance to provide that no rent shall be recoverable by the owner or lessee of any dwelling which does not comply with the housing code adopted by the city until such time as the dwelling does comply with the housing code adopted by the city. b. The enforcement procedures shall be designed to improve housing conditions rather than to displace persons from their homes.

7. How much would a Rent Abatement Ordinance cost?

Enforcing a Rent Abatement Ordinance would cost Davenport $0! City Council can increase the preservation of existing housing and protect tenants from involuntary displacement–all without having to spend a dime!

8. Does a Rent Abatement Ordinance unfairly target landlords?

No, Rent Abatement will not affect responsible landlords because it is not a first order enforcement option.

This ordinance only effects landlords who evade compliance efforts and when the life and safety of tenants are at risk.

The ordinance is not punitive.

9. What about bad tenants?

The state and city codes already effectively address irresponsible tenants.

Rent abatement does not prohibit landlords from evicting tenants who are causing the health and safety hazards intentionally, or by lack of reasonable care.