Mar 2, 2021 - News

Family-rented homes in Des Moines may require special license

Illustration of a house being observed by a hand with a magnifying glass and another with a tape measure

Illustration: Sara Grillo

Homes rented to immediate family would require a license under a plan being considered by Des Moines, Iowa.

Why it matters: City leaders say this system jeopardizes housing quality and puts human safety at risk. But changes could create more administrative headaches for some homeowners.

Context: Properties occupied by a parent or child of an owner are currently exempt from inspections and rental code requirements.

Driving the news: The new requirement is part of a proposed overhaul of Des Moines' rental housing inspection process and codes.

Other highlights:

  • Inspection fees would increase by at least 5% — most are currently between $88 and $150 for initial inspections.
  • Separate furnaces would be required in each residence of multi-unit apartment buildings because they often commingle air, which has become a heightened concern during the pandemic. (Those with boiler systems are generally excluded because they don't share air.)
  • Emergency knockout panels that allow a resident to exit a building through another unit would be prohibited. Tenants often block them, making for unreliable exit systems.

What’s next: City staff will hold a series of meetings with stakeholders — namely landlords.

  • A proposal is expected to go before the City Council by the end of March.
  • Structural upgrades for current rentals would be required over the next 3.5 years, as certificates expire.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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