ARTICLE

Cedar Rapids landlord group fighting city's crime-free ordinance

Attorney William Roemerman is representing a group of Cedar Rapids landlords seeking summary judgment in their lawsuit a
Attorney William Roemerman is representing a group of Cedar Rapids landlords seeking summary judgment in their lawsuit against the City of Cedar Rapids over the “Crime Free Lease Addendum." (Gazette file photo)

A group of landlords filed a motion for summary judgment Friday in its lawsuit against the City of Cedar Rapids over the “Crime Free Lease Addendum,” which was approved last summer.

The Landlords of Linn County, a non-profit group comprised of 150 landlords, and Rehman Enterprises, owner of 14 rental properties, claim in the lawsuit filed last summer that a portion of the City’s municipal code, Chapter 29, violates and is inconsistent with the Iowa Constitution.

The crime free addendum allows landlords to evict tenants, residents who live with them or guests of the residents if they engage in criminal activity on the rental property or within 100 feet of the residence. The new code requires landlords to include the agreement in the lease and to enforce it.

The lawsuit claims the addendum violates “home rule” power of the constitution because it’s attempting to enact private or civil law governing a civil relationship – landlord-tenant relationship.

William Roemerman, the landlords’ attorney, said the landlord-tenant relationship is a civil relationship created by a contract between two private parties.  The code attempts to dictate terms of a private contract and to determine when a landlord must take action against a tenant for a breach of the lease.

Roemerman said the code violates the “void for vagueness” doctrine of the due process clause of the state constitution. It requires landlords and property owners to use “reasonable” or “notable” efforts to enforce the addendum or failure to do so could result in revocation or denial of rental license. There’s no definition for what is “reasonable” or “notable,” he said.

The landlords in motion asks the court for a summary judgment on the validity of the ordinance and to declare it as unenforceable because it violates the constitution.

The lawsuit also claims the code violates the U.S. Constitution concerning imminent domain and due process but a federal court judge sent the suit back to state court to rule on state constitution issues.Roemerman said if the state court rules against them, they can then go back to federal court to rule on federal violations.