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Tenant who faces eviction from nuisance property wants to weigh in on landlord’s appeal
Police calls to her home were ’protected’ under law, Cedar Rapids woman argues
CEDAR RAPIDS — A tenant facing eviction because she lives in one of her landlord’s four houses deemed nuisance properties wants to have a voice in the landlord’s appeal of his rental registration suspension.
Takesha Rogers lives with her three minor children at 619 15th St. SE, which is one of the rental properties owned by Charles Davisson. Through lawyers with the ACLU of Iowa, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Iowa Legal Aid, she filed her application to intervene last week in Davisson’s appeal against the Cedar Rapids Housing Board of Appeals over his nuisance properties.
In her petition, she asserts all the calls for service that resulted in the nuisance designation of her home were “protected” calls under the “right to assistance” law. The civil law states a landlord cannot evict a tenant for calling police for help.
According to court documents, Davisson operates Property Holders LTD and has attempted to evict Rogers since last year. An eviction claim was filed in September and November 2020 and January and April of this year accusing Rogers of being a clear and present danger to others. But a judge in each petition dismissed the case, citing Property Holders’ failure to appropriately include specific allegations or give Rogers notice of the action.
There is another pending eviction claim against Rogers that Property Holders filed May 7, just a few days after she filed her petition in this appeal May 3.
Davisson, 58, has 38 rental properties in southwest Cedar Rapids listed under Property Holders. In November, the city’s housing board suspended his rental unit registration for the four nuisance properties — meaning he was banned from renting those — for six months.
The city hasn’t taken any enforcement action on those properties yet because of the pending appeal.
In his appeal, Davisson asserts the city violated his due process rights because he didn’t receive adequate notice of the nuisance violations, and some of the violations weren’t sent to the correct business address for Property Holders.
He also argues that he had tried to evict Rogers because of the nuisance violations, but the court dismissed the case, finding in favor of the tenant.
In her petition, Rogers is asking the court to reverse the nuisance designation of her home, asserting the city “acted illegally” and went against its own policy, which prohibits placing a crime nuisance designation on a property based on the tenant’s calls for emergency assistance.
The calls made between May and June 2019 and December 2019 and August 2020 included: Rogers calling police to get help for herself and others when hearing gunshots and seeing suspicious or criminal behavior; Rogers calling for help with her abusive adult son who lived with her at one time; and others in the neighborhood calling police because of noise coming from the house when her son abused her, according to the petition.
“This case sadly demonstrates the harms of crime nuisance ordinances fall hardest on domestic violence victims, who are overwhelmingly women,” the petition states.
Research shows that these nuisance ordinances undermine, rather than further, public safety. When there are nuisance ordinance penalties against victims of abuse or other crimes, it discourages victims from calling police, according to the petition.
The city asked Davisson during the housing board hearing and in emails to evict Rogers and her children from the home, the petition states. The only way for Davisson to “abate” the nuisance at Rogers’ house is to evict her.
After Rogers’ petition was filed, Judge Mary Chicchelly extended the deadline to May 18 for written arguments in Davisson’s appeal to allow Davisson and the city time to respond.
Housing board minutes reveal details of police calls
According to housing board minutes from Nov. 4, 2020, this was the second time Rogers’ home had been brought before the board for nuisance issues.
Cedar Rapids Police Lt. Tony Robinson, during the hearing, gave an overview of the 72 calls for service since January 2020. Of those, 75 percent were from the tenant. Officers usually found the tenant “intoxicated and complaining about her adult son.” Officers would usually have to defuse a disturbance between the tenant and her son, he told the board.
In one incident, officers responded to the house and smelled marijuana. A search warrant was obtained, and officers found evidence of drug use, along with a magazine for a high-powered rifle, according to the housing record.
Davisson never submitted an abatement plan — a plan to correct issues — for Rogers’ rental or the other three, city officials said during the hearing.
None of the city officials told Davisson’s lawyer or asked for Rogers to be evicted, according to the minutes.
Charles Davisson’s other property, court issues
In March, The Gazette highlighted another one of Davisson’s nuisance properties under suspension, 2307 Bever Ave. SE, because neighbors were scared about shots fired at their houses, pipe bombs being thrown from car windows and loud disturbances at all hours of the night stemming from the house where Davisson’s property manager lived.
After a racial slur was spray painted on the vacant Bever Avenue house March 23, a few days after the article ran, community advocates started a petition for a permanent rental ban against Davisson because of the numerous housing code violations, police calls and other issues at his properties.
No arrests have been made in the spray painting incident. It remains under investigation.
Davisson also faces troubles with 12 of his properties that 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Lars Anderson approved for foreclosure in December. Davisson owes thousands in loan debts to GreenState Credit Union, but last month he filed an appeal with the Iowa Supreme Court to fight the foreclosures.
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