116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Community advocates are publicly calling on the city to permanently revoke Charles A. Davisson's permit to lease property in Cedar Rapids, saying he is 'not fit to be a landlord” given housing code violations, police calls, shootings and other issues surrounding a Bever Avenue SE property.
Residents are circulating a petition they hope will prompt Cedar Rapids officials to 'revoke his landlord license permanently” following a report this month in The Gazette that the city Housing Board of Appeals had taken the unusual step of suspending for six months Davisson's permission to rent out 2307 Bever Ave. SE and three other properties listed under Property Holders LTD.
Advocates are urging Cedar Rapids officials to bar Davisson, 58, from leasing his properties again once the suspension ends in April. Davisson is appealing in court the board's decision.
'He has had enough chances to do the right thing,” reads the petition, which is circulating on change.org. 'Enough is enough.”
More than 1,250 people so far have signed onto the petition. Residents on Saturday went door to door to hand out flyers and spread the word about their petition after a racist epithet was spray painted on the vacant rental house March 23, just days after The Gazette report. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Sophia Joseph, an advocate on the board of We Are CR who helped circulate the petition, said residents do not need landlords dragging down the community.
'I think that everybody deserves to have safe housing,” Joseph said. 'I think that everybody deserves to live somewhere free of harassment. I believe that everybody deserves to be treated with respect.”
Eric Gutschmidt, owner of Gutschmidt Properties in Cedar Rapids, said the petition he has helped circulate is encouraging city officials to exercise forms of oversight available to them.
Peter Riley, Davisson's Cedar Rapids attorney, said that landlords generally cannot control what a tenant does on rented property because landlords give up the right of possession.
When there are police complaints, he said the landlord can then be required to take steps to evict a tenant.
And in this case with the Bever Avenue SE house, Riley has told The Gazette the tenant who was the source of most trouble at the property no longer lives there. At another property, Riley has said Property Holders tried to evict a tenant tied to some incidents but was denied by the courts.
'He certainly has the right to conduct a legal business subject to the laws and rules that the city of Cedar Rapids imposes,” Riley said of Davisson.
City officials declined to comment because the case is being appealed and are awaiting a court ruling before any further action could be taken.
Cedar Rapids code outlines the process by which rental unit registrations and landlord business permits are suspended, revoked or denied for a landlord.
The first course of action, in order of precedence, would be for rental unit registrations to be suspended, revoked, denied or not renewed. In this case, Davisson's registrations have been suspended for 180 days.
The second course of action would be for a landlord's business permit to be suspended, revoked, denied or not renewed.
A city code official may revoke, suspend, deny or deny renewal of the registrations or permit under a range of circumstances, including but not limited to:
' The applicant, registrant or permit holder provides false statements in an application, information or report required under code;
' Failure to pay any required application, penalty, reinspection or reinstatement fee;
' Noncompliance with a mitigation or remediation plan approved by the code official;
' Failure to comply with provisions of the Fair Housing Act;
' Declaration of nuisance property status.
City code also states that if a rental property is declared a nuisance property, the owner or property manager must undergo rental business training before the next registration of the nuisance property. This training is a course designed to promote compliance with city code governing rentals and encourage landlords to follow best rental business practices, and the description and goals are approved by the City Council.
Once the four rental properties pass an inspection after the suspension ends, Riley said Davisson will look to rent them again - and he said Davisson has a waiting list of potential tenants.
About the petitioners, Riley asked, 'What do they expect him to do? I don't get it. ... We can't babysit our tenants.”
But Gutschmidt, a landlord himself, feels differently: 'Landlords influence their tenants' behavior. They can't control it or micromanage it, but they definitely influence it.”
Turè Morrow, founder of We Are CR, said he hopes others are willing to be part of making change and influencing elected officials to act.
'The way we feel is that a tenant is only going to be as good as their landlord,” Morrow said.
Joseph said the advocates are looking to rally the community to put an end to the problems.
'We expect to be able to present information to them and for them to lean on this landlord as much has they can and to do things that are within their ability,” Joseph said of her expectations for city officials' response to the petition. 'It doesn't seem like nobody can do it alone.”
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