Bill Text: IA SF549 | 2019-2020 | 88th General Assembly | Introduced


Bill Title: A bill for an act relating to utility service cost disclosures in connection with certain rental properties, providing penalties, and including effective date provisions. (Formerly SF 351.)

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (? 1-0)

Status: (Engrossed) 2019-04-01 - Subcommittee: Carlson, Williams and Wills. H.J. 707. [SF549 Detail]

Download: Iowa-2019-SF549-Introduced.html
Senate File 549 - Introduced SENATE FILE 549 BY COMMITTEE ON STATE GOVERNMENT (SUCCESSOR TO SF 351) A BILL FOR An Act relating to utility service cost disclosures in 1 connection with certain rental properties, providing 2 penalties, and including effective date provisions. 3 BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF IOWA: 4 TLSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn
S.F. 549 Section 1. Section 476.1C, subsection 1, paragraph a, Code 1 2019, is amended to read as follows: 2 a. Are not subject to the regulation authority of 3 the utilities board under this chapter unless otherwise 4 specifically provided. Sections 476.10 , 476.20 , 476.21 , and 5 476.51 , and 476.56 apply to such gas utilities. 6 Sec. 2. Section 476.56, Code 2019, is amended to read as 7 follows: 8 476.56 Energy costs provided. 9 A gas or electric public utility shall provide, upon the 10 request of a person who states in writing that the person is an 11 owner of real property, or an interested prospective purchaser 12 or renter of the property, which is or has been receiving gas 13 or electric service from the public utility, the annual gas 14 or electric energy costs for the property. In addition, a 15 gas or electric public utility and, notwithstanding section 16 476.1, subsection 4, a public utility furnishing water or sewer 17 service, shall comply with the utility service cost disclosure 18 provisions of section 562A.13A, subsection 4. 19 Sec. 3. NEW SECTION . 562A.13A Utility service cost 20 disclosure —— penalty. 21 1. For purposes of this section, unless the context 22 otherwise requires: 23 a. “Applicable public utility” means a public utility which 24 furnishes electric, gas, water, or sewer service to a rental 25 property. 26 b. “Landlord” means a landlord as defined in section 562A.6, 27 or any other person authorized to enter into a rental agreement 28 on behalf of the landlord with respect to a rental property. 29 c. (1) “Rental property” means a residential rental 30 building in the state with twelve or more dwelling units. 31 (2) “Rental property” does not include a residential rental 32 building which uses a master meter. 33 d. “Utility service” means electric, gas, water, and sewer 34 service. 35 -1- LSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn 1/ 8
S.F. 549 2. In addition to the required disclosure provisions 1 of 562A.13, a landlord of rental property shall disclose 2 to a prospective tenant in writing a utility service cost 3 disclosure statement in accordance with this section. At 4 least one adult prospective tenant entering into the tenancy 5 shall sign an acknowledgment form stating that the prospective 6 tenant received the disclosure statement upon completing the 7 rental application or before signing the lease, whichever 8 occurs first. Proof by the landlord that at least one adult 9 prospective tenant signed a valid acknowledgment form shall be 10 a defense to any claim or action brought under subsection 6. 11 3. a. The cost information included in a utility service 12 cost disclosure statement shall indicate the average annual 13 costs for utility service for dwelling units in the rental 14 property with the same number of bedrooms. If a landlord 15 charges tenants for utility services using a ratio utility 16 billing system, or a billing method which allocates the rental 17 property’s actual utility bill to tenants based on an occupant 18 factor, square footage factor, or any other factor, the cost 19 information shall include the average charges for utility 20 service in the previous twelve-month period, including any 21 fees, for dwelling units in the rental property with the same 22 number of bedrooms. If a landlord has authority over more 23 than one rental property of similar construction and within 24 the same business office, and such rental properties have the 25 same utility service payment structure with the same applicable 26 public utility, the disclosure statement may indicate the 27 average annual costs for utility service for dwelling units in 28 all such rental properties with the same number of bedrooms. 29 For purposes of this paragraph, “of similar construction” means 30 sharing common construction details, including but not limited 31 to comparable building envelope designs or structural features, 32 comparable arrangements for access to hallways, dwelling units, 33 common areas, and washers or dryers, and comparable functions 34 of utility services. 35 -2- LSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn 2/ 8
S.F. 549 b. The cost information included in a disclosure statement 1 shall be computed by April 1 each year pursuant to subsection 2 4 and shall be valid and included in any disclosure statement 3 provided by the landlord until the last day of March of the 4 following year. In the event that a rental property was 5 acquired by the landlord within the previous twelve-month 6 period, disclosure statements shall be provided by the landlord 7 to prospective tenants beginning ninety days after the date of 8 closing. 9 4. a. The landlord shall obtain the cost information 10 required in subsection 3 from the applicable public utility 11 by sending a written request to the utility between January 1 12 and February 1 of each year. The written request shall, at a 13 minimum, include the following information: 14 (1) The name, address, and telephone number of the landlord. 15 (2) The number of bedrooms in each dwelling unit in the 16 rental property. 17 (3) If cost information is to be computed for more than 18 one rental property, a description of the applicable rental 19 properties and the number of bedrooms in each dwelling unit in 20 all such rental properties. 21 (4) Any other information deemed necessary by the 22 applicable public utility to compute the cost information. 23 b. The applicable public utility shall compute the cost 24 information for the landlord at no charge and shall provide 25 such information to the landlord within thirty days of 26 receiving the landlord’s written request, unless the parties 27 otherwise agree in writing to extend the time. The applicable 28 public utility may use any methodology to compute the cost 29 information, provided that the average costs are based on 30 dwelling units with the same number of bedrooms, and the 31 methodology used to compute the cost information is disclosed 32 to the landlord in writing. 33 c. If the landlord fails to obtain cost information from 34 the applicable public utility within thirty days of sending a 35 -3- LSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn 3/ 8
S.F. 549 valid written request or as otherwise agreed to in writing, 1 the rental property is new construction or was renovated in 2 the previous twelve-month period where the total cost of the 3 renovation was greater than twenty-five percent of the assessed 4 value of the rental property, or if subsection 7 is applicable, 5 the landlord shall include, in lieu of the cost information 6 required in subsection 3, any of the following in the utility 7 service cost disclosure statement: 8 (1) An estimate of anticipated annual utility service costs 9 provided by the applicable public utility. 10 (2) An estimate of anticipated annual utility service costs 11 provided by a licensed, registered, or certified professional 12 with expertise in computing utility service costs. 13 (3) An estimate of anticipated annual utility service costs 14 consistent with the United States department of housing and 15 urban development section 8 guidelines. 16 5. The landlord shall retain and preserve all records 17 relating to cost information obtained pursuant to subsection 4 18 for a period of not less than one year. On reasonable notice, 19 a tenant may inspect and copy any such records during regular 20 business hours. 21 6. A landlord of rental property who enters into a rental 22 agreement with a tenant without providing a utility service 23 cost disclosure statement in violation of this section shall 24 pay the tenant liquidated damages in the amount of one hundred 25 dollars. If the landlord fails to pay the tenant such amount 26 within thirty days of receiving a written request for payment 27 from the tenant, the tenant may bring a civil action in small 28 claims court. If a final judgment is entered against the 29 landlord, the tenant shall recover damages in the amount of one 30 hundred dollars, as well as court costs and reasonable attorney 31 fees incurred by the tenant in bringing the action. The 32 landlord shall also be subject to a civil penalty in the amount 33 of five hundred dollars. Such civil penalty shall be remitted 34 to the division of community action agencies of the department 35 -4- LSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn 4/ 8
S.F. 549 of human rights, to be used only for the low income home energy 1 assistance program and the weatherization assistance program. 2 7. This section shall not apply to a rural electric 3 cooperative or a municipal utility which does not provide 4 budget billing to customers, or a billing system in which 5 customers are charged a set amount each month over a specific 6 time period. 7 Sec. 4. EFFECTIVE DATE. This Act takes effect January 1, 8 2020. 9 EXPLANATION 10 The inclusion of this explanation does not constitute agreement with 11 the explanation’s substance by the members of the general assembly. 12 This bill establishes new Code section 562A.13A within the 13 uniform residential landlord and tenant law provisions of Code 14 chapter 562A, relating to utility service cost disclosure 15 requirements for certain rental properties. 16 The bill defines “applicable public utility” to mean a 17 public utility which furnishes electric, gas, water, or sewer 18 service to a rental property. “Landlord” is defined as a 19 landlord as defined in Code section 562A.6, or any other person 20 authorized to enter into a rental agreement on behalf of the 21 landlord with respect to a rental property. “Rental property” 22 is defined as a residential rental building in Iowa with 12 or 23 more dwelling units, but does not include a residential rental 24 building which uses a master meter. “Utility service” is 25 defined as electric, gas, water, and sewer service. 26 The bill requires a landlord of rental property to disclose 27 to a prospective tenant a utility service cost disclosure 28 statement in writing in accordance with the bill. At least 29 one adult prospective tenant entering into the tenancy shall 30 sign an acknowledgment form stating that the tenant received 31 the disclosure statement upon completing the rental application 32 or before signing the lease, whichever occurs first, which 33 shall be a defense to any claim that the landlord violated the 34 disclosure provisions. 35 -5- LSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn 5/ 8
S.F. 549 The bill provides that the disclosure statement shall 1 indicate the average annual costs for utility service for 2 dwelling units in the rental property with the same number of 3 bedrooms. If a landlord charges tenants using a ratio utility 4 billing system, as described in the bill, the cost information 5 shall include the average charges for utility service in the 6 previous year, including any fees, for dwelling units in the 7 property with the same number of bedrooms. If a landlord 8 has more than one rental property of similar construction, 9 as defined in the bill, and with the same utility service 10 payment structure for the same applicable public utility, the 11 disclosure statement may indicate the average annual costs for 12 dwelling units in all such rental properties with the same 13 number of bedrooms. 14 The bill provides that cost information shall be computed 15 by April 1 each year, which shall be valid and included in any 16 disclosure statement provided until the last day of March of 17 the following year. If the rental property was acquired by the 18 landlord within the previous year, disclosure statements shall 19 be provided by the landlord beginning 90 days after the date 20 of closing. 21 The bill provides that the landlord shall obtain the cost 22 information included in a disclosure statement from the 23 applicable public utility by sending a written request to the 24 utility between January 1 and February 1 of each year, with 25 information described in the bill. The utility shall compute 26 and provide such information to the landlord at no charge 27 within 30 days of receiving such request, unless otherwise 28 agreed to by the parties in writing. The utility may use 29 any methodology to compute the cost information, provided 30 that average costs are based on dwelling units with the same 31 number of bedrooms and the methodology used is disclosed to the 32 landlord in writing. 33 The bill provides that if the landlord fails to obtain cost 34 information from the applicable public utility within 30 days 35 -6- LSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn 6/ 8
S.F. 549 or as otherwise agreed to in writing, the rental property is 1 new construction or was renovated in the previous year where 2 the total cost of the renovation was greater than 25 percent 3 of the assessed property value, or if the utility disclosure 4 provisions do not apply to the applicable public utility as 5 specified in the bill, the landlord shall include in the 6 disclosure statement an estimate of anticipated annual utility 7 service costs as described in the bill. 8 The bill provides that a landlord shall retain all records 9 relating to cost information for a period of not less than one 10 year. A tenant may inspect and copy such records on reasonable 11 notice and during regular business hours. 12 The bill provides that a landlord of rental property who 13 enters into a rental agreement with a tenant without providing 14 a utility service cost disclosure statement in violation of 15 the bill shall pay the tenant liquidated damages in the sum 16 of $100. If the landlord fails to pay the tenant such amount 17 within 30 days of receiving a written request from the tenant 18 to do so, the tenant may bring a civil action in small claims 19 court. If a final judgment is entered against the landlord, 20 the tenant shall recover $100 in damages, as well as court 21 costs and reasonable attorney fees. The landlord shall also 22 be subject to a civil penalty of $500, to be remitted to the 23 division of community action agencies of the department of 24 human rights, and used only for specified purposes. 25 The bill provides that Code section 562A.13A shall not apply 26 to a rural electric cooperative or a municipal utility which 27 does not provide budget billing to customers, as described in 28 the bill. 29 The bill modifies Code section 476.56, relating to the 30 provision of energy costs by gas or electric utilities, 31 by requiring gas and electric utilities, as well as public 32 utilities furnishing water or sewer service, to comply with the 33 utility service cost disclosure provisions of the bill. The 34 bill also makes Code section 476.56 applicable to gas public 35 -7- LSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn 7/ 8
S.F. 549 utilities with less than 2,000 customers. 1 Current law provides that a public utility which, after 2 written notice from the Iowa utilities board of a specified 3 violation of a provision in Code chapter 476, violates the 4 same provision is subject to a civil penalty of at least $100 5 but not more than $2,500 per violation. If the violation is 6 willful, the civil penalty increases to at least $1,000 but not 7 more than $10,000 per violation. 8 The bill takes effect January 1, 2020. 9 -8- LSB 1053SV (2) 88 gh/rn 8/ 8
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