Lawful Source of Income

They’re new proposed housing rules meant to stop discrimination. But Cedar Rapids landlords and realtors say they’re bad for business.

The rules protect people looking for housing from being turned away because of a whole list of things, like race or religion. The landlords and realtors who packed city hall Tuesday night had no problem with any of those ideas. But the law also adds a new group to be protected based on how they’ll pay the rent or mortgage and that’s causing some concerns.

Realtors and landlords came out by the dozens to Tuesday’s city council meeting, hoping to stop a new rule against housing discrimination.

“It’s all about property rights, a seller should have the right to sell a property in the manner that they want to,” says Cedar Rapids realtor and landlord Sheryl Jahnel.

There’s just one piece of the Civil Rights Commissions’ proposals that’s causing some controversy. It would stop landlords and realtors from turning renters and buyers away based on something called ‘lawful source of income,’ that’s how someone plans to pay the rent or mortgage, through things like social security, child support, or alimony. Those are sources that some realtors say are less reliable than cash.

“It’s not that people want to exclude necessarily, I think it’s an issue of what’s the risk, and if the risk is too great then I need to move on,” says Cedar Rapids landlord Mari Davis.

City council members weren’t convinced there have been enough complaints to even warrant the new law.

“If we start making rules just because there’s a concern there could be a problem, my god I’ll be back in the Air Force again,” says Cedar Rapids City Council Member Chuck Wieneke.

But after four years of research, the Civil Rights Commission disagrees.

“We’ve talked to enough people that certainly feel they’re being shut out right away when they mention a certain way of paying for rentals specifically,” says Karl Cassell, Executive Director of the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission.

Either way the council’s directions were clear.

“Go back and remove the ‘lawful source of income,'” says Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett.

“Our only issue is making sure people are being treated fair,” says Cassell. Now he just hopes that will still happen.

Originally folks using Section 8 vouchers were protected under these rules too. But that was even more controversial, and the Civil Rights Commission cut that out before it ever hit the council chambers.

The Commission emphasized Tuesday night their rules wouldn’t force anyone to rent or sell to these protected folks, you just can’t shut them out automatically. But it doesn’t look like those rules will make it into law.

Tuesday, December 6 2011, 10:51 PM CST

CBS 2 Local News