The information supplied here is not offered as legal advice. Professional advisers including attorneys, accountants, real estate or insurance agents should be consulted for advice with your individual question.
One resource that rental residents (a/k/a Tenants) may find helpful is Home Inc. located at 1111 9th St, Des Moines, IA 50314. They can be reached at 515-243-1277 and we provide here a link to their “Landlord/Tenant Handbook Rights and Responsibilities” handbook.
Generally, the questions residents have are specific in nature. Every question that arises from specific situations should be handled in accordance with the agreements between the owner/manager and the resident. Communication between the parties to a lease agreement is key to resolving issues or concerns.
Questions we frequently hear from residents include:
Q: Can you (the Iowa Real Estate Investors Association and/or Iowa Landlord Association) help me?
A: That’s not likely. We exist to help residential property owners and managers deal with the challenges facing them each and every day, from the moment they decided to rent residential real estate. Unless you are a dues paying member of this association, we suggest you try to work the problem with your owner/manager by reducing your concerns to writing, forwarding that concern to the owner/manager, and then working with them in good faith to resolve the issue.
Q: What do I do if I cannot pay all my rent when it is due?
A: First, contact the owner or property manager to see if some temporary arrangement can be reached. Remember, this may only be temporary. Some owners/managers allow one strike, then you’re out. Others have a different policy. However, they cannot treat you any differently from any other resident.
Do not avoid the manager! Be honest and up front. Remember, a rental agreement is a legal contract. The manager may or may not have a policy of working with a resident who is late in paying rent so get ahead of the curve.
Q: Can I sublet my apartment?
A: No, not unless it is specified in your rental agreement or lease.
Q: I just received a three-day notice to cure default. What’s going on?
A: You received the notice because you owe the owner or their agent money, either for rent or utilities (or both) that you agreed to pay in your rental agreement. If you don’t pay the amount stated on the notice within the three days, you will have eviction proceedings initiated against you. This will reflect on you credit report and this information becomes public and a strong negative in future attempts to rent property.
Q: I want to move out before the rental agreement is up. Can I get my deposit back?
A: That depends on (1) condition of the unit, (2) the cost to re-rent the unit, (3) and whether or not there is lost rent because of the breaking of the rental agreement. The owner/manager must make the effort to re-rent the unit,and if they cannot rent it right away, you may be liable for the remainder of the rent.
Q: Can I use my deposit for the last month’s rent?
A: No, that deposit is a security deposit against potential damages, not to be used for rent. The only exception is if it is spelled out in the lease or rental agreement that it may be used for that purpose.
Q: What, if any, maintenance am I responsible for in my apartment?
A: This should be spelled out in the rental agreement. Normally you would be responsible for minor things such as replacing light bulbs and smoke detector batteries, or even minor repairs. We know of managers who require small repairs up to $100 to be covered by the tenant, which is perfectly legal.
Q: I want to move my friend in with me. What prevents me from doing that?
A: Your rental agreement. It stipulates who are the legal occupants. Check with the owner or manager about adding additional residents to the rental agreement. If they are allowed, they will have to go through the same procedure you did.
Some municipalities have building codes which restrict the number of people in rental property, though this association does not support those ordinances. We believe occupancy should be tied to the capacity of the property based on liveable area, not some arbitrary ruling on what constitutes a legitimate family. But we don’t make the laws and we must observe them.
Q: I’m late with my rent. Do I have to pay a late fee?
A: Yes, if that is stipulated in the rental agreement. The maximum allowed by law in Iowa is $12/day or $60 per month, if your rent is $700 or less, or $20/day and $100 maximum per month, if your rent is over $700. If you owe late fees be sure to pay them along with the rent the following month. If you pay the rent and not the late fees, the owner is entitled to apply the payment first to late late fees and then to rent.
Q: What is a Seven-Day Notice to Cure Default?
A: This is a notice relating to noncompliance: either a noncompliance with the rental agreement or a noncompliance materially affecting health or safety. If the noncompliance is not remedied within seven days of receiving this notice the rental agreement is terminated and eviction procedures normally follow.
Q: What is a Notice of Termination and Notice to Quit?
A: This notice effectively terminates the rental agreement in three days from receipt of the notice. There is no cure for this notice. It is a demand to vacate and surrender the property within the three day period. This notice is given to a resident when there has been a situation that presents a ‘clear and present danger’ to the health or safety of other tenants, to the owner/agent or other employees.
These situations may include: physical assault, threat of physical assault, illegal use of a firearm or other weapon, or possession of a controlled substance. When a tenant receives this notice, a copy will normally go to the local police department, as well.
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