Iowa City Landlord-Tenant Disputes Top IU Student Legal Services Agenda

University of Iowa Student Legal Services said 42% of their cases deal with landlord-tenant disputes.

Jerod Ringwald

Emily Manders poses for a portrait on Sunday, May 16, 2021.

In August 2020, Iowa City resident Emily Manders looked at her utility bill and saw an abnormally high payment. Manders said Apartments at Iowa denied him a full refund after he was charged for his neighbor’s utility bill.

“It just sucks,” Manders said. “If I hadn’t looked at my electricity bills, I never would have known they were taking advantage of me and doing this.”

From last August to March 2021, Manders said she was billed about $300 in total on her own utility bills.

“They only agreed to refund me about $200, but it’s still $100 lost,” Manders said.

Manders said she tried to work with the city of Iowa City, but city employees stopped responding to her calls after a few days. She said she has also been in contact with the Iowa City Tenants Union and Iowa Legal Aid.

“[The city] said it was a civil matter and I had to go sue them, but I can’t afford a lawyer,” Manders said. “I’m just slowly running out of options.”

Director of Student Legal Services at the University of Iowa, Amanda Elkins, who is also an attorney, wrote in an email to The Iowan Daily that in fiscal year 2020, 42% of student legal services admission appointments were landlord-tenant related.

She wrote that the most common complaints are maintenance issues and disputes over security deposit returns.

Manders said he heard renter issues in his social circles about major rental companies in Iowa City.

“There are so many complaints,” Manders said. “It’s not an isolated problem now.”

Steve Rackis, housing administrator for the Iowa City Housing Authority program, said unemployment insurance has a big impact on the rental housing market in Iowa City because landlords can charge whatever price they see fit. necessary for students.

“It drives up rental prices. If wages don’t increase accordingly, then people’s wages don’t support the cost of housing,” Rackis said. “So you have an affordable housing problem.”

Student Legal Services recommends that tenants visit the actual unit they wish to rent and read the entire lease before signing, Elkins wrote in an email to DI.

“We also recommend that students meet with a lawyer of their choice to review the lease before signing. Student Legal Services provides free lease reviews,” Elkins wrote.

Manders said she graduated from unemployment insurance in May, so she had time to call the city and speak regularly with Apartments at Iowa.

“If I was a full-time student, I wouldn’t have time to keep up with people, so it’s frustrating to see these companies taking advantage of you and not caring about you,” she said. .

Apartments at Iowa declined to comment on the ID.

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