You should notify the landlord of all necessary repairs in writing, making sure to date the notice and to keep a copy for your records.
Before you can terminate a lease because of a landlord's failure to make repairs, you must follow required legal procedures. Please make an appointment to discuss these procedures with an attorney in our office.
Living in the Apartment: Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants
The Iowa UNIFORM RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT LAW is codified in the code of Iowa, chapter 562A. This law, in addition to your lease, spells out your responsibilities as a tenant, the landlords responsibilities, and what a landlord or a tenant can do if the other is not living up to their responsibilities. As a tenant, during the terms of your lease, you are required to follow the terms of your lease, including paying rent. Furthermore, even if it is not in the lease, the law requires tenants to:
- Comply with all obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
- Keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit.
- Dispose from the tenant's dwelling unit all ashes, rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean and safe manner.
- Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits.
- Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises.
- Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove a part of the premises or knowingly permit a person to do so.
- Act in a manner that will not disturb a neighbor's peaceful enjoyment of the premises. (This can include noise.)
During the term of the lease, beyond anything written in the lease, the law requires the landlord to:
- Comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
- Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.
- Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition. The landlord shall not be liable for any injury caused by any objects or materials which belong to or which have been placed by a tenant in the common areas of the premises used by the tenant.
- Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord.
- Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences, accessible to all tenants, for the central collection and removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste incidental to the occupancy of the dwelling unit and arrange for their removal.
- Supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat, except where the building that includes the dwelling unit is not required by law to be equipped for that purpose, or the dwelling unit is so constructed that heat or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility connection.
A tenant must allow a landlord to have reasonable access to the apartment to make repairs and allow the landlord to show the apartment to potential future tenants. Unless there is a real emergency, the landlord must always obtain the tenants consent to enter the apartment and give the tenant 24 hours notice before entering.
As a tenant, you can comply with the law by keeping your apartment reasonably clean and not damaging the apartment.
Quick Tip: Be careful about what you put down the drains. If you put something inappropriate down the drains, and it backs up and damage to the apartment occurs, a landlord may be able to charge you for it. Watch out for potato skins and other hard organic matter that wont biodegrade, even through a garbage disposal. These are notorious for clogging drains.
If either a tenant or a landlord is not living up to their obligations under the lease or the law, they may give the other party a seven day notice letter. This is a letter that tells the tenant or the landlord what the problem is, and that if it isn't fixed within 7 days, the lease will terminate.
You may also be evicted for creating a clear and present danger at your apartment. This usually refers to crime. Also, many leases have what is called a crime free addendum, meaning any crime committed at your apartment by you or someone you invited there is a violation of your lease. Know your lease, and be careful!
If you believe your landlord is not living up to their responsibilities under the law, or if the landlord accuses you of not living up to your responsibilities as a tenant, make an appointment with student legal services by calling 319-353-2242.
Illegal Conduct in Your Apartment
What could happen if your roommates are engaging in illegal conduct such as using or selling drugs, providing alcohol to minors, etc. in your apartment?
- The roommates' behavior could result in criminal charges against you, even if you are not directly involved in the illegal activities. Therefore, you should take immediate action.
- You should immediately notify your roommates that you do not consent to their illegal activity and want them to immediately stop engaging in those activities. You should state that the illegal activities could result in eviction by the landlord, as well as criminal convictions. You should be clear that if the behavior does not stop, you will notify the landlord as well as the police. The notice should be given in writing, either by e-mail or mail, and you should make sure to save the notice for your records.
- If the behavior does not stop, you may choose to give notice of the illegal activities to the landlord or the police. If the landlord refuses to take action to stop the illegal activities, you should contact Student Legal Services to discuss how you can legally terminate the lease and move out of your apartment.
- If you report the illegal activities to the police, they could obtain a search warrant to search your residence. If they discover illegal activities, the parties involved could be arrested and charged with criminal offenses. If convicted, the person could be ordered to pay large fines and/or serve time in jail or prison. Drug related convictions could result in the loss of student loans and could bar the person from gaining certain types of employment.