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Tips For Finding An Apartment

General Tips For Finding An Apartment

Start Looking Early: The process for finding apartments starts early. The following are possible resources for finding available properties:

  1. Local Newspapers
  2. University of Iowa Off Campus Housing Listing website. 
  3. Friends or classmates are often aware of possible vacancies.
  4. Bulletin boards in laundromats, etc., may have rental postings.
  5. Websites such as www.craigslist.com and www.facebook.com. However, DO NOT rent or agree to rent a property without seeing it first.

Precautions to keep in mind: NEVER RENT A LIVING UNIT WITHOUT FIRST TOURING THE EXACT UNIT YOU WILL BE RENTING. The amount of rent and other provisions in the lease, as well as the physical condition of the unit are key factors in determining whether to sign a lease. Before you even start looking, you should determine what your housing budget will be and stick to that amount . You do not want to get into a situation where you cannot afford your rent. Be aware of the length of the lease agreement you are signing. Most landlords offer a lease for a full year; in the Iowa City area they typically begin on August 1 and end starting late July. 

When your are looking for an apartment, you should also investigate the reputation of the landlord and manager concerning maintenance, return of security deposits and genera relationships with tenants. Look at the locks on the doors and windows, and the lighting around the apartment to evaluate the security of the apartment against theft. Consider the quality and the age of the construction and insulation as it will affect the cost of heating and cooling: Iowa City generally has hot summers and cold winters. Current and former tenants are good sources of information, as are neighbors. Ask lots of questions when looking at the property, find out what the average utilities are, and go visit the property at night to see if you feel safe in the neighborhood and if the area around the property is well lit. Check out "rate your landlord" websites: www.apartmentratings.com, www.apartmentreviews.com, and www.ratemyapartment.com.

Finally, before you sign a lease, Consider Signing a Roommate Contract

It is extremely important that you and your roommates are clear on your expectations. It is beneficial to all tenants to spell out your individual responsibilities in a roommate contract. By providing written documentation of each roommates responsibilities to each other, a roommate contract can help avoid disputes later on and help ensure that all roommates contribute equally to household tasks and cleaning of the apartment. Fill out your own roommate contract.

Category: Miscellaneous

Tagged: apartments before

Moving Out of Your Apartment

Moving Out

Moving out of your rental property can be a very hectic time, but there are a number of steps you need to take during the move-out process

  • Make sure you have provided prior notice to your landlord for when you will be vacating the premises. Some landlords require 60 days or more notice, but to find out your specific situation, check your lease and call to make sure you have notified them appropriately. If the lease doesn't specify how much notice you must give, the law still requires you to give 30 days notice. You must provide this notice in writing.
  • Provide your landlord with a forwarding address, so that they know where to mail your security deposit (preferably sent by certified mail), and always keep a copy for your records. If you provide a forwarding address, a landlord is required to return your security deposit, minus any charges they can legally deduct from it, within 30 days, however, if you do not provide a forwarding address, after a year the landlord can legally keep your deposit.
  • Clean your apartment/house thoroughly! Remember: Your landlord can deduct money from you security deposit for damages and items not properly cleaned.
  • Fill out a move-out checklist, documenting the condition of the property once you have moved out. Give a copy to your landlord and make sure to keep a copy for your own records.
  • Take pictures and video-tape the unit. When video-taping the unit, make sure to document the date (i.e. Hold a newspaper from that day and video-tape this). NOTE: When video-taping, make sure to do this in one taping (do not pause or stop the tape at any time!).
  • Don't forget to return the keys to the landlord by the end of the lease term!

Return of Your Security Deposit

Your landlord is required to return your entire security deposit, or an itemized list of deductions and any remaining deposit, within 30 days of the end of the lease term (assuming they were provided with a forwarding address in writing before the lease term was over). If you are having issues with the return of your security deposit, or believe that the landlord is unfairly withholding a portion of it, contact the Student Legal Services office at 319.335.3276

Resources for Moving Out

Living In the Apartment

Repairs

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 landlord’s 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:

  1. Comply with all obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
  2. Keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit.
  3. Dispose from the tenant's dwelling unit all ashes, rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean and safe manner.
  4. Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits.
  5. Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises.
  6. Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove a part of the premises or knowingly permit a person to do so.
  7. 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 won’t 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. 

Resources for Moving Out

Recycling in Iowa City

About Recycling in Iowa City

A blue recycling container is provided for each single-family residence, and each unit of multiple dwelling of four units or fewer. The container is the property of the City and should remain with your home if you move.

Multi-family residences that are five-plex and larger are not served by Iowa City municipal curbside recycling but recycling services are now required to be provided by apartment owners and managers. Please see  https://www.icgov.org/recycling for more information. 

If you are served by Iowa City curbside recycling and need a replacement container, one can be picked up at the City Hall Cashier, 410 E. Washington Street, during normal business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dropping off recycling

  • East Side Recycling Center, 2401 Scott Boulevard SE (24 hours) 
    Newspaper/magazines/mixed paper/office paper/junk mail/chipboard/telephone books/hard cover and paperback books, corrugated cardboard/cartons and aseptic packaging, glass (clear, brown, green), metal cans, holiday lights (at ReStore's donation area), wine corks (in Oil Recycling Shed or at ReStore)
  • Hy-vee Food Store, 1201 North Dodge Street (24 hours) *Please note that bins have been moved to the north side of the parking lot at the old Hy-Vee location
    Newspaper/magazines/mixed paper/office paper/junk mail/chipboard/telephone books/hard cover and paperback books, glass (clear, brown, green), #1 through #5 and #7 plastics, metal cans, corrugated cardboard/cartons and aseptic packaging
  • Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center, 3900 Hebl Avenue SW (7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday) 
    Newspaper/magazines/mixed paper/office paper/junk mail/chipboard/telephone books/hard cover and paperback books, corrugated cardboard/cartons and aseptic packaging, glass (clear, brown, green), #1 through #5 and #7 plastics, metal cans, holiday lights (with electronic waste)
  • Coralville Recycling Center, 950 Hughes St. (24 Hours). Paper and Cardboard: newspapers, magazines, mixed paper, office paper, junk mail, chipboard, telephone books, paperback books, corrugated cardboard. Plastics: #1 through #5 and #7 plastics. Metal: metal cans, aluminum pie pans, aluminum foil (in 1-inch ball)

    Visit the City of Coralville website for more information.

 

For more information about recycling, visit the Iowa City website

 

Miscellaneous

Rental Deposits

You probably already know what you should do to get your rental deposit back after your lease ends. It's a good idea to take date-stamped pictures of any existing damage when you move in, clean up thoroughly before you leave, and leave the landlord an address or instructions for where to send the returned rental deposit.  However, there are other things you should know about your rental deposit. 

In Iowa, Chapter 562A of the Iowa Code is the relevant law in landlord-tenant issues.  It's known as the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act.  You can find the full text of it here: http://www.lawserver.com/law/state/iowa/ia-code/iowa_code_chapter_562a

Rental deposits are discussed in Section 562A.12, available here: http://www.lawserver.com/law/state/iowa/ia-code/iowa_code_562a-12

You can read 562A.12 for a full understanding of the laws covering rental deposits.  Otherwise, the summary below covers the main issues.

Amount of deposit

A landlord cannot demand a rental deposit larger than two months' rent [562A.12(1)].

Return of the deposit

A landlord must return the remaining deposit to you within 30 days of the end of the lease, as long as the landlord has a mailing address or return instructions from you.  The landlord must include a written note detailing the specific amounts and reasons for any deductions made.  If the deposit is withheld to repair the property, the statement must specify the nature of the damages [562A.12(3)(a)].

If a landlord fails to return the deposit and a written statement detailing the deductions within 30 days of the end of the lease and receiving a mailing address, a tenant can recover the entire rental deposit from the landlord [562A.12(4)].  Tenants can do this by filing in small claims court, and tenants can recover the cost of filing a claim in small claims court ($85) if the judge sides with the tenant and orders the return of the deposit [562A.12(8)].  Note: even if a tenant recovers the entire deposit, the landlord can still bill the tenant for damages and other deductions that would have been taken from the deposit. 

If the landlord is not given a mailing address or return instructions for the deposit within one year of the end of the lease, the tenant will have forfeited their right to the deposit and the landlord can keep the entire amount [562A.12(4)] 

Reasons a landlord may deduct from the deposit

A landlord may make deductions from the deposit for a few reasons.  The rental deposit can be used to remedy a tenant's failure to pay rent or other costs like utilities [562A.12(3)(a)(1)].  The landlord can use the deposit to recover expenses incurred in forcing a tenant to surrender the premises at the end of a lease [562A.12(3)(a)(3)].  Most likely, the deposit will be used to restore the property to its condition at the beginning of the lease, excluding ordinary wear and tear [562A.12(3)(a)(2)].  This means the landlord can withhold the deposit if you damage the property, but not if the damage was a result of the normal and ordinary use of the premises.  For example, it's legal for your landlord to charge you for carpet cleaning to remove stains from pets or spilled drinks. It's not legal for your landlord to force you to pay for professional carpet cleaning for just normal wear on the carpet. In fact, the recent case of DeStefano v Apartments Downtown decided that automatic carpet cleaning lease agreements are unenforceable.  

In a case concerning the rental deposit, the landlord has to prove the reasons for withholding the deposit [562A.12(3)(b)].  If the landlord retains portions of the deposit in bad faith, the landlord will be subject to potential punitive damages amounting to no more than two months’ rent in addition to actual damages [562A.12(7)].  This means if the landlord knew the deduction was illegal, the tenant can recover the deduction AND up to two months' rent as a legal punishment to the landlord.   

If you think your landlord will violate the law in using or returning your deposit, tell your landlord about it in writing and feel free to cite this article or 562A.12.  By informing your landlord about the law, it will make it more likely that a judge would rule the landlord acted in bad faith.  Plus, it might help you avoid going to court in the first place by negotiating with your landlord instead. 

Remember, this is just a basic explanation of the Rental Deposits section of the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act.  If you have any questions about this entry, or are worried your lease/landlord may be in violation of the Act, contact Student Legal Services!

Resources for Moving Out

Things to Know Before You Sign a Lease

Things to Know Before You Sign a Lease

So you're moving out of the dorms? When making the decision to rent off-campus, one the most important factors to consider is your lease agreement. A lease agreement is a binding contract governing the terms of your residence in the rental property. Notably, these are very difficult to terminate. Private landlords are much less likely to be accommodating to unforeseen situations than University Housing would be.

Lease Agreements

A lease agreement is a binding contract which is very difficult to terminate. Once you sign a lease, you are responsible for the entire monthly rent for the term of the lease. This means that you may have to pay rent for a roommate if that person moves out!

You can have the lease reviewed by Student Legal Services prior to signing.

Tips For Finding Rental Property

Does it comply with the city code? You should first check to see if the rental unit has a valid permit, as well as the maximum occupancy limit. If a unit does not have a valid permit, it is probably due to a health or safety violation. You also want to make sure that only the number of people allowed to live in the unit are on the lease. DO NOT LET LANDLORDS TALK YOU INTO UNAUTHORIZED ROOMMATES AND THEN NOT INCLUDE THEIR NAMES ON THE LEASE.

Permit & Occupancy Information

Iowa City Housing Authority

Look Early

Apartments in Iowa City go fast. The following are good resources for finding available properties and roommates:

  • Rentals, roommates, sublets, furniture, etc.: University of Iowa Off Campus Housing:
  • Websites such as www.craigslist.com and Facebook.
  • Local Newspapers.
  • Bulletin boards postings in grocery stores, laundromats, etc.
  • Friends are often aware of possible vacancies.

Real Cost Of Renting

In addition to the rent, you should account for these additional costs:

  • Gas/electric/water: Contact the utility companies to get the average bill/month
  • Security Deposit (1st & last month’s rent) and Application Fees.
  • Moving expenses
  • Rental insurance
  • Parking
  • Cable T.V./Internet
  • Purchase of furniture, other items
  • Bus stops nearby?
  • Is there adequate security?

Try to talk to the current tenants without the landlord to find out more about the rental unit, utility costs, and reliability of the landlord.

Check out "rate your landlord" websites:

www.apartmentratings.com

www.apartmentreviews.com

www.ratemyapartments.com

WARNING: NEVER RENT A RENTAL UNIT WITHOUT FIRST LOOKING AT THE EXACT UNIT YOU WILL BE RENTING. Some landlords will show a "model" unit which will be in a much better condition than the unit you will actually be renting. Make sure that the address of the unit you are shown is what is shown on the lease agreement.

Miscellaneous

Moving In Checklist

Both before and as you move in to your new apartment, there are several important things you should do to protect your rights later on.

Fill out a Move-In Checklist and take pictures

  • You should walk through the entire unit before moving your furniture in, and document any and all damages/problems that you see. It is to your benefit to fill out the Move-In Checklist (PDF Document), make a copy for your records, and provide a copy to your landlord within the first 7 days of the lease term. KEEP A COPY FOR YOUR RECORDS!
  • Take photographs/video of the unit making sure to turn on the date stamp function on your camera. Look for anything that could possibly be described as less than perfectly new and take a picture of it. Then save the photos in-case you need to use them in court.

Utilities

  • Your lease determines your responsibilities for utility activation and payment. Many landlords will pay for the water, but you are usually responsible for all other utilities; gas, electric, telephone, cable, internet, cell phone, etc. Contact the utility companies at least 2 weeks in advance of the move in date.
  • When doing your budget, you not only have to consider your rent each month, but also utility costs on top of that. Generally speaking, the cost of utilities may be the greatest when living alone. If you are sharing an apartment/house, you are also able to share the cost of utility bills. You should spell out how you will share your utility bills in your roommate contract.
  • Utility costs greatly vary. If you are living in an apartment complex versus an older home, the quality of insulation can be quite different. Houses tend to be a larger area of space to heat/cool.
  • Ask tenants that currently live in the apartment complex/house how much they pay for their utility bills on average. Gas, electric and water can vary based on usage. You can call the cable, internet and phone companies to get price quotes for the various packages they offer.

Purchase Renter's Insurance

Get renter’s insurance. Your lease may require you to have Renter’s insurance. Landlords typically have property insurance, but this does not cover your personal property. You want to make sure to have insurance to replace your belongings if they are damaged in a fire or stolen from your apartment, for example.

It tends to be cheaper to add a policy to the same company as your car insurance.. You may also be added to your parent's home owner's insurance (check with their company's policy for details). If either is not an option, it is still inexpensive to purchase renters insurance.

Miscellaneous

Renters Insurance

Renters Insurance

If you think renters insurance is not necessary, you are sadly mistaken. Even though you may not own the home, apartment or unit, you do own the property that is inside of the home. If your items are lost or stolen, your home floods or catches on fire, or some other unforeseen accident occurs, you will need to replace those items with your own money. These items are things you purchased over the years, but when disaster strikes, you do not have years to replace your personal property, especially your everyday necessities. It could be really expensive to replace your personal items, which is why you should protect your investments. When it pertains to protecting your personal property, renters insurance is your most affordable option. 

To find out more information about renters insurance, visit The Zebra's website.

For more information on why renters insurance is important, visit the NOLO website

Resources for Moving Out Miscellaneous

Fall Break: Tips, Safety, Parking

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48 Hour Parking Rule

If you're heading away, but your vehicle will stay, refresh yourself on the details of this rule and avoid being towed and fines.

Frozen Pipes

As temperatures take a nose dive, take precautions to keep household pipes from freezing and avoid damage to your home and belongings. 

When the Snow Falls

Ready or not, it'll be here before we know it.  Know what your responsibilities are so that all people have access to your neighborhood's sidewalks for getting around.  Also, learn what to do when the City declares a snow emergency, as on-street parking will be limited to allow plows to fully clear the streets after an extreme winter storm.

SourceIowa City Update - Your source for Iowa City news and information.

Resources for Living Off-Campus Miscellaneous

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