- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa judge has ruled this week that an apartment rental company’s lease provisions were illegal, and has granted class action to the lawsuit that was filed by a tenant rights group.

Apartments Downtown, which is Iowa City’s largest off-campus student housing provider, was accused of charging illegal fees and withholding unreasonable amounts from security deposits.

Iowa Tenants Project initially filed for the class-action lawsuit in December 2010 on behalf of a former tenant and other renters. District Judge Chad Kepros on Wednesday granted the plaintiff’s request for a partial summary and declaratory judgment, meaning that his ruling is based on existing facts in the case without it going to a trial, which had been set for November.

Kepros said in his ruling that several lease provisions used by Apartments Downtown “are illegal and should not have been included in the standard lease.”

Attorney Christopher Warnock for the tenants’ rights group says that ex-tenants who rented under the lease in question will be owed damages. That amount will be determined at a later bench trial.

“This is huge,” Warnock said. “Basically it’s the largest student landlord in Iowa City, and they’ve fought us tooth and nail, but they’ve been found guilty. All the fees they charged illegally, knowingly or unknowingly, they’ve got to give that back.”

A message seeking comment with Apartments Downtown was left by the Iowa City Press-Citizen (https://icp-c.com/1G9w0Dh ).

Warnock said the leases challenged by the lawsuit were used from 2010 through 2014 by Apartments Downtown, and he estimates they covered at least 6,000 tenants in that time. He said that the company has since rewritten its lease.

Plaintiffs argued the lease violated tenants’ rights by charging an automatic carpet cleaning fee, whether the carpet was clean or not. They also said that provisions in their lease had shifted responsibility for repair and maintenance to tenants, including in common areas of the building.

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Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, https://www.press-citizen.com/


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