Judge rules Iowa City apartment lease clauses illegal - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Judge rules Iowa City apartment lease clauses illegal

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A Johnson County judge has ruled several provisions commonly included in many apartment leases are illegal under Iowa law.

It could mean big changes to leases across the state, affecting thousands of tenants.

“The problem is this: the landlords are refusing to obey the law,” said Christopher Warnock, a lawyer for the Iowa City Tenants’ Project. “So if this case goes up on appeals, if the Court of Appeals affirms this decision, it's going to be revolutionary for landlords and tenants in Iowa City and the whole state.”

Warnock says the suit was filed about three years ago after someone reached out to him questioning several clauses in a lease with a very large property management company, owned by the Clark family

He says landlords are in a much better position to assert their rights, and finally tenants are having chance to have their rights asserted.

Judge Douglas Russell’s ruling found that many Iowa City apartment lease provision are illegal under Iowa code and should be removed.

“Many leases in Iowa, particularly in Iowa City have a clause that says at the end of your lease you have to pay carpet cleaning costs automatically,” said Warnock. “So either you have to go and get it professionally cleaned and get a receipt or the landlord charges you for it.”

However, that’s not the only provision the judge ruled illegal.

Landlords cannot charge tenants for damage cause by others to common areas and they can't remove their liability for injury and damage to tenants, among others.

We tried reaching out to the property management company, and didn't hear back.

Tracy Barkalow, the landlord involved in this specific case and the one who allegedly uses the same lease as the Clark family, tells us his attorney advised him not to comment.

“What we're trying to do is encourage landlords and tenants to follow the rules,” said Warnock. “Good tenants suffer from bad landlords and Good landlords suffer from bad tenants, so it's extremely important for everybody to follow the rules.”

Warnock says the ruling could mean landlords will have to refund those fees to tenants.

The judge certified this as a class-action case, but the size of the class and the amount of damages has not yet been determined.

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