Illegal Lease Provisions

Automatic Carpet Cleaning Provisions:

Lease provisions that require the tenant to pay for carpet cleaning at the end of a lease, regardless of actual damage, are illegal and unenforceable.  This is true even if you have already signed the lease agreement.

A landlord cannot make you pay for carpet cleaning automatically.  The landlord must prove the carpet needs to be professionally cleaned to put the apartment in the condition in which you received it. This means the landlord can make you pay to clean up stains from spilled drinks or pets, but the landlord cannot force you to use a specific cleaning service or company. 

If you already signed a lease with an automatic carpet cleaning provision, here’s what you can do:
-Write your landlord a letter saying the provision is illegal, consider including the links at the bottom of this article for reference.  By informing your landlord about the illegal nature of these provisions, you could negotiate with your landlord instead of going to court after the landlord has taken money from your security deposit.  Even if you do end up in court, your letter could serve as evidence showing the landlord acted in bad faith (they knew they were acting illegally) and this may make them liable for punitive damages to you worth up to two months’ rent. 
-Vacuum and clean your carpets before you leave, then take a video of you wiping a clean white cloth across the carpet and hold up the cloth to show it isn’t dirty.  This can serve as evidence in court that your carpet did not require professional carpet cleaning. 

News stories:

http://www.kwwl.com/story/25047791/2014/03/22/judge-rules-iowa-city-apartment-lease-clauses-illegal

http://www.clintonherald.com/ianews/x334205579/Judge-Iowa-City-rental-lease-clauses-are-illegal

http://ctrei.blogspot.com/2014/03/illegal-rental-clauses-that-could-land.html

http://qctimes.com/news/local/judge-iowa-city-rental-lease-clauses-are-illegal/article_abb35962-b10d-11e3-abb7-001a4bcf887a.html

Iowa cases:

http://www.ictenantsclassaction.com/DeStefanoORDERDistrictCourt.pdf

http://www.ictenantsclassaction.com/BarkalowOrderSumDecJudg2.pdf

 

 

No-Pet Provisions and Fines

Even if your lease has a no-pet provision, the landlord cannot impose a fine without showing specific damage. 

“Iowa Code § 562A.12(3) requires a landlord to provide the tenant with a specific reason for withholding any of the rental deposit, and also requires the landlord to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, the reason for withholding any of the rental deposit, with ordinary wear and tear excepted.”

A lease provision that requires automatic fines for having a pet in a unit is illegal because the landlord is required to prove there is specific damage to the unit as a result of the tenant keeping a pet. The District Court in Johnson County has held that a landlord is not entitled to impose fines or deduct from the deposit without showing actual damage caused by having the pet. See:

http://www.ictenantsclassaction.com/BorerDistrictCourtRuling.pdf

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