Small Claims Assistance
Charging Penalties or More than the Actual Cost of Repairs or Cleaning
Many landlords, apparently following the example of the Clarks/Apartments Downtown, have a large number of lease provisions that provide for set fees, charges, or are explicitly labeled as fines or penalties. Under the Iowa Landlord Tenant act, landlords may only charge their actual damages, this means no fines, penalties, liquidated damages or set fees. For example, a landlord may have a $50 oven cleaning charge, but pay their employee $20 an hour and it takes them 1/2 an hour to clean the oven. They can only charge $10 plus the reasonable out of pocket cost of materials.
Here is a Judge Kepros' decision in Conroy v. Apts. Downtown this includes a ruling on fines, penalties, liquidated damages and set fees at page 10. Judge Kepros references the Apts Downtown lease, which is Attachment 2 and finds a specific list of charges illegal listed in Attachment 3. This includes subleasing fees! Landlords cannot charge a set subleasing fee. Our position is that they can charge for lost rent and for their reasonable out of pocket costs, like advertising, but they cannot charge for administrative time for their staff.
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The Iowa City Tenants' Project is committed to tenants' rights and to fair play for both tenants and landlords. The Tenants' Project seeks to educate tenants and landlords about their legal rights and responsibilities and to empower tenants to vindicate their rights in court.
For further information go to the Iowa Tenants' Project Contact Page