Rights and Responsibilities

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Responsibilities of tenants (Iowa Code 562A.17)

The tenant must do all of the following:
  • Make payment of rent without demand or notice from the property owner at the agreed upon date and location.
  • Follow any building and housing codes that apply to tenants, and that affect health and safety in an important way.
  • Keep his or her living area clean and dispose of garbage properly.
  • Properly use all appliances and facilities such as plumbing, heating, wiring, air conditioning.
  • Not damage or abuse the apartment on purpose or carelessly, or knowingly allow someone else to do so.
  • Avoid doing things that will disturb the neighbors’ peace and quiet.

Responsibilities of landlords (Iowa Code 562A.15)

In most cases, the responsibilities of the landlord include:
  • Follow building and housing codes that affect health and safety in an important way.
  • Make repairs to keep the house or apartment in a fit and livable condition.
  • Provide for garbage receptacles and removal.
  • Supply hot and cold running water and heat, unless the tenant pays the utility company directly, and the water heater and furnace are under the tenant’s control.
  • Keep areas used by the tenants of more than one apartment clean and safe.
  • Keep facilities and appliances such as electric wiring, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning in good and safe working order.
Only in limited cases can the landlord and tenant agree that the tenant will be responsible for any of the landlord’s duties. In any case where the tenant agrees to be responsible for the landlord’s duties, the agreement should be in writing, and fair to both.

 

Additionally, landlords are responsible for abiding by federal, state, and local laws governing fair housing. The Ames Human Relations Commission's (AHRC) jurisdiction covers discriminatory actions against a person because of his or her race, color, creed, sex, religion, national origin, disability, familial status, sexual orientation or gender identity. For a complete overview of fair housing and human relations, please reference section 14.9 of the Ames Municipal Code.

Tenant remedies

If a landlord fails to perform some of his or her important duties, the tenant may end the agreement by giving a proper written notice. The length of time in the notice depends on what has happened. In some cases, the tenant must give the landlord a chance to fix the problem(s). Sometimes the tenant can make repairs and deduct the cost from rent owed to the landlord. Very specific steps must be taken to end an agreement or withhold rent. A tenant should also consider contacting the Housing Inspector if a landlord fails to make necessary repairs and maintain the house or apartment.

If a tenant believes they have been discriminated against by a landlord, the tenant may file an official complaint with the Ames Human Relations Commission's (AHRC). Landlords are prohibited from refusing to sell, rent, lease, assign or sublease any real property or housing accommodation to any person because of the race, color, creed, sex, religion, national origin, disability, familial status, sexual orientation or gender identity of such person.

Landlord remedies

A landlord can take certain steps if a tenant fails to comply with the law or the rental agreement.
  • In some cases, if a tenant damages the property, the landlord may require the tenant to pay for the necessary repairs. However, a landlord is not allowed to hold a tenant’s property even if the tenant owes rent or owes money for damage to the property.
  • If a tenant fails to pay rent by the agreed upon date, the landlord may provide written notice to the tenant of their failure to pay rent, and the landlord’s intention to terminate the lease if the rent is not paid. If after three days the tenant has not paid the agreed upon rent, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement.