Renting a place to live is similar to renting a car, meaning a tenant must take good care of it and return the property in good condition to the owner. The landlord has the right to expect the tenant maintain their rental unit in a clean and safe condition. Keeping your unit clean and safe is a tenant responsibility and is usually part of the lease agreement. The landlord may deduct money from the deposit when you move out for cleaning the unit or to cover any damages. If the tenant damages the carpet, they can be charged for carpet replacement!

Always check your lease agreement or any other documents to see if there are instructions or protocol about repairs and maintenance requests. Calmly communicating your need for maintenance is important, whether by phone, email or filling out a notice at the office. It is always a good idea to keep documentation of contacts with landlords.

Always take pictures/video of the unit when you move in and move out so you can “prove” the conditions of the unit when you moved in and out. For example, if there is a small chip in the counter top, you would not want to be charged for that if it was already there when you moved in. If your landlord has a move in/move out sheet, make sure you fill it out, make a copy to keep, and return the original to the landlord. This helps create a written record to keep in a safe place with a copy of your lease, which is a legal document you have signed.

Landlords are required to make repairs in a timely manner, which by Iowa law is 7 days. Less time is allowed for emergency repairs, such as lack of heat or water. If you find that you are having trouble getting repairs made in a timely manner, you may contact the City Rental Inspector for assistance. Retaliation from a landlord is prohibited by state law if you need to involve the inspector. All cities in Iowa with a population of 15,000 or more are required to have rental inspectors. If your city is too small to have an inspector on staff, give HOME, Inc. a call for further options!

The tenant has the right to expect that the rental unit in which they reside will be maintained in a safe and sanitary condition. The landlord has an obligation to comply with the local housing codes, make necessary repairs (those not caused by the tenant, tenant’s family or guests), keep the common areas of the property clean, supply reasonable amounts of heat, hot and cold running water, and provide adequate trash receptacles.

The tenant has an obligation to keep the individual rental unit in a clean and sanitary condition, to repair all tenant-related damages, and notify the landlord of needed repairs, especially water leaks!

 If the damage or needed repair is caused directly by the tenant (or their family or guest) the Iowa law allows the landlord to repair the tenant related damages and bill the tenant for the cost. The landlord could also serve the tenant in writing, with a 7-day notice siting the needed repair or lack of cleanliness. The tenant must be allowed 7 days after receipt of the notice to make the repair at their own cost or clean the unit as required. Disregarding a notice from the landlord could result in early termination of the lease and a bad reference.