Iowa Supreme Court sides with Iowa City landlord

Lease terms are legal justices rule in lawsuit

IOWA CITY — Another tenant versus Iowa City landlord lawsuit has been decided, this time seemingly in the landlord’s favor.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that SouthGate Property Management’s lease terms — which include carpet cleaning, a move-in checklist and other fees and charges — are not prohibited practices, thereby reversing an earlier district court ruling supporting the tenants’ claims.

Three previous tenants had sued SouthGate, but the court held “none of the rental agreement provisions challenged by the tenants in this case are prohibited” under Iowa’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

The tenants — Daniel Kline, Frank Sories and Amaris McCann — did, however, win their argument about a lease provision about being unable to take possession of an apartment on the lease’s promised start date.

The court found that provision could allow SouthGate to turn over an apartment late with prorated rent. The provision “clearly purports to attempt to limit SouthGate’s liability and the tenants’ remedy for damages sustained as a consequence of the delay.”

Christopher Warnock of Iowa Tenants Project and the tenants’ attorney, said in an email statement that “while we didn’t win on the legality of a number of specific provisions, I was very happy that the Supreme Court found that tenants have a right to a legal lease, a lease free from illegal provisions,”

The ruling sent back to a lower court the issue of whether the three tenants could be considered a “class” in the lawsuit and file a class-action lawsuit.

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In 2015, Warnock came out the winner in tenant lawsuits against Apartments Downtown, Iowa City’s largest landlord company.

The class-action lawsuit ended with the company reimbursing previous tenants $65 per year of residency for a mandatory carpet-cleaning charge included in the lease.

The courts ruled the company had illegally charged tenants for maintenance and repair and collected illegal penalties and fines.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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