116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Apartments Downtown has appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court a Johnson County judge's July ruling that the landlord company violated Iowa Code in the standard lease document signed by thousands of tenants.
In the case, which began almost five years ago, a few former tenants of Apartments Downtown allege that leases they signed with the largest rental provider in Iowa City contained prohibited provisions, carpet cleaning fees, responsibility for repairs and maintenance and liquidated damages - all of which violated the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, according to court documents.
A class certification is immediately appealable, while partial summary and declaratory judgment - as granted by Johnson County District Judge Chad Kepros this July - traditionally have to wait until the case is resolved to appeal, according to court documents.
Apartments Downtown is seeking interlocutory review, meaning they seek to review all matters in a unified appeal to save time and best serve all parties involved.
'Until this Court issues a definitive opinion, neither landlords nor tenants will know the legal consequences of certain lease provisions. Interlucatory appeal will resolve this legal question without the delay of proceeding through trial, post-trial, and another appeal,” a brief filed by Apartments Downtown seeking appeal states.
One note in the landlord company's appeal argues that enforcement is required for lease clause to violate the Landlord Tenant Act, meaning just having an allegedly illegal clause in the lease may not necessarily violate the act in itself.
Local attorney Christopher Warnock, with the Iowa Tenants Project, argued that such an argument has been ruled on in prior cases.
'I'm a little surprised at this, because it seems like an issue that already seems resolved,” he said.
Jeff Clark, with Apartments Downtown, and his attorney Joseph Holland did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Warnock's nearly five-year case against Apartments Downtown reached a July 8 ruling that found that several sections of the standard lease document for the rental company - pertaining to set penalty fees and automatic carpet cleaning charges, along with illegally charging tenants for maintenance and repair, charging illegal fines, penalties and set damages and illegally releasing Apartments Downtown from liability - all represented violations of the Landlord Tenant Act.
As a class-action suit, the case includes tenants who signed leases with the company from 2010 through 2014.
Still undetermined, Warnock said, is if the violations found in the lease document were included knowingly and willfully.
Total damages have not been identified yet, but Warnock estimated the total amount of illegal charges on tenants and possible punitive damages could total several million dollars.
The case is currently scheduled for a November trial, but Warnock said he suspects that date to be extended.