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Lecture teaches students rights as tenants

BY MICHELLE MCCONNAUGHEY | FEBRUARY 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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Alaina Overdiep said she’s adamant about knowing her rights.

The University of Iowa freshman, who will live in an apartment for the first time next fall, attended the “Don’t Get Evicted” event Monday at the IMU to learn more about protecting herself.

“People should know that they have a voice when dealing with their landlords,” Overdiep said.

UI Student Legal Services holds the event each year to inform students about their rights and responsibilities as tenants, said Greg Bal, the supervising attorney for the legal service.

He said many factors — including failure to pay rent, having drugs on the premises, and receiving repeated disorderly house violations — can lead to an eviction.

Iowa City regulations require landlords to evict tenants who receive three disorderly house tickets.



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And while officials with Student Legal Services said they haven’t noticed an increase in traffic at their office since the implementation of the 21-ordinance, some students said they’ve noticed changes in the neighborhoods.

With bars becoming 21-only, people don’t risk going downtown and end up partying elsewhere, Overdiep said.

In the past three years, disorderly house tickets have tripled despite a lack of student presence in Bal’s offices.

Iowa City police officers issued 90 disorderly house tickets in 2007 and more than 270 in 2010.

But officials said the increase is a result of more enforcement in Iowa City neighborhoods, not necessarily a shift in party locations.

Bal said UI students should come to Student Legal Services for free advice any time they encounter difficulties with a landlord, especially issues that involve money.

“A lot of students don’t know their rights,” Bal said. “They will get a bill and pay it without questioning it.”

Bal said problems involving landlords make up 55 percent of the cases his office sees. That figure doesn’t include disorderly house citations.

And Liz Mihm, the undergraduate director for Student Legal Services, said tenants are most frequently evicted for failing to pay their bills on time. Students also seek assistance for landlord regulations involving pets in apartments and for ignoring important parts of their lease.

Bal said it’s safe to assume landlords in Iowa City will try to get every penny out of tenants that they can.

A recently filed lawsuit against the property owner Apartments Downtown — which alleged the company lists unlawful lease requirements — is an example of the importance of being a knowledgeable tenant, officials said.

“The class-action lawsuit with Apartments Downtown was unfortunate,”Mihm said. “There are a lot of shady landlords, so we want to inform students of their rights.”


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