Apartments Downtown has issues

BY CHRIS STEINKE | JULY 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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It's nearing the end of July, and all those who didn't renew their current leases are bustling about Iowa City, gathering their belongings and preparing to move into their new homes on Aug. 1, the traditional beginning of a new lease-year.

Those lucky enough to have signed with a small-time landlord only have to worry about a cursory inspection on July 31, with just one night to store their possessions. On the other hand, those who signed with Apartments Downtown, with leases forcing them to move out on or near July 27, must find a place to store all their crap for five-consecutive days — like an empty parking lot, a giant tarp, and some barbed wire.

During these hard times, it is my personal view that Apartments Downtown should be responsible in organizing a new-age Hooverville for their former tenants on the College Green, complete with tents, banjos, and giant holes in which to urinate.

But this will have to wait at least another year, of course, as Apartments Downtown is busy battling a potential class-action lawsuit.

It bothers me that I am still forced to add the word "potential" at this stage in the legal process, as it is obvious to me that the mega landlord continues to profit from clauses that are apparently unlawful. (I'm also forced to add "apparently" everywhere to ward off any libel claims. Apparently.)

Iowa Code 562A.11 prohibits provisions in rental agreements that, and I quote, "indemnify the other party for a liability or the costs connected therewith."

Apartments Downtown didn't even bother to use an online thesaurus when writing Provision 48 of its common lease, which uses that same exact word, "indemnify."

"Indemnify" is used again in Provision 70, which basically says that "if someone is miraculously able to break in to your apartment building (with common locks that can be opened with a any key, penny, or small rock), breaks down your plywood door, and steals your laptop, we're not paying you back for your laptop. Also, you owe us $600 for that plywood door."

Apartments Downtown's defense says it did not know the provisions were illegal when the leases were written, even though the company directly references the code no fewer than 15 times in its lease — as well as provide the web address that contains all the laws it continues to apparently violate (you know, in case there are any questions).

Other, even more flagrantly (apparently) illegal clauses are Provisions 16 and 37e. Provision 16 of the common lease specifies that the tenants are jointly responsible for all unknown damages to common areas, which apparently violates Iowa Code 562A.15, a law that plainly states landlords are responsible for common areas. Provision 37e is an even more obvious (apparent) violation, mandating that tenants agree to pay up to $200 for a mandatory cleaning of "hardwood and decorative concrete floors."

It takes at least 40 plaintiffs with claims totally $5,000 in order for a lawsuit to qualify as class-action. Apartments Downtown has more than 1,000 tenants each year.

With only 50 $100 hardwood floor cleanings required to make this limit, reaching these totals should not be an issue. Nobody who anyone has ever spoken to has been a satisfied customer of Apartments Downtown (and if such a person exists, I urge that person to write us a letter about it.

Make sure to make direct comparisons with your homeland, whether it be Havana, Mumbai, Rio, or otherwise).

Apartments Downtown, I know this must be a stressful week for you with all the lease changing, check collecting, and the court defending, but if you could, please take the time to recognize that you are a terrible business, and nearly everyone wants to see you fall.

Or, you could totally redeem yourself by setting us up with some lean-tos in Hubbard Park and turning a blind eye to our moonshine distilleries for the next few days.

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