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Don't be a victim of your landlord

BY GUEST OPINION | MARCH 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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Do you have a child in college? Is he or she renting an apartment or house? If so, have you reviewed the lease your child signed with the property's owners? If the answer to the first two questions is a "yes" and the answer to the third is "no," what you are about to read next may make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

My daughter attends a community college in Iowa City. She has become embroiled in a situation I never would have imagined going to school in this part of the U.S. I am talking about a landlord and management company that goes great lengths to take as much of your and your child's money while they are attending college.

Allow me to explain further.

She signed a lease for one year. In October, I went to Iowa City to visit her. She missed her little dog and asked if I could bring her out so she could see her. I did — you know, dad stuff.

I was up to my elbows in it, when my daughter's cell started ringing. It was the management company of the apartment building. The woman gleefully explained that the girls were being "fined" $600 because a dog was discovered in the apartment. I was in disbelief.

I called the management company and asked for the supervisor. I explained the situation and asked that the fine be waived. In so many words, the woman told me no.

A week or so later, I received a voice mail on my cell stating that the "owner" would waive half of the fine if I paid it by month's end. I began to research and review my daughter's lease. When I read it, I was blown away by the provisions found inside:

$600 dog fine; $10 per light bulb; $10 per nail hole plus $70 per hour plus materials for repainting; $100 per hour fine for being late vacating on move-out day; A set schedule of fees and fines for damaged items, such as front doors, and such; a $40 fee to pay with a credit card.

Reading further, I became even more outraged.

I thought the dog-fine issue was dead, but last month, my daughter and her roommates received an eviction notice. She had paid her rent on time. I called the management company and spoke to the same woman. She informed me that the girl's "account" was delinquent, and they owed rent. I informed her that my daughter assured me that her rent was current. The woman then told me that the rent money was used to pay the dog fine and late fees on the dog fine, and that they were now late on their rent.

My daughter has now retained an attorney, and is filing a lawsuit against the owners of the apartment complex. It is a company you have all heard about. It has more than 300 properties in the Iowa City area alone, worth an estimated $90 million. It is none other than Apartments Downtown, a.k.a. Apartments Near Campus.

I encourage you to see if your child has ever encountered something like this — you may be surprised what you find.

Don't be a victim; stand up for what's right.

Mark W. Borer
Batavia, Ill.


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