Small Claims Assistance
The Iowa Tenants' Project is part of the Law Offices of Christopher Warnock and is committed to tenants' rights and to fair play for both tenants and landlords. The Tenants' Project seeks to educate tenants and landlords about their legal rights and responsibilities and to empower tenants to vindicate their rights in court. Currently good tenants suffer from bad landlords and good landlords suffer from bad tenants. We want to see both landlords and tenants follow the law and get a fair shake!
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The Iowa Tenants' Project currently has class actions certified against:
Tracy Barkalow & Big Ten Property Management
Brad Houser and Houser Enterprises
The Clark Family and Apartments Downtown
Southgate Property Management
Follow the links for more information on each class action. No action by their tenants is necessary at this time. It is not possible to join a class action, if you are eligible you are automatically included and will be notified later.
On July 13, 2015 6th District Chief Judge Patrick Grady granted summary & declaratory judgment and class certification against Southgate Property Management in Kline v. Southgate Property Management CVCV 76694, and Martin Gaffey in Walton v. Gaffey, CVCV 76909. Chief Judge Grady found that the standard leases used by Southgate and Gaffey contained provisions that were illegal under the Iowa landlord tenant act. Chief Judge Grady certified classes in both cases. Here is the Southgate Summary Judgment & Class Certification Decision and the Gaffey Summary Judgment & Class Certification Decision.
On July 8, 2015 6th District Judge Chad Kepros granted summary & declaratory judgment against Apts. Downtown, owned by the Clark Family in Conroy v. Apts Downtown LACV 72840. Judge Kepros found that the Apts Downtown standard lease used from 2010 to 2014 violated the Iowa Landlord Tenant Act by including illegal liability shifting clauses, providing for automatic carpet cleaning, shifting repair responsibilities on tenants, and charging illegal fines, penalties and set fees including subleasing fees. Judge Kepros also certified the lawsuit as a class action. Here is the Clark Summary Judgment & Class Certification Order. Also included with the decision is, Attachment 2, the actual lease so you can see exactly which provisions were found to be illegal and a list of specific charges, Attachment 3, including subleasing fees, that were found to be illegal. No action by tenants is necessary at this time. It is not possible to join a class action, if you are eligible you are automatically included and will be notified later.
On July 2, 2015, the Iowa Supreme Court retained Caruso v. Clark now retitled Caruso v. Apts. Downtown, 14-1783. This is now the second case retained, joining DeStefano v. Apts. Downtown No, 14-820. These cases present many important issues including the repair and maintenance obligations of landlords and tenants, the legality of automatic carpet cleaning, charging tenants for ordinary business expenses and the standard for punitive damages for knowing and wilful inclusion of prohibited lease provisions and bad faith withholding of security deposits.
On April 8, 2015 in Amor v. Houser 14-0866, the Court of Appeals affirmed class action certification, without an opinion, noting that the trial court had properly followed Staley v. Barkalow. Here is the Court of Appeals' affirmance of class certification in Amor v. Houser
On November 5, 2014, Justice Hecht of the Supreme Court granted discretionary review in Caruso v. Clark now retitled Caruso v. Apts. Downtown, 14-1783. This case involves automatic carpet cleaning, requiring tenants to pay for repairs, the standard for wrongful withholding of a security deposit and most importantly the standard for knowingly and wilfully using prohibited lease provisions, which allows for punitive damages.
On October 2, 2014 in Ahmed v. Barkalow, SCSC 082744, Judge Bergan issued an 11 page ruling on District Court appeal, affirming the decision of the magistrate at trial and finding for the plaintiffs. The most interesting ruling in this case was that Judge Bergan affirmed Magistrate Rose's ruling that landlord Tracy Barkalow was personally liable for damages in the case. Punitive damages for bad faith withholding were upheld, but the punitive damages for knowing and willful inclusion of prohibited lease provisions were reversed, probably appropriately since we didn't introduce any evidence on this issue! Here is Judge Bergan's decision.
On October 1 2014 in Elyse De Stefano v. Apts. Downtown Supreme Court No, 14-820, Justice Mansfield of the Iowa Supreme Court granted discretionary review, allowing this case to be appealed either to the Supreme Court or Iowa Court of Appeals. Issues for appeal include the legality of repair and maintenance shifting provisions in leases, including allowing landlords to charge tenants for vandalism and the criminal acts of unknown third parties, charging tenants for landlord's overhead and ordinary business expenses and the legality of automatic carpet cleaning clauses.
On September 26, 2014 Judge Russell issued a 13 page decision in the district court appeal of Caruso v. Clark SCSC 81696. Judge Russell sustained the ruling of the magistrate, awarded the maximum possible damages of $5000 and found that the Clarks had wrongfully withheld the tenants' security deposit and that they had knowingly and wilfully used a prohibited lease provision, subjecting them to multiple sets of punitive damages. Here is the Caruso v. Clark District Court Appeal Decision.
On May 29, 2014 in Borer v. Clark SCSC 081695 Judge Miller, who had earlier denied class action certification in Conroy v. Apts Downtown, issued a 10 page ruling on District Court appeal of this small claims case. The judge found that landlords could not charge fines, penalties or any charge other than actual damages and awarded $2500 in attorney fees. The judge reversed on the issue of punitive damages due to knowing and willful inclusion of illegal lease provisions. Here is the Borer District Court Appeal Decision
O May 6, 2014 in Elyse De Stefano v. Apts. Downtown SCSC80575, 6th District Court Judge Baumgartner issued a a lengthy ruling, that held that landlords were free to charge their tenants for vandalism and the criminal acts of unknown third parties, but could not have automatic carpet cleaning clauses in their leases. The Tenants' Project appealed and will seek discretionary review by the Iowa Supreme Court.
On March 19, 2014 on the remand of Staley v. Barkalow, LACV 073821, 6th District Judge Russell issued a landmark 13 page Ruling certifying a class action and finding many clauses in the standard Clark/Barkalow lease to be illegal including indemnity and exculpation clauses, automatic carpet cleaning, making tenants responsible for vandalism and invalidating all fines, penalties and charges that exceed actual damages. Here is the March 21, 2014 Press Citizen story and March 21, 2014 Associated Press story as well as the March 21, 2014 KCRG News story and March 22, 2014 KWWL Top Story. Here is the Daily Iowan March 24, 2014 News Story and Daily Iowan March 24, 2014 Editorial .
On December 9, 2013 in Caruso v. Clark SCSC 81696 Judge Magistrate Egerton issued a 11 page Judgement finding for plaintiffs and awarding the punitive damages as well as attorney fees. Here is the Caruso Ruling.
On September 3, 2013 in Borer v. Clark SCSC 081695 Judge Magistrate Egerton issued a 10 page Judgement finding for plaintiffs and awarding the maximum punitive damages as well as attorney fees. Here is the Borer Ruling. Here is the September 7, 2013 Press Citizen story and September 13, 2013 Daily Iowan story.
On August 6, 2013 the Iowa Supreme Court denied further review in Staley v. Barkalow upholding the Court of Appeals' decision. Here is the order denying further review and the August 9, 2013 Associated Press story.
On August 2, 2013 attorney Christopher Warnock, in association with the Iowa Tenants' Project filed a class action against Bradford Houser & Houser Enterprises, a Coralville landlord with numerous illegal lease clauses.
On June 10, 2013, Magistrate Judge Karen Egerton issued a 17 page Judgment in Elyse De Stefano v. Apts. Downtown SCSC80575 holding that automatic carpet cleaning charge were illegal, that the landlord had failed to provide sufficient evidence for its cleaning charges, and that landlord had illegally charged the tenant for vandalism caused by an unknown third party. Judge Egerton found that the landlord had withheld the tenants' deposit in bad faith and assessed the maximum punitive damages, as well as $3,270 actual damages. Here is the decision in Elyse De Stefano v. Apts. Downtown
On May 30, 2013 in Staley v. Barkalow, 3-255/12-1031, the Iowa Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision finding that landlords could not include illegal provisions in their leases and ordering that a class action be certified. Here is the Staley v. Barkalow decision.
Here is the May 30, 2013, Associated Press story on Staley v. Barkalow.
On May 15, 2013 in Ahmed v. Barkalow, SCSC 082744, Judge Magistrate Rose issued a 6 page Judgment Order finding for plaintiffs, a major victory for the plaintiffs, the Tenants' Project and Iowa City tenants! Here is the Judgment/Order entered in the case.
The Tenants Project is part of the Law Offices of Christopher Warnock and began by supporting two class actions as the first step in changing the rental culture in Iowa City. The first class action was against Apts. Downtown, Inc. aka Apartments Downtown, Apartments Near Campus, AUR, etc., a very large property management company, owned by the Clark family, based in Iowa City, Iowa and focusing on rentals to University of Iowa students. Here are details on the Clark Family/Apts Downtown class action including pleadings, orders and news stories.
The second class action is against Tracy Barkalow aka TSB Holdings and Big Ten Property Management, a residential landlord also based in Iowa City, Iowa. Here are details on the Barkalow class action including pleadings, orders and news stories.
The Tenants Project is also working on means to assist tenants with small claims actions. The first is our Small Claims Campaign Don't let your landlord take advantage of you, stand up for your rights! Go to our extensive Small Claims Assistance pages for forms, pleadings and instructions for easy self representation.
As part of its assistance to attorneys and community outreach the Tenants' Project offers free CLE, continuing legal education, for local attorneys. Here is further information on CLE
For further information go to the Iowa Tenants' Project Contact Page