People's Law School
& Small Claims Assistance
Moving Out Tips for Tenants
Pest Control Rules for Iowa City, Coralville and Johnson County
Overview of Small Claims Process
Do You Have a Case? Is it Worth Pursuing?
Filing a Small Claims Case or Responding to One Filed Against You
The Clark Family/Apts Downtown class action and Barkalow class action are a way to deal with collective, identical problems affecting a large number of tenants. In particular illegal lease clauses can be dealt with effectively through class actions.
However, class actions are not the complete answer. Many landlord tenant problems are individualized, for example, whether cleaning of a rental unit was necessary or who is responsible for particular damage in a unit. These problems need an individualized finding of fact and therefore can only be resolved in small claims court. No one attorney or organization can handle these cases for tenants, tenants need to be able to do their small claims case.
Pest infestation and extermination is regulated by local governments. Here are the pest infestation and extermination regulations for Iowa City, Coralville and unincorporated areas of Johnson County, Iowa.
Iowa City Municipal Regulations
17-5-19: RESPONSIBILITIES OF OWNERS RELATING TO THE MAINTENANCE AND OCCUPANCY OF PREMISES:
P. Pest Extermination: Whenever infestation exists in two (2) or more dwelling units or rooming units of any dwelling or in the shared or public parts of any dwelling containing two (2) or more dwelling units or more than one rooming unit, the extermination thereof shall be the responsibility of the owner. (1978 Code §17-7; amd. 1994 Code)
17-5-20: RESPONSIBILITIES OF OCCUPANTS RELATING TO THE MAINTENANCE AND OCCUPANCY OF PREMISES:link
C. Extermination Of Pests: Every occupant of a single-family dwelling shall be responsible for the extermination of any insects, rodents or other pests therein or on the premises; every occupant of a dwelling containing more than one dwelling unit or rooming unit shall be responsible for such extermination within the unit occupied whenever said unit is the only one infested. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subsection, whenever infestation is caused by failure of the owner to maintain a dwelling in a reasonably rodentproof or reasonably insectproof condition, extermination shall be the responsibility of the owner.
Coralville Municipal Regulations
145.08 PEST AND RODENT CONTROL. 1. Every occupant of a dwelling shall dispose of or store all refuse and rubbish and any other organic substance which might provide food for insects or rodents in a clean, sanitary and safe manner. Acceptable refuse containers shall be used for storage pending collection.
2. Every occupant of a dwelling or dwelling unit shall be responsible for the extermination of insects or rodents on the premises. Notwithstanding the foregoing provision of this subsection, whenever infestation is caused by failure of the owner to maintain a dwelling in a reasonably rodent-proof or insect-proof condition, extermination shall be the responsibility of the owner.
3. No occupant of a dwelling shall accumulate rubbish, boxes, lumber, scrap metal or any other materials in such a manner that may provide for rodent harborage in or about such dwelling or dwelling unit.
4. No owner of a dwelling shall accumulate or permit the accumulation of eatables, rubbish, boxes, lumber, scrap metal or any other materials in such a manner that may provide for rodent harborage in or about the shared or public areas of such dwelling or its premises.
Johnson County Code of Ordinances
8:6.13 Responsibilities of Owners Relating to the Maintenance and Occupancy of Rental Premises. P. Pest Extermination. Whenever infestation exists in two (2) or more rental dwelling units or rental rooming units of any rental dwelling or in the shared or public parts of any rental dwelling containing two (2) or more rental dwelling units or more than one rental rooming unit, the extermination thereof shall be the responsibility of the owner.
8:6.14 Responsibilities Of Occupants Relating To The Maintenance And Occupancy Of Rental Premises.
C. Extermination Of Pests. Every occupant of a single-family rental dwelling shall be responsible for the extermination of any insects, rodents or other pests therein or on the rental premises; every occupant of a rental dwelling containing more than one rental dwelling unit or rental rooming unit shall be responsible for such extermination within the unit occupied whenever said rental unit is the only one infested. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subsection, whenever infestation is caused by failure of the owner to maintain a rental dwelling in a reasonably rodent proof or reasonably insect proof condition, extermination shall be the responsibility of the owner.
The Iowa Code section that governs small claims is Section 631. As in a regular, district court case, the person or corporation suing is the plaintiff, the person or corporation being sued is the defendant. If either the plaintiff claims or the defendant counterclaims for more than $5000, the jurisdictional limit of the small claims court, then the case must be transferred to regular district court. Wilson v. Iowa Dist. Court 297 N.W.2d 223 (Iowa 1980).
The Iowa small claims process is fairly straightforward:
(1) Do you have a case? and (2) Is it worth pursuing?
"Do you have a case?" is a legal question which this website can assist you with, but "is it worth pursuing?" is a question only you can answer for yourself. In Iowa City, some landlords have this down to a science charging tenants for illegal fees and costs that are substantial, but not enough to hire a lawyer. For years, thousands of tenants have just given up, gritted their teeth and paid up. The Tenants' Project is trying to convince tenants to fight back! If 10% or even 5% of tenants filed small claims actions landlords might think twice before making illegal charges.
Here are clear and obvious issues that are worth suing your landlord about or counterclaiming if a landlord has sued you. Follow the links for more detailed information:
Once you have determined that you wish to go forward with the case and have a legal and factual basis for your case, it's time to file.
Iowa City tenants file in the Johnson County Courthouse at 417 S. Clinton Street, Iowa City. Go to the Civil Clerk's Office on the 2nd floor to file. There is a special small claims section to the left just as you go in the door. Take with you 3 signed copies of the Original Notice & Petition, plus 2 signed copies of the Motion to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees & signed affidavits, if you qualify for having the court fees waived. If you file the motion to waive fees, take one copy of the proposed Order to Proceed without Prepayment of Fees.
Unless you have had a motion to proceed without prepayment of fees granted you will have to pay filing and other fees. The filing fee for a small claims case is $85.
Once you have filed the Original Notice & Petition you need to have it served on the defendant either by certified mail by the small claims clerk ($10) or by the Johnson County Sheriff's Office by a deputy. If you want to have the Original Notice & Petition served by a deputy, after you file, take a stamped copy to the Civil Division of the Johnson County Sheriff's Office at 511 S Capitol St in Iowa City. You will need to pre-pay $40, but the cost of serving Original Notice is just $15 plus mileage, so you will likely get a refund.
If you have been sued, you will have an Original Notice & Petition served on you. Unless you file an answer you will automatically lose the case.
For further information go to the Iowa Tenants' Project Contact Page