UI USG members, Iowa City residents hopeful for renter’s checklist legislation

The bill, which was passed the Iowa House earlier this month and was assigned to a state Senate subcommittee on March 14, would lead to increased accountability in renting processes.


Matt Sindt

Senators listen at a University Student Government meeting Sept. 27, 2022.

Archie Wagner, News Reporter

Members of the University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government are hopeful after a bill to make renting in Iowa City easier passed through the Iowa House of Representatives this month.

House File 305, a bill that outlines a checklist agreement between renters and tenants, passed the House on March 9. This bill follows House File 2471, a similar proposed legislation that was presented in the Iowa House last year but did not pass in the Senate.

The renter’s checklist is an agreement between renters and landlords that would be given out at the start of the rental period and outline the condition of items in the unit at that time.

Iowa City City Councilor Andrew Dunn — who also works in the Iowa Senate as a legislative aide to Sen. Claire Celsi — said he doesn’t think there will be a huge pushback against the bill in the Senate.

“The biggest problem that it might face is the priorities of the majority in the Senate,” Dunn said.

Dunn said it’s possible the bill may pass a subcommittee but enter legislative limbo. HF 305 was assigned to a subcommittee on March 14.

“It is possible this bill will still be alive next year if the Senate decides that it’s not a priority to pass,” Dunn said.

While Dunn is supportive of the bill because it increases accountability for renters and landlords, he said the current legislation isn’t perfect because of the bill’s May Clause.

According to the May Clause, the renter’s checklist will remain optional even if the bill is passed, and it is up to the landlord whether to engage in the practice.

“The inventory checklist that we’re talking about in HF 305 is not something that’s mandatory,” he said. “This is not something that landlords are going to have to implement in our communities.”

The bill does, however, provide incentives for implementation, Dunn said.

“They have the ability in this bill to request an up to $150 deposit, which would then be forfeited if the checklist is not either returned within three days or there is an agreed upon extension to more than three days,” he said.

USG director of governmental affairs Nick Nachtman said the renter’s checklist has been a goal for the student government for the last few years.

“It’s really important to us because, as this representative of students in the student body, we know what it can be like to be a young and inexperienced renter who doesn’t know how to navigate the process and doesn’t know how to deal with it when you’re taken advantage of,” Nachtman said.

RELATED: USG meets with Iowa legislators to advocate for student resources at the state level

Keaton Zeimet, who serves as USG’s city liaison and works with the Iowa City City Council to help accomplish student goals in the city, has worked to advocate for changes on a variety of topics relevant to students ranging from downtown safety to the renter’s checklist.

“The renter’s checklist, or that legislation, would basically implement a process of itemizing a move-in checklist,” Zeimet said. “We basically found out like 34 percent of student renters received none of their deposits back, and 41 percent believe they should’ve received more back,” he said.

Zeimet said the data was collected through the Renter’s Guide, a survey that USG uses to compile responses from students over the most recent rental period.

The guide found that landlords would charge renters hidden fees, unnecessary fixes to units, and high cleaning prices, he said. These financial costs were unanticipated before tenants signed their leases.

A renter’s checklist would simplify the process for both renters and landlords, Zeimet said.

“It gives you specific areas to check on to judge the quality of that,” he said. “You basically compare the condition that those things are at the beginning of your rental period and then how it is at the end.”

Move-in checklists or similar mechanisms have already been implemented in other states like Kansas, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Zeimet said.

“It would just create a positive influence, especially in a place that is generally landlord friendly,” he said.