Frequently Asked Questions About Housing
Q: I would like to limit the people in my apartment to two adults and two children. Is there a problem with this?
A: Yes. The general guideline is [no more restrictive than] two persons per average-sized bedroom. You cannot specify the sex or age of these persons. In a two bedroom apartment, the tenants could be four adults, two adults and two children, or one adult and three children. In a three bedroom apartment, the occupancy standard would be six persons.
Q: I have always had older persons renting my apartments. Why can't I keep it that way? It would be very upsetting to my current tenants to have children in the building.
A: You cannot rent just to older persons unless you meet the qualifications for being designated as housing for older persons. You cannot choose particular tenants based on the preferences of your current tenants if those preferences are based on any of the protected personal characteristics.
Q: There is a woman who wants to rent my house. I'm afraid she won't be able to maintain the yard and make repairs. Do I have to rent to her?
A: If she is an otherwise qualified tenant, you cannot refuse to rent to her because of her sex. Many women are fully capable of maintaining a property, or they may choose to hire someone to do it for them. You can always check references, as long as you are consistent and check both women's and men's references.
Q: I recently painted my apartments. Must I rent to people in wheelchairs who may bump into and mark the walls?
A: Yes. You cannot deny housing to qualified persons with disabilities. If there is damage that would be considered more than normal wear and tear, you may recover the repair costs through the damage deposit.
Q: Can I refuse to rent to couples living together who are not married?
A: State and Federal laws do not include marital status as a protected personal characteristic, although some city ordinances do. Keep in mind that a legal marriage does not assure a stable relationship or desirable tenancy. It's better to check references of each adult applicant and rent to the applicants who are most qualified.
Q: Can I refuse to rent to people whose sexual orientation offends me?
A: Although Federal laws do not include sexual orientation as a protected personal characteristic, Iowa law and some city ordinances do prohibit discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Q: The apartments on the upper floors of my building have balconies. I don't think they're a safe place for children to play. Can I refuse to rent these apartments to families with young children?
A: No. It is up to the parent who will be renting the apartment to decide if it is a suitable place for their family.
Q: Can I set a dollar amount of income required of my applicants?
A: Yes, you may establish a reasonable minimum income criteria necessary for the applicant to afford the unit. This standard should be applied uniformly to all applicants. Keep in mind that the income need not come from employment. Some persons have sufficient verifiable income from other sources that would enable them to qualify.
Q: A young man came to look at an apartment, and he did not appear to be well. I'm afraid he has AIDS. Do I have to rent to him?
A: Yes. If he is otherwise qualified, you cannot refuse to rent to him because you believe he might have AIDS. A person with AIDS, or who is believed to have AIDS, is protected under the law from discrimination on the basis of physical disability. Current medical information is that AIDS is not contagious through casual contact; there is no danger to you or your other tenants by renting to someone with AIDS.
Q: A family with several children came to look at an apartment. The children were noisy and unruly, yelling and running in the hallways, and the parents made no attempts to control the children's behavior. Do I have to rent to this family?
A: No, if you have reason to believe the family would not take care of the property or would not abide by the rules. Checking references may give you some additional information about the past and present behavior of this family. You cannot refuse to rent to a person just because they have children, but you may refuse to rent to a person that you believe will not fulfill tenancy requirements.
Q: My landlord refuses to repair the furnace in the house I rent, and I never know if I will have heat or not. Can I just stop paying rent to force him to make the repairs?
A: This does not come under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, unless the landlord is targeting you in some way because of a protected personal characteristic. This is a situation covered by the Iowa Landlord Tenant Law, which specifies a procedure to follow to require the landlord to make necessary repairs to the property.