Many groups working with new Iowans have lists of rental properties that are reasonably priced.
Applying to Rent- People who rent out apartments or homes are called “landlords.” A landlord may ask you to fill out a rental application form. This is so the landlord can check to see if you have the money to pay the rent.
The application form may ask for a Social Security number (See Section Arrival Basics to learn how to get your Social Security number) and proof that you are working. You can use your Permanent Resident Card if you do not yet have a Social Security number. You can also show a pay stub from your job to prove you are working. You may also be asked to pay a small application fee.
If you are not yet working, you may need someone to sign the rental agreement with you. This person is called a “co-signer.” If you cannot pay the rent, the co-signer will have to pay the rent for you.
Once you select a rental home, or unit, the property owner will typically ask that you to fill out a rental application. This will include questions about your income, job history, credit history, past rental units, and current rental unit. Providing as much information as possible will make it easier for the property owner to decide if you will be a good tenant or not. A positive rental history with good references will make it easier to lease a unit. Be sure to explain any circumstances surrounding past problems. You may have to pay a small application fee at this time for the costs involved in verifying your information. The property owner may also require that you pay a security deposit at this time. Be sure to get a written receipt for any monies paid to the property owner.
The property owner will verify your information and call you back within several days. Be sure to check back if you do not hear from the property owner. If you are turned down, ask the reason. This may help you with future choices. If the reason for the rejection is based on a protected area of the law (for example: your sex, your children, your race, etc.) you may call your local human rights agency or the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for additional assistance.
Once you have been approved be sure you understand the move-in procedures. Make sure the move-in day and time will work for you, especially if you are moving from another apartment. Ask if there are certain times for moving and where you can park your moving vehicles.
Prior to or on the day of your move-in, you will be asked to sign the lease agreement. BE SURE TO READ THIS CAREFULLY. This agreement sets the rules while you are living in the unit. It will tell you how much the rent is, when it should be paid, and where it should be paid. There is usually a penalty for late payments. This agreement will also set out who pays for the utilities and maintenance. Make sure it reflects what was previously explained to you. If it does not, make sure it is corrected before you move in.
Verify the length of the term. Make sure it is acceptable to you. If you think you may be moving again soon you will not want a long term lease. If you will not be moving, a longer term lease will insure that your rent payment will not be raised during the term of the agreement. Get a copy of the lease agreement, signed by you and the property owner, for your records.
You may have to contact the utility company directly if you are responsible for paying the utilities. They may ask that you pay a deposit before they will turn on the utilities. Again, good prior history will assist you in this process.
You will also want to inspect the unit before you move in to make sure that all repairs were made and it is clean. Make a list of anything that is damaged in the unit when you move in. This list should be very detailed (for example: a burn on the carpet in the east corner of the living room, a chip in the sink, hole in the wall, etc.). Sign and date it and keep a copy for your records. This is your proof that any damage that was there when you moved in is not your fault. Give the original list to the property owner for their records.
Be sure to abide by the terms of your lease agreement. Make your rental payments on time and always get a receipt. Don’t expect the property owner to allow you to pay late or pay less than was agreed to in the lease agreement. Remember: the contract says the property owner allows you to have housing in exchange for the rental payment. If you don’t pay, the property owner can remove you and your belongings.
You are also responsible for your actions, your family members’ actions and the actions of any guest at your unit. If they cause any trouble for other tenants (which is other people living in the building) or damage the property, you are responsible. You will be responsible for the cost to repair any damage and could be evicted from your unit. Likewise, if other tenants or tenants’ guests bother you, be sure and report those problems quickly.
When you decide to move out of your unit, review your lease agreement so that you know what kind of notice you need to give. Typically, you will have to give written notice one month before you move. If you do not give a proper notice you can be charged rent for the time agreed upon in the lease. Make sure the unit is cleaned after you move, and make an appointment to walk through your vacant unit with the property owner so that you both know the condition of the unit. This will avoid any misunderstandings regarding the return of your deposit. The deposit, or a notice of what costs you were charged, should be mailed to you in a reasonable amount of time. If it is not, be sure to contact your property owner.