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MDLawyer, Lawyer
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 6133
Experience:  10 years in legal practice. Over 5 years in advising clients on landlord/tenant issues, including on a pro bono basis.
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In April, 2015 I signed a lease with this landlord that had

Customer Question

My name is***** 2015 I signed a lease with this landlord that had just bought several properties and was renting for the first time. He seemed extremely nice and trustworthy I was actually seven and a half months pregnant at the time so that part was important. When we moved in there was not a lock on the very front sliding glass door which he had promised to put in several times. Then things started going really wrong with the place. The ice maker in the fridge had a loose hose and water went all over the kitchen through the floor and down to the basement thru the ceiling. So a mildew and mold problem started. That was at the beginning of May and I had about a little over a month before the baby was born so I really wanted this taken care of. He would stop by for the rent obviously but wouldn't never fix anything. He made excuses he cancelled on me so many times! Then the refrigerator broke down and I had to live out of coolers for approximately two and a half months and throw away $300 worth of food! And that is just a few things that were going on there! Well I ended up bringing my baby home with the water problem in the basement and the mold.... all of these problems were still on going by the time I move out at the end of October. I finally had had enough of him not responding so when I finally did get a hold of them I asked him if we could please get out of the lease early because we signed it for a year. He said that was ok. I have text messages that say a lot about him and pictures of the damage and I've been keeping records of everything we've been going thru since we started living there. Although we had a verbal agreement at the end of Sept to be out in Oct, he started the eviction process and lied in court about not paying him rent. I know for a fact you cannot withhold rent for the landlord not making repairs so he was not telling the truth but evicted us and we were out by October 29th and on top of that he filed a money judgment against me for $5,000 I spoke to a legal aid attorney and she said I should definitely counterclaim because he entered my house at least twice without notice illegally while I was living there! And then there's all the cleaning supplies are paid for in the basement and the food I had to throw away? Is it my understanding that you only have 21 days to counterclaim? I received any file email today that read I missed a court appearance on November 18th for the small claims stuff and now I'm a little worried because I never received an email telling me that I had papers waiting for me to view on the site because they make you file electronically now. I have received every other notification so is there anything that I can do because I failed to appear or am I going to get stuck paying that do you think? I just got a paper saying I wasn't there basically they haven't made a judgement yet at all! And if it is too late to counterclaim can I start a new claim against him? I'm sorry I guess that's more than one question but anything that you have to say could really help
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I also have not received my deposit nor a certified letter stating why he is keeping it! What I know about him now, he'll try to keep it for unpaid rent! But doesn't he still have to send me a detailed letter on why he is keeping it for sure? I definitely left the place looking better than it did when I moved in!!! I took a video walking thru the entire house the last night we were there... Because he couldn't meet us for a walk thru... I figured he had every intention of keeping it! It won't be for any damages! I had anxiety so bad and the stress was making me sick! How can landlords get away with this stuff? How do I go about getting my deposit then?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Posted by JustAnswer at customer's request) Hello. I would like to request the following Expert Service(s) from you: Live Phone Call. Let me know if you need more information, or send me the service offer(s) so we can proceed.
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

Please let me know if you are still need an answer. Thank you.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I have been waiting a while for an answer... Yes I still need answers! Thank you!
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

First, I am sorry to hear about your situation, especially considering you were dealing with a new baby. I look forward to assisting you but I first need to make sure I understand your question so that I can answer it.

1. You stated that you missed a court date. What was the court date for? You stated that he already evicted you and so I am trying to determine what the court date was for.

2. When was the landlord's original suit filed? Did you already go to court on that suit?

3. You mention a security deposit. Are you saying that he never sent you a letter stating that he was keeping the deposit and why?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
As I mentioned.... The court date or "appearance" was for a money judgement he served to our home at the time. I received notice that I wasn't there but never was notified of that even taking place. I believe it had something to do with mediation... I am going to try to attach the document... He is unable to actually include my fiance in the matter because his signature was not on the papers that were served to us. I was the only one who signed I guess. I received notice of that also. I'm a stay at home mom that never had income while we lived there but do understand that I was on the lease. On Oct. 2 he served the 3 and 7 day notice and I believe within a couple more days he had the money judgement served. We did appear for court on that issue and moved out the 29th of Oct. All court correspondence is done online and the efiles I have received aren't real clear to me. But I was not sent a notice of Nov 18th date. Now in the meantime we wanted to counter claim because of his illegal entries into to the home on 2 occasions and the money I lost out on while we lived without a frig! And then finally... No we never received our deposit back nor a notice or letter as to why he didn't return it.
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

1. I'm sorry but I don't understand what you mean when you say that the court date was for a money judgment. The only way to get a judgment is if court proceedings have already been started and you either didn't show up for the court date or lost. Only then would the plaintiff (the landlord in this case) be able to get a judgment. Therefore, I am trying to understand what you mean when you say that he served you a judgment. Do you mean that he served you a summons? When was this? What was the date of the court hearing that you missed?

2. Just to make sure I am following your facts, you are saying that he served you with eviction papers on October 2, correct? When did you go to court on that? Did you lose the case?

Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

I think I may understand what happened here. It looks like he filed two suits against you, correct? One was the eviction which he was granted and the other one was a lawsuit of some kind. You need to read that Complaint to find out why he is seeking damages. The Nov 18th date that you missed was a pretrial conference. You need to file a notice/motion with the court informing them of why you missed the date. Be sure that you give a good reason. You also need to ask the court to set a new date. At the same time, you can file your counterclaim. Remember that you have to serve the defendant as well. The big problem that you will have here is that it looks like the landlord did win the eviction against you and so that means that he proved to the court that you were not paying rent and he might therefore be keeping the security deposit for that reason - as rent owed. You need to read through all of the court documents and as soon as possible file the papers with the court that I have mentioned above.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
You are not giving me any information that I don't already know because I have already told you that much! And I am asking you if he needed to notify me of why he was keeping the deposit in writing? You are asking me for information that I have already given you... if you are not completely reading what the information is telling you that I am sending, I will never get any direct answers! Did you happen to get the attachment that I sent along with the information? I feel like you completely don't understand what's going on and I went into great detail at the beginning of contacting you about the circumstances
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

I apologize if you did not understand my previous response. I will try to word it a different way. If he sued you for nonpayment of rent and won (which is what you have told me), then there would not be any security deposit to return to you. An eviction is granted when the tenant has not paid rent. You stated that the landlord had his eviction granted by the court. Therefore, there is no security deposit to return if the court agreed that you were behind in your rent. Now, had there been no eviction, then the law in Iowa would require that you send in writing your forwarding address to the landlord. The landlord then has 30 days from the receipt of that letter to either return your deposit or send you an itemized list of what he is withholding and why.

The only attachments that you posted were a blank counterclaim form and a notice of default. The reason I needed more information from you is that the courts and the law use very specific language. You told me that he served you with a judgment but you don't get a judgment until you've been to court. It wasn't until I looked the default notice that you posted that I realized that he sued you twice and not once. He received a judgment in the eviction but not yet in the second lawsuit. The court date that you missed was not a trial but a pretrial conference.

Please let me know if you now understand my answer to the security deposit issue.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do understand but I am reading a landlord-tenant handbook with the laws in it and it states in Iowa that he needs to give me a written statement regardless of whether I was evicted or not I guess I was trying to verify that... If I was never served or notified of that date on November 18th then how did they expect me to be there? I think what we are going to do is my fiance is going to file a completely separate claim against him on his own. From what I have read he is not to enter the home like he did and I have a lot of proof of everything that happened while I live there. I'm not sure that a counterclaim would even look good at this point! But the papers that he served me with a couple days after the eviction notice says money judgment right on the top of it! But from my understanding that basically means he's taking me to small claims court am I correct?
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

Don't forget that unpaid rent is not the only reason for an eviction. If the eviction is for other reasons, then yes, the landlord has to give the tenant back their security deposit. Also keep in mind that the 30 days doesn't start until you give the landlord written directions and a forwarding address.

Did you provide the court with your new address after you moved out in October? You say that you weren't served but the court apparently believes you were served. My guess is that they mailed it to your old address and you either didn't give the court your new address or you did not have a forwarding order in place with the post office. In this case, you should add that to your notice to the court - that you did not receive service of the pre-trial conference.

I thought you stated that your fiance wasn't on the lease at all? If he was not on the lease, I'm not sure what kind of lawsuit you are thinking that he could file against the landlord.

Yes, it sounds like the second lawsuit was one in which he was requesting a monetary judgment.

Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

And yes, the current claim is in Small Claims Court.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I actually never said he wasn't on the lease I said he wasn't physically served with the papers for this money judgement and didn't sign anything that he had gotten served. Therefore I was forwarded a document that basically said he was excused from the case altogether! Because and it had been 30 days since he had filed before they figured out I don't know exactly what that means but I do know under whatever law code they had in there that he couldn't be sued along with me.... This all started because the landlord would not take care of any issues that were going on with needed repairs! After months of handing over rent (because I knew I couldn't with old it for that reason) and him still not taking care of a major mold and mildew issue I asked if we could get out of the lease and at the end of Sept we had a verbal agreement we would be excused from the rest of that lease! About 4 days later he sent papers over about evicting us! It's truly sad what Landlords can get away with these days! I was very careful and saved every text message from him and kept records of everything that went on with him! Then he completely lied in court and said we were behind in rent for September and that wasn't true at all a matter of fact he was having those papers served probably before we had a chance to pay October! He had always come over to get the rent on his own before and did not show up on the 1st and I got those papers on the 2nd! It basically boils down to them being able to treat you anyway they want and keep collecting money! He entered our house while we were sleeping yelling our names from our kitchen... what kind of Landlord does that? And gets away with it? I have plenty of documentation from his messages stating he was going to fix something and then he wasn't and it went on for over four months! I had to bring my newborn baby home to a house with possible health issues! So I do feel like if my fiance wanted to take him to small claims he has plenty of reason and documentation to back it up!
Expert:  MDLawyer replied 1 year ago.

I apologize if there was miscommunication. You had stated that he could not include your fiance because he didn't sign. I assumed you were talking about the lease. If your fiance was on the lease, then yes, the landlord could still have included him. I'm trying to follow which papers you are talking about since there are many documents that we are discussing. It does not make sense that the landlord would drop your fiance from the case if he is also on the lease. He would have needed to have included the both of you on an eviction. Please remember that I don't have copies of any of the documents that you were served with and so I can only go by what you are telling me. However, I can tell you that if your fiance was on the lease, it doesn't make sense that he was not included in the lawsuit. However, you have not told me what the landlord is seeking monetary damages for. If it is for damage to the apartment or damages relating to the lease, he should have been included.

With respect to rent, if you had proof that you had paid September and October rent, did you present that evidence to the court?

You are correct that a landlord cannot simply barge into a tenant's house. That is what a counterclaim would be for.

Do you have the actual complaint/summons in front of you - the one seeking monetary damages? If you do, can you tell me exactly what it states? Perhaps it would be easier if I knew that information instead of my simply guessing at what it is about. Thank you.

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