The Ames Tenants Union is petitioning an apartment complex for better living conditions, adjustment of rental rates and the restructuring of the marketing and maintenance budgets.

Members of the Ames Tenants Union visited the apartment complex, The Madison, on Nov. 14 to collect signatures for a petition demanding the company begin negotiations regarding their concerns within seven days of receiving the petition or face a list of consequences.

The Ames Tenants Union delivered the petition to The Madison on Wednesday night with signatures from 103 residents.

Burris 1

Preston Burris reviews the 103 signatures on the Ames Tenant Union's petition at The Madison apartment complex.

In a section labeled “Abbreviated Petition to The Madison,” the Ames Tenants Union addressed their concerns to The Madison: “We pay you rent. We pay you in excess of the amount it costs you to maintain these premises, so that we receive the shelter and maintenance appropriate to people who need a place to live.

We do this because you have more housing than you need, and we have less than we need. You profit off of what we make and earn, and you do not carry your end of the deal.”

Ames Tenants Union petition pt. 1
Ames Tenants Union petition pt. 2

According to video footage submitted to the Daily by the Ames Tenants Union, members of the tenants union have requested that all negotiations be done in a “neutral space” and the “time and place must be publicized to all tenants.”

Preston Burris, co-chair of the Ames Tenants Union and a resident of The Madison, said this is because they want all tenants to have an opportunity to be involved in negotiations.

When dropping off the petition, a representative of the tenants union told Erin Mahone, an operations specialist for Campus Life & Style — the company that operates The Madison — that members of the tenants union have reserved a space at Parks Library from 3 to 5 p.m. on Friday for possible negotiations.

The representative from the tenants union told Mahone that any responses need to publicized to all tenants, otherwise they would not consider them legitimate. To this end, members of the Ames Tenants Union did not provide Mahone with any contact information.

The following is from the video provided to the Daily of members of the Ames Tenants Union delivering their petition to Mahone at The Madison’s office:

The Madison has not agreed to the meeting at Parks Library.

“We take this correspondence seriously and want to hear from those that call us home,” Jessica Nix, senior vice president of marketing and leasing at Campus Life & Style, said in a statement to the Daily. “While we respect the right for anyone to congregate and discuss, we feel that we serve our customers best individually, catering to their specific areas of concern.”

Jessica Nix statement

Jessica Nix, senior vice president of marketing and leasing at Campus Life & Style, provided a statement to the Daily regarding the Ames Tenants Union's petition of The Madison.

One of the consequences listed in the petition is “censure of The Madison by the Student Government of Iowa State University.”

Student Government Director of Residency Dozmen Lee said that he did not expressly agree to include this consequence in the petition and would take some time to talk to The Madison before making a decision on how to move forward.

“We recognize that concern is being raised within the students living in the Madison,” Lee said in a statement to the Daily. “The residency committee’s goal has, is, and always will be advocating for students. We plan to set up a time to meet with the Madison to see what we can do to resolve these concerns.”

The Ames Tenants Union’s demands include “a new lease provision requiring 48 hours’ notice for management or maintenance entry, via phone, email, clip on door and by mail. This is only to be waived in case of emergency, as in accordance with Iowa Code 562a.19.”

According to Iowa Code 562a.19, “Except in case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, the landlord shall give the tenant at least twenty-four hours’ notice of the landlord’s intent to enter and enter only at reasonable times.”

According to photos and videos submitted to the Daily from the Ames Tenants Union, a member of The Madison’s maintenance staff entered the unit of a resident and member of the tenants union without providing notice.

The resident’s lease states that “we and the Manager, and our respective agents, employees, repairers, services and representatives, may enter the Leased Premises at reasonable times without notice” for maintenance requests, housekeeping, leasing, to show the apartment or other reasons “reasonably connected with Landlord’s interest in the Premises.”

However, Michael Levine, a legal consultant from Student Legal Services, said this provision in the lease may not be enforceable because of Iowa Code 562a.11.

Iowa Code 562a.11 states that a rental agreement shall not provide that a tenant or landlord forego rights or remedies under Chapter 562a in the Iowa Code, which includes 562a.19.

“I think the gist of it is if the rental agreement has the effect of having them agreeing to or waiving or foregoing rights that they have under this chapter, it is unenforceable,” Levine said.

Nix said she has not been aware of this issue at The Madison, but she wants The Madison’s staff to have the ability to work with residents one-on-one.

Burris said tenants are also frustrated with ignored maintenance issues and a perceived disparity in the marketing and maintenance budgets.

Burris 3

Preston Burris has helped lead the Ames Tenant Union as they petitioned The Madison throughout November.

“We have been talking with several people who live at The Madison about issues they’ve been having,” Burris said. “There’s this one building that has been missing an outer door for over a year, for example, so everyone in the building has been paying excessive amounts in utilities, and this has been ignored by The Madison. The proper maintenance requests have been put in, and they’ve just been ignored.”

The first item on their petition demands “A new front door for Building 10, which has had the front door missing for months, and a new inner door for Building 1, within 30 days.”

Burris said the front door to Building 10 was still missing when they initiated the petition.

Burris and Nix both confirmed the door was replaced some time between Nov. 14 and Wednesday, but neither could confirm the exact date.

Nix cited the door being replaced as an example of “something that was on [The Madison’s] regular maintenance list and was fixed because it was in process.”

Another item demands “The end of superfluous expenses such as pizza parties, raffles and gift cards in lieu of rental reductions. A reduction in the marketing budget and an expansion in expenses in maintenance.”

Burris said the Ames Tenants Union has not seen a copy of The Madison’s budget structure, describing the assessment as “more of just intuitive.”

“Maintenance is being ignored whereas we’re seeing all this decadent stuff they’re putting on for marketing,” Burris said.

Nix said residents are always a top priority for The Madison.

According to Nix’s statement, “again, we care about our residents, and we work with our residents when they have a need. We look forward to speaking with each soon to ensure they have a positive experience while living with us.”

The Ames Tenants Union was formed this year and is composed of ISU students and other members of the Ames community.

“We are an organization that’s dedicated to representing tenant interests in opposition to landlord interests,” Burris said. “We’ve done a lot of work on educating tenants on illegal lease provisions that are still very common in Ames. We’ve helped people get their security deposits back when they’ve been unfairly denied, and we hope to work on more specific issues like The Madison in the future."

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