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FAQ: “Help my toilet is broken and my landlord isn’t responding!”

So maybe there aren’t broken toilets all over Des Moines, but we do get many calls from renters asking how they can better communicate and deal with landlords who are slow or not responding to repair requests. 

The first step is to review your lease and other documents from your landlord to ensure that you are following the procedures in place for reporting repair and maintenance issues.  Not all repair requests start with a phone call or an email.  If your unit is part of a large property management organization, you may need to fill out an online form.  For others, they do want a phone call or email, but you may have to contact a specific person – not necessarily the onsite property manager.  And, the reality is, some landlords simply don’t have a process.  Important note: document how you are communicating your repair need.  Write down how, when and who you are trying to reach, as well as, what, if any response, you have received. Keep dated and signed copies of all communication, if possible!

If your landlord has not responded to or completed repairs within 7-10 days, it may be time to seek other avenues.  This may mean contacting the owner or the supervisor rather than the property manager to move the process along.  Be mindful, however, that not all repairs can be made quickly.  If the repair includes parts that need to be ordered, you may have to wait a few days.  If the landlord/maintenance professional/owner is communicating with you, you are well on your way to resolving this in a timely and efficient manner.

In the unlikely event that you haven’t made progress in your request for repair, you also have the right to call the code enforcement office for the city or county in which you live to inquire about what, if anything, they might be able to do.  If you have a valid concern, the local code enforcement office will likely have procedures that they want you to follow in making a report.  Remember, this is an action of last resort and should only be considered if you have had little or no productive conversations with the person responsible for caring for your unit.

Have questions about your specific circumstance? We have housing counselors available to talk with you.  They can be reached at 515.243.1277.  Calls are typically returned within 24 hours Monday – Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the order they were received.  We also have a Rental Housing Handbook, which offers tenants and landlords basic information about renting, rental agreements, rental deposits, eviction actions, state and local housing laws, and a summary of tenant and landlord rental housing rights and responsibilities.

Please note: this article and the Rental Housing Handbook are intended only for informational purposes and not a substitute for legal advice

Housing Counseling helps hundreds across the community

While we count each of our services as important, it could be argued that our Counseling Services just may be our most popular and most necessary.  

In the 2017 calendar year, HOME, Inc. responded to 2,293 calls and 89% of those surveyed indicated that the resources, information and counseling provided to them helped them resolve their housing issue. Tenant rental counseling accounted for 83% of those calls with 1,811 calls serving 1,145 individual clients. 

Calls come from all areas - homeowners, potential homeowners, renters and landlords.  Government agencies use this as a resource for answering questions about how to help individual clients. This ensures our topics cover a lot of areas.  For example, our calls include:
  • Renters wanting to understand their rights in requesting maintenance and repairs.
  • Helping landlords find creative solutions to tenant issues outside of the court, code enforcement or small claims processes. 
  • Potential homeowners seeking information about how to move from rental to homeownership.
  • Near homeless families and individuals seeking resources. 
For more information about our counseling services, contact us at 515-243-1277, option 1.  Our office hours are Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - Noon and 1 - 4 p.m. Our voicemail is available 24/7 and calls are returned in the order received. For calls received Monday - Thursday, we typically will return calls within 24 hours.

Success Story: Overcoming a horrific life to find self sufficiency

Jamie is a 40 year-old single mom who has overcome many challenges throughout her life.  Parental neglect, abuse and drug addiction were contributing factors to why she quit school in the 5th grade. She ran away when turmoil in her home escalated, and at the age of 14 she found herself living on the streets. 


Due to Jamie's inability to read or write she couldn't find traditional work, so in her own words she "did what I had to do to survive" on the streets. It didn't take long before she started she suffered the reality of her difficult life. She had history of substance abuse, domestic violence, repeated arrests and incarceration, homelessness, multiple pregnancies that resulted in the termination of parental rights. 


Affordable housing was just one of Jamie's concerns.


In 2013, Jamie discovered she was pregnant with her seventh child while she was incarcerated.  Through a series of events, Jamie eventually sought shelter at the Domestic Violence Center where she began to turnaround her life. She connected with many programs and resources. 


In February 2015, Jamie and HOME, Inc. were introduced when we contacted the Domestic Violence Center about the availability of a three-bedroom rental home at our Clark Commons property. This opportunity came at the right time for Jamie and her boys because it provided an affordable housing option plus integrated supportive services that would help her stay in that housing.  While Jamie was concerned that she wouldn't qualify because she had been turned down by many housing opportunities due to her barriers, she went ahead and applied. 


Jamie has been living at Clark Commons for two years.  During that time, she has continued to work with a case manager in our Integrated Services area.  Much has changed for the positive.  Jamie She has improved her credit dramatically and has obtained bank accounts and a line of credit. She has created and kept to a monthly budget, increased her income by pursuing SSDI for her special needs son.  But most importantly, she has increased her self -esteem and confidence. She is rightfully proud of her accomplishments and her ability to be self-sufficient. 

But she's not done. Jamie's future goals include continuing her sobriety, getting her GED, paying off legal fines and fees, obtaining her driver's license and eventually seeking employment when her boys attend elementary school. 

July Newsletter Now Available

The latest issue of our newsletter has arrived! 

Check out a variety of stories including one highlighting Jamie, a 40 year-old single mom who has overcome many challenges throughout her life. Using several of our services, as well as others throughout the community, she is learning how to be a responsible renter. Our executive director, Pam Carmichael, provides some thoughts on recent housing reports that paint a dismal picture for low-income housing.  We also provide an overview of our counseling activity for the past year.  

Our newsletter can be read here: