Dubuque Renters’ Union

Join us in standing up for the rights and interests of renters!

The Dubuque Renters’ Union is a group of renters and their allies who seek to help area tenants self-advocate their interests and defend their rights. We are currently going door to door to talk with tenants about their needs and experiences, and we offer one-on-one assistance to reclaim illegally withheld security deposits, deliver notices to landlords on behalf of tenants, and connect tenants up with legal assistance. 

Please support our current campaign.

On November 21, we put out a call to raise $200 to help us advance an ongoing campaign to hold an area landlord/property manager accountable. We have met our goal! As a result, a tenant of that landlord who was without water for almost two months now has water in time for Thanksgiving, and the possibility of successful legal action is greatly increased. If you would like to help fund our continued work, please make a $10 donation. (Updated 11/22/2017)

What services can the union offer to renters right now?

  • Photograph and document the state of your apartment or house when you move in. This provides you with a permanent record, which you can use to justify the return of your security deposit when you move out. Landlords are not allowed to deduct repair costs for normal wear and tear on a unit, but you need documentation to prove that wear and tear was normal and not excessive. We provide you with a copy of the files and we store a secured backup copy for later use. 
  • Print, deliver, and keep on record any letters you need to send to your landlord, such as letters demanding repairs. It is better to have a third-party (such as one of our union representatives) hand deliver letters, since they can then attest to delivery in court, if need be.
  • Connect you up with legal representation and provide free transportation if you need it.
  • Engage in direct action against landlords who don’t respect their tenants’ rights. This can include picketing outside their business office or home. We have a large group of people who are members of our solidarity network; they are willing to show up where we need them and when we need them.
  • Help you create a renters’ association for the tenants living in a single complex. If you live in an apartment building, it can be very useful for everyone in the building to form an association, both for purposes of resolving concerns among one another and for collectively taking concerns to your landlord. This is your legal right; your landlord cannot retaliate against you for organizing. 

What will the renters’ union do in the future?

  • Host education events concerning legal rights and obligations.
  • Organize walk-in legal clinics.
  • Provide community organizing training to make the union strong.
  • Lobby city and state officials on behalf of all tenants.

Why do renters need to unionize?

  • The landlords in Dubuque are organized; renters should be as well. Landlords in the area can be members of the Dubuque Area Landlords Association (DALA). They understand that they can more effectively advance their interests by allying with one another. We can too!
  • The interests of landlords are at odds with the interests of renters. Renters want affordable and safe housing. Landlords want to raise rents as high as possible. The Dubuque Landlords Association is very explicit about this fact. On their website, they say that “a full house in poker is a good hand, but a full house in the rental business may mean your rents are too low.” 
  • Renters need to stand in solidarity with one another and advocate their class interests. We know what our needs and interests are. We cannot rely on the goodwill of our landlords or well-meaning folks in power (who themselves are often members of the owning class).

For more information about how and why we are pursuing solidarity organizing for renters’ rights, read Christine Darr’s post, “Housing Solidarity in Dubuque.”

Who can be part of the union?

  • Anyone who pays rent to a landlord can be a member.
  • People who don’t pay rent but aren’t landlords may be allies within the union.
  • No landlords or spouses of landlords can be members.

Who is in charge of the union?

  • Right now, the union is being organized and formed. Members of the Dubuque Democratic Socialists are spearheading this initiative, but we’d love for you to join us and take up a leadership role!
  • It is very important that the union be democratically led by its members. Our officers will be elected by the tenant-members to execute the decisions of the members. 

Can my landlord retaliate against me if I join a union?

  • No! Iowa law prevents a landlord from retaliating against tenants who are members of a renters union or association.

Here’s how you can join and get involved…

Contact the organizers and let us know you want to join the fight! We’ll get you involved right away. 

If you spoke with one of our canvassers, and they gave you their phone number, you can contact them. Otherwise, you can use the group contacts:

  • Email: Dubuque.DSA@gmail.com
  • Phone or text: (563) 845-2858