Dubuque Renters’ Union

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.

What services can the union offer to renters?

  • 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. 

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?

  • DRU is a democratically structured, member-run solidarity network.
  • We have three elected officers: Naomi Clark, Chair; Kalee Kerper, Vice Chair; and Bri Moss, Secretary-Treasurer.

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.

Where can I find out about my legal rights as a renter?


Here’s how you can join and get involved…

Anyone who is a tenant or presently homeless may apply for membership in the union. Members have full voting rights within our democratically run organization. To apply for membership, visit bit.ly/DRU-Member

A non-renter (such as an owner-occupier) who is not a landlord or property manager may apply to be an ally in the union. While allies do not have voting rights, they can otherwise participate in the union, attend meetings, and serve as union stewards. To apply for allyship, visit bit.ly/DRU-Ally

Before applying, we encourage you to review the Dubuque Renters’ Union Bylaws: bit.ly/DRU-Bylaws

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