In Iowa, a rental agreement is considered valid if there is either an oral or written agreement to exchange rent for residing in a dwelling unit. According to Iowa law, (Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law Ch. 562A) this relationship comes with rights and responsibilities for tenants, such rights include repair requests, to reside in habitable property, the right to due process before an eviction and more.
Landlords also have rights, including collecting rent in a timely manner and process eviction pending a lease violation.
Note: These rights exist regardless if they are explicitly enumerated in the lease agreement or not.
Landlord Responsibilities in Iowa
In Iowa, landlords are responsible for providing habitable living space and making requested repairs in a timely manner (7 days). If they do not, then Iowa tenants have the right to take at least 2 forms of alternative action provided they provide written notice to the landlord. They can make repairs and deduct the cost of rent or they can withhold rent outright.
Iowa landlords are responsible for the following amenities:
Iowa landlords are not permitted to evict tenants as retaliation for exercising their right to habitable housing.
Tenant Responsibilities in Iowa
Apart from paying rent in a timely manner and not disturbing neighbors, Iowa tenants must:
- Keep the unit in a safe condition and free form hazard
- Abide by cleanliness standards
- Make minor repairs and maintenance
Evictions in Iowa
These are the most common reasons for pursuing eviction in Iowa:
- Nonpayment of rent – If rent is not paid, then the landlord may issue a 3-Day Notice to pay after any applicable grace period. If the tenant still does not pay then the landlord can pursue formal eviction.
- Violation of lease terms – If a lease violation occurs, landlords can issue a 7-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If the behavior is not changed within 7 days then the landlord may pursue formal eviction.
- Illegal actions – If a landlord documents some illegal activity within 1,000 ft. of the property then they may issue a 3-Day Notice to Quit. Examples of illegal activities that warrant eviction in Iowa include assault, selling/using drugs, or owning an unregistered firearm.
At-will tenants are entitled to receive at least a 30-day notice before being evicted. If those 30 days pass and the tenant has not left, the landlord can file a 3-Day Notice to Quit then file a Forcible Entry and Detainer suit.
Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants as a form of retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.
Security Deposits in Iowa
- Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – 2 months of rent
- Time Limit for Return – 30 days
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a landlord wrongfully withholds a security deposit then they may be required to pay twice the amount of the deposit.
- Allowable Deductions – Unpaid rent, repairs for damage exceeding normal wear and tear, removal fees for abandoned items.
Lease Termination in Iowa
Notice requirements. If a tenant wishes to break a lease then they must give the following amount of notice:
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
Early termination. Iowa tenants may legally break a lease for the following reasons:
- Early termination clause in lease
- Active military duty
- Uninhabitable unit
- Landlord harassment
- Illegal lease term
Iowa tenants may still have an obligation to pay rent through the rest of the term if they break the lease. Landlords are required to re-rent a unit in a “reasonable” manner, though a timeframe is not explicitly defined.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Iowa
- Rent control. Iowa law preempts any form of rent control at either a state or local level so landlords can set rental prices to whatever they want.
- Rent increases. Landlords must notify tenants at least 30 days before raising the rent but landlords do not have to give justification for raising rent.
- Rent-related fees. Landlords who charge $700 or less in rent are limited to a $12/day late fee. Landlords that charge more than $700 can charge $20 per day.
Housing Discrimination in Iowa
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied houses or homes occupied by religious organizations. Iowa also provides extra protection for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. Housing discrimination cases in Iowa are handled by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The following behaviors may be interpreted as discriminatory when directe at a member of a protected group:
- Refusing to rent or buy on a bona fide offer
- Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges
- Falsely denying unit availability
- Publishing advertisements that encourage or discourage a group of people from applying
- Refusing to provide certain financial services
- Coercing or intimidating tenants out of exercising their housing rights
- Refusing to allow certain types of guests (even those not in a protected class)
Those wishing to file a complaint can do so on the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s website here. Punishments are not published but the Commission publishes high profile cases so you can see what kind of penalties are handed down.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Iowa
Landlord Right to Entry in Iowa
Iowa landlords must provide at least 24-hours of notice before entering. Landlords and tenants often agree on specific notification policies in the lease agreement. Landlords have a right to enter without permission in emergencies that threaten the safety or well-being of the tenant.
Small Claims Court in Iowa
Iowa’s small claims court system will hear rent-related cases totaling up to $5,000 or less. Small claims courts can handle eviction cases but landlords usually file with the state courts for evictions. Disputes for written and portal leases have a 10-year and 5-year statute of limitations, respectively.
Mandatory Disclosures in Iowa
Iowa landlords are required to make 4 kinds of mandatory disclosures.
- Lead-based paint. Landlords who own properties made before 1978 must provide information about lead paint concentrations used in the building.
- Managers and Agents. Landlords must provide tenants with the names and addresses of everyone involved in owning and managing the property.
- Utility rates. Landlords must explain all utility rates before executing a lease.
- Environmental liability. Landlords must disclose if the property appears on the “comprehensive environmental response compensation and liability information system” published by the EPA.
Changing the Locks in Iowa
Iowa law does not have specific provisions forbidding tenants from changing locks. As such, tenants are assumed to have the right to change locks unless the lease expressly forbids it. Landlords cannot unilaterally change locks on tenants as a form of eviction.
Additional Resources for Iowa Renters
In addition, check your local county or municipality for additional landlord-tenant regulations. To learn more, please refer to the below digital resources.
Fair Housing Guide – This handbook, published by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, breaks down and applies all of the state’s civil rights laws that govern housing and the prevention of discrimination therein.
Small Claims Court Primer – This digital resource can help both landlords and tenants quickly understand the limitations of Iowa’s small claims court system, as well as the best ways to go about filing a case.
Legislative Guide to Landlord-Tenant Law – This guide effectively covers every dimension of landlord-tenant laws currently on the books in Iowa.