Iowa Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Iowa Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: April 24, 2023

Tenants in Iowa have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must properly notify the landlord in writing and allow seven days for the repairs to be made.

Iowa Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs

Iowa landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:

  • Plumbing.
  • Heating.
  • Hot running water.
  • Garbage removal.
  • Provided appliances.
  • Common areas.
  • Smoke alarms and (where required) CO detectors.
  • Anything that impacts health, safety, or habitability.

If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Iowa?

Iowa tenants must repair damage they cause deliberately or negligently. If it’s not an emergency, tenants can usually wait until the landlord asks in writing for repairs. Note: a landlord waives his right to cancel the lease if he doesn’t act after tenants fail to repair damage they’ve caused.

On a case by case basis, the landlord and tenant can bargain to make a separate contract for the tenant to handle specific maintenance. For single-family homes only, this can include the basic obligations of garbage and hot water.

Requesting Repairs in Iowa

Iowa tenants must request repairs by giving the landlord written notice of the issue that needs fixing. To reserve the relevant legal options, the tenant must also state actions they might take if the landlord does not make timely repairs, such as canceling the lease altogether.

An example of language a tenant might use to state these intentions is: “If the issue isn’t fixed, the renter may exercise his right to cancel the rental agreement seven or more days from today.

How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Iowa?

Iowa landlords have seven days to make repairs after getting a written request, unless there’s a provable reason that remedying the issue isn’t possible within that period of time.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Iowa?

Iowa landlords cannot refuse to make repairs that are their responsibility. However, the landlord’s refusal to repair does not excuse a renter failing to keep the terms of the rental agreement. For example, a landlord who fails to repair can still evict for a default on rent.

Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Iowa?

Iowa landlords are not required to pay for alternative accommodation while they conduct repairs. However, if there’s a repair issue so severe that it forces the tenant off the rental property, the tenant can usually choose to cancel the rental agreement within 14 days and stop paying rent.

Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Iowa

Iowa tenants can cancel the rental agreement if the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs. They can also sue for damages or get an injunction to force repairs, recovering attorney fees in all cases.

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Iowa?

Iowa tenants can’t withhold rent payments. Instead, they are allowed to recover overpayment of rent through a court action.

Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Iowa?

Iowa tenants can repair and deduct the cost of repairs, by meeting the following conditions:

  • The total cost to fix the issue is one month’s rent or less.
  • The tenant has given the landlord written notice of the intention to repair and deduct.
  • The landlord still hasn’t fixed the issue seven days after the written notice.

Documenting the written notice and exact deducted repair cost is extremely important, as the landlord can otherwise claim the tenant has failed to pay all owed rent and begin the eviction process.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Iowa?

Iowa tenants can break leases seven days after written notice, for failure to repair issues that weren’t the tenant’s responsibility or other uncorrected breaches of the rental agreement.

Tenants can also move out and break the lease immediately, when the property is destroyed or severely damaged by an action that wasn’t the tenant’s fault (for example, a hurricane).

Can the Tenant Sue in Iowa?

Iowa tenants can sue to force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord hasn’t made timely repairs after notice.

Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Iowa?

Iowa tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could cancel the rental agreement, or sue to force repairs.

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Landlord Retaliation in Iowa

It’s illegal for Iowa landlords to retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions in the past year:

  • Complaining to the landlord or government about habitability of the premises
  • Participating in a tenant organization.

The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.

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