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:
Hot running water.
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.
Iowa tenants must repairdamage 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 bygiving the landlord written noticeof 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 haveseven daysto 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 landlordscannot refuse to make repairsthat 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 arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile 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 cancancel the rental agreementif the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs. They can alsosue for damagesorget an injunctionto force repairs, recovering attorney fees in all cases.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Iowa?
Iowa tenantscan’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 tenantscan repair and deductthe 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 tenantscan break leases seven daysafterwritten 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 tenantscan sueto 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 tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat 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.
It’s illegal for Iowa landlords to retaliate withraised rent,reduced services,orthreatened evictionagainst 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.
“Except as provided in this chapter, if there is a material noncompliance by the landlord
with the rental agreement or a noncompliance with section 562A.15 [landlord duties] materially affecting health and safety, the tenant may elect to commence an action under this section and shall deliver a written notice to the landlord specifying the acts and omissions constituting the breach and that the rental agreement will terminate upon a date not less than seven days after receipt of the notice if the breach is not remedied in seven days[.]”
“The landlord shall: (1) Comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety. (2) Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition. (3) Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition. … (4) Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord. (5) Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences, accessible to all tenants, for the central collection and removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste incidental to the occupancy of the dwelling unit and arrange for their removal. (6) Supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat…”
“The tenant shall… Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove a part of the premises or knowingly permit a person to do so. If damage, defacement, alteration, or destruction of property by the tenant is intentional, the tenant may be criminally charged with criminal mischief pursuant to chapter 716.”
“Except as provided in this chapter, the landlord may recover damages and obtain injunctive relief for noncompliance by the tenant with the rental agreement or section 562A.17 [tenant obligation to maintain premises] unless the tenant demonstrates affirmatively that the tenant has exercised due diligence and effort to remedy any noncompliance, and that the tenant’s failure to remedy any noncompliance was due to circumstances beyond the tenant’s control. If the tenant’s noncompliance is willful, the landlord may recover reasonable attorney fees.”
“Acceptance of performance by the tenant that varies from the terms of the rental agreement or rules subsequently adopted by the landlord constitutes a waiver of the landlord’s right to terminate the rental agreement for that breach.”
“2. The landlord and tenant of a single family residence may agree in writing that the tenant perform the landlord’s duties specified in subsection 1, paragraph “a”, subparagraphs (5) and (6) [garbage and hot water], and also specified repairs, maintenance tasks, alterations, and remodeling, but only if the transaction is entered into in good faith.
“3. The landlord and tenant of a dwelling unit other than a single family residence may agree that the tenant is to perform specified repairs, maintenance tasks, alterations, or remodeling only: a. If the agreement of the parties is entered into in good faith and is set forth in a separate writing signed by the parties and supported by adequate consideration; b. If the agreement does not diminish or affect the obligation of the landlord to other tenants in the premises.”
“Except as provided in this chapter, the tenant may recover damages and obtain injunctive relief for any noncompliance by the landlord with the rental agreement or section 562A.15 [landlord’s obligation to maintain premises] unless the landlord demonstrates affirmatively that the landlord has exercised due diligence and effort to remedy any noncompliance, and that any failure by the landlord to remedy any noncompliance was due to circumstances reasonably beyond the control of the landlord. If the landlord’s noncompliance is willful the tenant may recover reasonable attorney fees.”
“If the dwelling unit or premises are damaged or destroyed by fire or casualty to an extent that enjoyment of the dwelling unit is substantially impaired, the tenant may: Immediately vacate the premises and notify the landlord in writing within fourteen days of the tenant’s intention to terminate the rental agreement, in which case the rental agreement terminates as of the date of vacating.”
“In [eviction]… proof by the tenant of the following shall be a defense… and the amounts… deducted from the amount claimed by the landlord as unpaid rent: a. That the landlord failed to comply either with the rental agreement or with section 562A.15 [landlord obligation to maintain premises]; and b. That the tenant notified the landlord at least seven days prior to the due date of the tenant’s rent payment of the tenant’s intention to correct the condition constituting the breach referred to in paragraph ‘a’ at the landlord’s expense; and c. That the reasonable cost of correcting the condition constituting the breach is equal to or less than one month’s periodic rent; and d. That the tenant in good faith caused the condition constituting the breach to be corrected prior to receipt of written notice of the landlord’s intention to terminate the rental agreement for nonpayment of rent.”
“[T]he landlord impliedly warrants at the outset of the lease that there are no latent defects in facilities and utilities vital to the use of the premises for residential purposes and that these essential features shall remain during the entire term in such condition to maintain the habitability of the dwelling. Further, the implied warranty we perceive in the lease situation is a representation there neither is nor shall be during the term a violation of applicable housing law, ordinance or regulation which shall render the premises unsafe, or unsanitary and unfit for living therein.”
“Except as provided in this section, a landlord may not retaliate by increasing rent or decreasing services or by bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession after: a. The tenant has complained to a governmental agency charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building or housing code of a violation applicable to the premises materially affecting health and safety; b. The tenant has complained to the landlord of a violation under section 562A.15 [Landlord’s obligation to maintain premises]; or c. The tenant has organized or become a member of a tenants’ union or similar organization.”
“If the landlord acts in violation of subsection 1 of this section, the tenant may recover from the landlord the actual damages sustained by the tenant and reasonable attorney fees, and has a defense in action against the landlord for possession. In an action by or against the tenant, evidence of a good-faith complaint within one year prior to the alleged act of retaliation creates a presumption that the landlord’s conduct was in retaliation. The presumption does not arise if the tenant made the complaint after notice of a proposed rent increase or diminution of services. Evidence by the landlord that legitimate costs and charges of owning, maintaining or operating a dwelling unit have increased shall be a defense against the presumption of retaliation when a rent increase is commensurate with the increase in costs and charges.”
“Notwithstanding subsections 1 and 2 of this section [retaliation prohibited], a landlord may bring an action for possession if: a. The violation of the applicable building or housing code was caused primarily by lack of reasonable care by the tenant or other person in the tenant’s household or upon the premises with the tenant’s consent; b. The tenant is in default in rent; or c. Compliance with the applicable building or housing code requires alteration, remodeling, or demolition which would effectively deprive the tenant of use of the dwelling unit. The maintenance of the action does not release the landlord from liability under section 562A.21, subsection 2.”