|Return Deadline||30 Days|
|Penalty for Late Return||Deposit + 2x Rent + Actual Damages + Attorneys’ Fees|
For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Iowa, click here.
Security Deposit Deductions in Iowa
In Iowa, the following things can be deducted from security deposits:
- Unpaid rent
- Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
- Eviction expenses and other costs to acquire possession
- Unpaid funds or fees outlined in the lease (e.g. utilities, late fees)
Most states, such as Iowa, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.
If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.
What is Considered Normal Wear & Tear vs Damage in Iowa?
Normal wear and tear is damage that is expected when a rental unit is used in a normal way, such as gently worn carpets and faded walls. Damage is the destruction caused by abusive or negligent use of a rental unit, like ripped carpets and heavily stained walls.
“Normal wear and tear” is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.
- Gently worn carpets
- Lightly scratched glass
- Faded paint and flooring
- Lightly dirtied grout
- Loose door handles
- Stained bath fixtures
“Damage” means destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant during the course of the tenancy.
- Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
- Broken tiles or windows
- Holes in the wall
- Missing fixtures
Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Iowa?
Yes, landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.
Some wear and tear on a rental unit’s carpet is expected after normal day-to-day use of the property. For example, carpets typically become discolored, indented, or gently worn, when used in a normal way. However, non-typical, abusive use of carpet results in rips, visible stains, or burns. Landlords have the right to charge the tenant for the replacement of the carpet in areas where serious damage has occurred.
Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Iowa?
Yes, landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.
Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures. However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.
Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Iowa?
Landlords in Iowa can charge a cleaning fee if tenants cause damage that requires cleaning (e.g. wine stains on the carpet). Landlords cannot charge routine cleaning fees, like steam cleaning the carpet after every tenancy.
Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Iowa?
Yes, in Iowa, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:
- Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
- Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
- Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way
Normal wear includes minor scrapes from daily use, fading due to sunlight, or minor cracks in the original paint. Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.
Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Iowa?
Iowa law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.
Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.
Security Deposit Returns in Iowa
Landlords must return a security deposit with a written statement of deductions, if any, by mail to the tenant’s forwarding address no later than 30 days after the lease term ends and the tenant provides their forwarding address or delivery instructions.
How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Iowa?
Iowa landlords have 30 days after the lease term ends and the tenant provides their forwarding address or delivery instructions to return any remaining portion of a security deposit.
If a tenant fails to provide a forwarding address or delivery instructions within one year after the lease term ends, they forfeit their right to the deposit.
Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Iowa?
Landlords in Iowa are not required to hold security deposits in interest-bearing accounts. If they choose to do so, the interest that accrues during the first five years of the tenancy belongs to the landlord.
If a security deposit is held in an interest-bearing account for more than five years, any interest that accrues during the sixth and later years belongs to the tenant.
How Do Landlords Give Notice / What Information Do They Have to Provide in Iowa?
If deductions are to be made from the security deposit, a written statement of deductions must be sent by mail to the tenant’s forwarding address.
Security Deposit Disputes in Iowa
If landlords in bad faith fail to return the security deposit or provide a written statement of deductions, if any, within the required time period, tenants can file for the return of the security deposit plus damages in court up to twice the monthly rental payment plus actual damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:
- Deductions that are not mentioned in the lease agreement
- Failure to hold the security deposit in a financial account
- Unreasonable deductions
How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Iowa?
If a landlord fails to perform their obligations regarding a security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court if the amount of damages is less than $6,500. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file a civil case in the District Court.
A small claims case regarding the return of a security deposit must be filed within 5 or 10 years depending on whether the lease agreement was oral or written.
Cases are filed in the Small Claims Court in the county where the property is located. An attorney is not required but permitted. The filing fee is $95 plus the cost of service.
Our website provides more information about the process of filing a dispute in Small Claims Court.
- 1 IA Code § 562A.12
The landlord may withhold from the rental deposit…to remedy a tenant’s default in the payment of rent or of other funds due to theSource Link
landlord pursuant to the rental agreement…to restore the dwelling unit…to recover expenses incurred in acquiring possession of the premises…
- 2 IA Code § 562A.12
The landlord may withhold from the rental deposit only such amountsSource Link
as are reasonably necessary…
- 3 IA Code § 562A.12
A landlord shall, within thirty days from the date of termination of the tenancy and receipt of the tenant’s mailing address or delivery instructions, return the rental deposit to the tenant…Source Link
- 4 IA Code § 562A.12
If no mailing address or instructionsSource Link
are provided to the landlord within one year from the termination of the tenancy the rental deposit shall revert to the landlord and the tenant will be deemed to have forfeited all rights
to the rental deposit.
- 5 IA Code § 562A.12
Any interest earned on a rental deposit during the first five years of a tenancy shall be the property of the landlord.Source Link
- 6 IA Code § 562A.12
A landlord shall…return the rental deposit…or furnish to the tenant a written statement showing the specific reason for withholding of the rental deposit or any portion thereof.Source Link
- 7 IA Code § 562A.12
A landlord who fails to provide a written statement within thirty days…shall forfeit all rights to withhold any portion of the rental deposit.Source Link
- 8 IA Code § 562A.12
The bad-faith retention of a deposit by a landlord, or any portion of the rental deposit…shall subject the landlord to punitive damages not to exceed twiceSource Link
the monthly rental payment in addition to actual damages.
- 9 IA Code § 562A.12
The court may, in any action on a rental agreement, award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.Source Link
- 10 IA Code § 631.1
The following actions or claims are small claims…acivil action for a money judgment where the amount in controversy is six thousand five hundred dollars or less…Source Link