Iowa law does not grant tenants, by default, the right to sublease. Instead, they must have explicit, written consent from the landlord to do so. If such consent was not included in the lease, the landlord reserves the right to deny future requests.
Does a Tenant Need the Landlord’s Permission to Sublet in Iowa?
A tenant does need a landlord’s explicit written consent to sublet in Iowa. Consent may be given through the original lease agreement or a separately signed agreement.
Even if permission to sublet is granted, a landlord is allowed to screen potential subtenants and deny them for legally acceptable reasons.
Tenants interested in subletting should start by reviewing the lease agreement to see what language it includes about subleasing. The four most common scenarios of sublease language in a lease agreement are:
- A clause strictly prohibiting subletting
- A clause requiring a landlord’s written permission to sublease
- A clause allowing a tenant to sublease (without additional permission)
- No language or clause whatsoever about the permission to sublease
1. Lease Clause Strictly Prohibiting Subletting
“The Landlord and Tenant agree that the Tenant shall not have the express and unqualified rights to sublease the rental premise.”
A tenant may not be able to sublet because the signed lease explicitly disallows it. Therefore, a tenant would only be able to sublet if the landlord makes an amendment to the lease.
2. Lease Clause Requiring Landlord’s Permission
“The Tenant shall not assign or sublet any part of the leased premises without prior written consent of the Landlord.”’
A tenant may be able to sublet if given written permission from the landlord. However, the landlord does not have to give approval.
3. Lease Clause Allowing Tenant to Sublease Without Additional Permission
“The Landlord and Tenant agree that the Tenant shall have the express and unqualified rights to sublease the rental premise.”
A tenant may begin subletting the property without prior landlord approval if the lease specifically allows for it. They may even be able to sublet without notifying the landlord.
4. Entire Lease Containing No Mention of Subleasing
A tenant will not be able to sublet without first receiving the landlord’s permission. When asked, the landlord does not have to give consent.
Can a Landlord Prohibit a Tenant from Subletting in Iowa?
Unless prior written consent has already been granted, a landlord can prohibit a tenant from subletting in Iowa. A landlord reserves the right to deny any and all future requests from a tenant to sublease.
A denial of a prospective tenant will occur if that subtenant would be unable to meet the financial obligations associated with renting out the premises. Furthermore, a denial could occur if the landlord believes the sublessee is not reputable and could put the landlord in a worse position than before.
A landlord will be unable to prohibit subletting if the lease agreement already explicitly grants the ability to sublet. The only way a landlord could prohibit subletting in this situation would be to amend the lease agreement or sign a separate agreement, which both parties must agree to.
What Rights do Subletting Tenants have in Iowa?
A tenant who subleases (“subtenant”) has the same rights and responsibilities as the original tenant. This means the subtenant is treated the same as any other tenant under Iowa law when it comes to rights such as privacy, health, and safety standards of a rental unit and due process for an eviction.
However, when a subtenant’s rights are violated, they cannot sue the original tenant’s landlord. The subtenant can sue the original tenant, who will then in turn sue the landlord if the landlord was the one who caused the issue (and isn’t remedied in a timely manner after being properly notified).
In the event a subtenant causes any damage, the landlord will most likely subtract the cost of those damages from the original tenant’s security deposit. To recover money lost from the security deposit, the original tenant would have to bring a claim against the subtenant.
Subtenant Rights in Illegal Sublets
Subtenants in illegal sublets do not automatically have the legal right to break the terms of their sublease. Even if the landlord did not consent to the sublease, the contract may still be considered valid between the subtenant and tenant.
Legal actions against an illegal subtenant will generally take the form of an eviction. A landlord will give an illegal subtenant 7 days to vacate the premises, unless the lease states otherwise.
For those illegal subtenants that do not leave, a landlord would be able to take the tenant to Iowa District Court, where the filing fee is $95.
What are the Consequences for Illegally Subletting in Iowa?
If a tenant subleases their unit without the landlord’s explicit written permission, the tenant is in breach of their lease. In Iowa, a lease violation permits a landlord to evict the tenant and subtenant (starting with a 7 Day Notice to Comply or Vacate) and to sue the original tenant for any resulting damages.
In addition to the landlord, the subtenant also may have grounds to take legal action if the original tenant sublet the unit illegally.
Evictions for Illegally Subletting in Iowa
These eviction notice types give the original tenant 7 calendar days to take action (move out or fix the issue). Once the notice expires, if the tenant has not taken the required action, the landlord may then proceed with the second step of the eviction process, which entails filing a petition with the county court. This next step in the eviction process takes about 1-2 months.