Iowa Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators(read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within seven days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant has right to repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. Iowa’s landlord tenant law protects tenants against acts of landlord retaliation such as by threatening eviction or increasing rent (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Iowa does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs No
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Not specifically addressed
Condos Only if person living in condo is renting
Hotels/Motels No

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Iowa, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Not specifically addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Not specifically addressed
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. Yes
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Not specifically addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Yes
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Not specifically addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Not specifically addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Not specifically addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not specifically addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Not specifically addressed
Provide a mailbox. No
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not specifically addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. Yes, if required
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not specifically addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. Yes, if required

Environmental Hazards

If a rental property is located on a site that was contaminated by pollutants, or was a former hazardous waste dump site per the EPA’s “Superfund” list, landlords are required to disclose that fact to prospective tenants.

Making Repairs

If tenants request repairs, they must put their request in writing.

  • Sending notice – The landlord is given seven days to make any necessary repairs after receiving written notice.
  • Landlord access – Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants 24 hours’ notice unless:
    • The tenant no longer occupies the property.
    • It’s an emergency.
    • There’s a court order granting a landlord access.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Iowa landlord tenant law does not outright state that a tenant in Iowa has the ability to withhold rent in response to habitability issues.
  2. Repair and deduct – tenants have the right to repair the issue themselves and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair from the following month’s rent.
  3. LawsuitIf a landlord intentionally or negligently fails to provide heat, water, electricity, and/or other “essentials,” tenants are allowed to pursue legal action to recover damages.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – A tenant can contact the housing inspector or any government authority if a landlord fails to make necessary repairs and maintain the house or apartment.

Landlord Retaliation

Landlords may not retaliate by increasing rent or decreasing services or by bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession against a tenant for exercising their right to:

  • complain to a governmental agency
  • complain to the landlord for any habitability issue; or
  • organize or become a member of a tenants’ union or similar organization.

Retaliation against tenants for requesting repairs that affect habitability is illegal under Iowa law.

Sources