Iowa Habitability Laws

Last Updated: June 23, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

In Iowa, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by Iowa Stat. § 562.17. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability”, also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.

Quick Facts Answer
Landlord Responsibilities Hot/Cold Water, HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Sanitation Facilities, Smoke Detector, Trash Can
Time Limit for Repairs 7 Days
Tenant Recourse Options
  • Withhold Rent: No
  • Repair & Deduct: Yes

Applicable Dwelling Types in Iowa

The implied warranty of habitability in Iowa does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and 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

A landlord must keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and clean condition.

Questions? To chat with an Iowa landlord tenant attorney, Click here

Landlord Responsibilities in Iowa

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 Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Superfund” list, landlords are required to disclose that fact to prospective tenants.

Tenant’s Right to Repairs in Iowa

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. Notice must be given via regular or certified mail or by delivering it in person. If the method of delivery is via mail, the notice must be served 11 days before rent is due.
  • 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.
Questions? To chat with an Iowa landlord tenant attorney, Click here

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

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 perform some of the landlord’s duties, including specified repairs, remodeling, maintenance, or alterations themselves and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair from the following month’s rent. There must be an agreement in writing between the tenant and landlord before proceeding with any issues.
  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 in Iowa

Landlords may not retaliate by increasing rent, decreasing services, 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.
  • 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. A landlord may not retaliate against the tenant within one year of the complaint.