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What is a Residential Lease Agreement?
In Iowa, one of the most common legal agreements is between a residential lessee and lessor. These agreements ensure that there are protections for both the landlord and his or her renter so that the arrangement is balanced for each party. These agreements are legally binding, and the best Iowa residential lease agreements will be relatively all-encompassing and thorough.
These agreements are often called fixed-term lease agreements, and they can be varied significantly to encapsulate just about any arrangement between owners and renters. For this reason, in many cases, lease agreements in Iowa can be easily tailored so that both parties will be content.
While some may feel that a verbal agreement is enough for a lease, typically, it’s better to have one of these arrangements backed in writing. These documents clearly state expectations for both parties. For example, a lease agreement ensures that a lessor has a renter that won’t bring pets onto the premises of a property that isn’t pet-friendly, that there are no loud noises past quiet times, and that a tenant cannot just leave a property without waiting out the term of a lease.
For renters, a document like this ensures that there are no privacy violations perpetrated by the landlord, there’s no situation where the landlord can opt to change the locks or turn off utilities, or there’s no situation where a landlord can ignore safety violations on the property. If either party violates the terms of the lease agreement, then there are grounds for legal action.
Iowa Residential Lease Agreement Elements
The sections that follow are necessary elements to a residential lease. Each section includes information that pertains specifically to lease agreements in Iowa. All rental properties are unique and it is important for the landlord to tailor their residential lease to the unit or property being rented. This guide lists various circumstances for landlords to consider as they are drafting a residential lease agreement. Landlords need to include the components listed here to be legally compliant in the state of Iowa.
Introduction of the Lease and the Parties Involved
To start, the involved parties will need to be identified. For clarity, the document should entail at least the first and last names of both parties. Some may opt to include the first and last as well as the middle initial or middle name of the lessor and lessee. If there are additional tenants that will serve as roommates, then their names should be here also.
In addition, the contact information for these parties should also be included as well. For the renters, this will usually mean supplemental addresses, numbers, email addresses, and any other way that the landlord may contact the tenants. For landlords, the numbers, addresses of associated management companies, or emails should be provided.
Finally, the information for the property will also need to be included. For example, the full address, the county, side streets, unit numbers, and zip code of the property can all be demarcated here.
Terms and Limits of Occupation
As a residential lease, the document will need to firmly set limits that can be used to form a framework for the arrangement. It’s important for the lease to establish rules that set this type of agreement aside from other types of leases like month-to-month, at-will leases or commercial leases. Other things that will need to be outlined are the number of bedrooms that are included in the unit as well as any bathrooms that may be present in the unit. Additionally, access to property amenities will also need to be clearly listed. This can include things like exercise rooms, sporting areas, or pools.
The number of people that will be allowed to stay in the dwelling as well as any limits on guests should be also noted in the limits section of the lease agreement. This can include restrictions on the amount of days a guest can stay without paying rent, and it can also establish rules for subletting the property during a tenancy.
Some properties also include access to certain appliances and furnishings. In many cases, these will need to be firmly noted so that there’s no confusion when the tenant decides to move out. The section can also note that these furnishings and appliances will need to be kept in a reasonable condition during a tenancy, and it should also be noted that the furnishings and appliances may be updated during the course of a tenant’s property occupation.
Rent and Utilities
Every month, the tenant will have to pay rent as well as utilities, and how these monthly costs are handled will need to be firmly established. Some of the first things about these payments that should be clearly expressed is when each payment is due as well as their total amount. Some charges that a tenant may have to pay can include:
- The monthly rental value of the property.
- Pet fees that cover any damage caused to the property by pets.
- The costs of utilities not covered by the landlord or management company.
- Any associated late fees or charges.
Once these charges are noted, the document should also mention the payment date of each and the total amount so that the tenant knows how much is needed on a monthly basis. It’s also a good idea to include how to pay these charges, which means where to send payments to management and utility companies. Also, if there is a grace period for some of these payments that tenants can use to avoid excess late charges, this information needs to be included as well. Iowa specifically has late fee regulations that state that the late fee cannot surpass $12 per day that the rent is late. The maximum amount of these charges can’t exceed $60 per month.
Insofar as utilities, how each property handles the utility responsibilities tends to vary. Some landlords may opt to pay some utilities like heating and water while others may leave these charges to the tenants. In a situation where the management company or the landlord pays some utilities, the managed utilities need to be noted in the lease. For completeness, the names and payment locations of any utility companies should be included so that the renter has the information at hand. Meter info for shared utilities should also be noted so that the renter understands his or her payment percentage.
Since these are fixed-term leases, the term of the actual lease should be included here. In most cases, Iowa rentals tend to either cover a six-month or one-year period, but there are two-year leases in the state as well. The ending date of the lease should also be clearly stated, and if the lease renews automatically, then the lease must clearly state this.
Security Deposits and Fees
As it is in most states, security deposits provide a degree of protection for landlords that are looking to pay for any damage that may occur to a unit during a standard lease. In Iowa, the maximum charge that an owner can charge for a security deposit cannot exceed two months’ worth of rent. Also, when it comes to the storage of a lessee’s security deposit, the state of Iowa requires that a landlord store these in a bank account, savings account, credit union, or loan association. No other money can be stored in an account set aside for the security deposit.
The lease will have to clearly state the precise cost of the security deposit and what the security deposit will cover. Also, the state requires that the security deposit be returned to the renter within 30 days of the end of the tenancy unless there’s damage to the property. If damage has occurred, then the landlord can itemize the costs deducted from the security deposit – this must include the damage type and the costs of repair. A lease agreement should have a section for the tenant to leave information about where to deliver the security deposit after a tenancy has ended. If this information isn’t provided within one year, the money can be kept by the owner.
Maintenance, Alterations, and Repairs
When starting a lease, it’s imperative that the property and the landlord complies with the building and housing codes of Iowa. This means that the property must be maintained correctly so that it’s safe for dwelling. If the property isn’t up to safety code, this is grounds for a tenant to opt to exit the lease under a “constructive eviction” procedure. For this reason, it’s critical that the lease has firmly established procedures for maintaining, altering, and repairing the unit. Before move-in, it’s also a good idea for the tenant to walk through the unit to establish what needs to be done.
This type of walkthrough doesn’t cover future repairs and furnishings, and for the sake of a comfortable tenancy, the lease needs to include any information on how to reach the landlord to elicit repairs and furnishing upgrades in the unit. If it’s allowed for the tenant to elicit these repairs themselves, this needs to be clearly mentioned in the lease. If this is allowable, it’s possible that the landlord will pay the tenant back for any expenditures. Once again, if this is something that can happen on the property, the lease should mention it.
During an extended tendency, some tenants opt to alter the property, and the potential scope of these alterations should be covered in an in-depth manner in the lease. One of the most common modifications for a property is adding a secondary lock to the front door of the unit. This adds a bit of extra security, but it can cause problems when a landlord needs access to the unit. It’s essential to note that Iowa requires that a landlord is required to provide 24 hours’ worth of notice before needing to enter the unit, and when they do enter, they should have all keys required to access the unit if it’s agreed that they may visit while the tenant is at work/away.
The residential lease agreement in Iowa should also establish rules for painting the unit and when the unit will be repainted by the landlord/management company. Also, when it comes to the changing of the fixtures, furnishings, or lighting in the unit, the lease should establish firmly the rules for the replacement. In many cases, leases will firmly establish that the refrigerator and some lighting fixtures may not be replaced by the tenant.
Notice of Entry and Access to the Unit
As previously mentioned, the state of Iowa will require that the landlord provide at least 24 hours’ worth of notice before he or she can enter the tenant’s rental unit. If the landlord comes any sooner than this period, this is a privacy issue that the tenant can address in court. In fact, this is one of the ways that a tenant can break a lease without incurring penalties via a constructive eviction. Based on statutes §562A.19, §562A.35, Iowa states that a landlord may enter the property to:
- Inspect the unit.
- Make repairs.
- Show the unit to prospective tenants at the end of a tenancy.
- Obey a court order.
- Determine if the property has been abandoned after 14 days.
- Repair a health or safety issue.
- Supply necessary services.
The only time that a landlord may enter the unit without notice is when there is an emergency situation. A good example of an emergency where a landlord may enter the premises is a fire. After the landlord notifies the tenant of the need to enter the unit, if the tenant still refuses entry, then an injunctive order may be filed, which can lead to a termination of the lease. It’s essential that the lease mentions this as a potential outcome so that the tenant understands.
In Iowa, it’s reasonably common for renters to also have a pet or multiple pets. While these aren’t necessarily limited to cats and dogs, these animals are typically the norm. Also, a renter may not enter the lease with a pet but may opt to adopt one later on. If pets are allowed, it’s essential that the lease covers all aspects of having an animal on the premises. One common addition to the lease is a pet fee; this fee is designed to be tacked onto the monthly rent and is used to cover any damage that may happen to a unit as the result of a pet dwelling there.
Also, not every type of pet is allowed. For example, some properties only allow for cats but not dogs and vice versa. Not every breed is allowable either; a good example of this will be a property that may allow only dogs that are under a specific size. Finally, not every Iowa property will enable the renters to have more than one or two pets in a dwelling at a time.
All pet policies and addendums will need to be reasonably comprehensive so that the landlord can have the right amount of coverage and there’s no confusion when the tenant wants to bring a pet to the unit. In some situations, unlike the security deposit, a pet fee may not necessarily be refundable to the tenant at the end of a tenancy if this is fully established in the lease.
Legal Restrictions and Other Rules
The state of Iowa requires several disclosures for a residential lease. One of these ensures that there is a written disclosure before the lease is signed that firmly establishes the name and address of the manager and/or owner of the property. In addition, it’s also established by state law that the landlord must keep the property information current and refurnish this information if the tenant requests it.
Also, the lease needs to make it clear that rent increases will need to be accompanied by written notification. Iowa state law establishes that this notification needs to be furnished at least 30 days before the increase. Also, rent can’t be increased during the term of the lease.
In addition, based on federal law, if the property was created before 1978, then the landlord will have to disclose if there is lead paint present in the unit. This is due to the fact that this chemical can be dangerous for children and pregnant women. Also, based on Iowa code § 562A.13, the landlord should disclose in the lease whether the property is listed in the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation And Liability Information System, which is established and managed by the EPA.
Also, the landlord must disclose to the tenant the pricing for shared utilities. This means that the tenant must be made aware, in the lease, about the rate in which the charges and services are billed to the property so that the tenant can know their monthly share of the utilities.
It’s critical for the document to have all required sections, and the most crucial section that will make the document legal is the signature section. This section is designed to bind the two parties together in the lease, so this section will have to be stringently complete. For this part, both the lessee and lessor will need to both sign their name and print it. After this information has been placed on the provided blank lines, then these lines will also need to be dated as well for legality. If there are any additional tenants, additional lines can be provided in this final section as well.