Iowa Landlord Tenant Laws

While Iowa State regulations and laws regarding the relationship between landlords and tenants may vary from county to county, and certainly from year to year, this article will contain a fairly comprehensive overview of all such regulations presently in effect. Should you have a specific question about some aspect of landlord/tenant law which is not documented herein, it would probably be to your advantage to consult the Iowa State Statutes, as well as appropriate municipal documentation available in your area.

Security Deposit Rules

– from the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law, Section 562A.12

  • Maximum deposit – a security deposit cannot exceed twice the amount of a normal month’s rent
  • Interest on security deposit – any interest accruing on the amount of a security deposit over the initial five-year period of its receipt becomes the landlord’s money. All such deposits must be held in an institution which is federally insured, but not intermingled with the landlord’s other assets
  • Security deposit return – within 30 days of the tenant’s evacuation of the premises, the amount of the security deposit must be returned to the tenant, provided he/she has left a mailing address or other contact instructions
  • Allowable usage of security deposits – this money can be used to cover unpaid rent as stipulated in the lease, to accomplish necessary cleanup or repairs following tenancy, or to recover expenses made necessary by forcing the tenant to evacuate the premises
  • Justification for security deposit withholding – written documentation of all reasons for withholding a security deposit must be provided to the tenant within 30 days of evacuation
  • Absence of documentation – if the landlord fails to provide written justification for withholding any portion, or all of the security deposit within the required 30 day timeframe, the landlord thereby forfeits the right to withhold any part of the security deposit. Should the landlord withhold any part of the security deposit without proper written documentation provided to the tenant, the landlord will then be liable to punitive damages amounting to twice the amount of monthly rent, plus any damages deemed appropriate

Lease, Rent, and Fee Schedules

– from the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law, Section 562A.9

  • Due date for rent – unless other arrangements are made, rent will be due at the beginning of each month
  • Notice of increase – landlords must provide written notice 30 days before the effective date of any rent increase, and no increases are allowed before the expiration of the original lease or rental agreement, including renewals and extensions
  • Late fee penalties – on rents of up to $700 monthly, the maximum penalty applied cannot exceed $12 daily, nor $60 in total. For rent exceeding $700 monthly, the daily late fee must not exceed $20 daily, and the total applied penalty cannot exceed $100 for that month
  • Tenant withholding of rent – the tenant is allowed to withhold rent money should the landlord fail to provide services required for tenancy such as heat, water, and electricity. This is considered a failure to comply with a rental agreement, and can be used in the tenant’s defense should the landlord opt to attempt eviction
  • Tenant withholding rent for repairs – when the landlord has failed to provide essential services as agreed in the lease, the tenant is justified in using rental monies to secure such missing services, and to deduct the total amount from that month’s rent
  • Court and attorney fees – in any lawsuit over tenancy, either party is allowed to recover the cost of court and attorney fees from money or services owed by the other party. This does not allow for such conditions to be included in the rental agreement
  • Re-renting – the landlord must attempt to lessen any losses sustained by the tenant for premature eviction, including re-renting of the unit

Notice and Entry Rules

– from the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law, Section 562A.27

  • Notice of termination – a rental agreement or lease can be terminated by either party upon the expiration of the lease period, provided that the other party is given at least 30 days’ notice of that termination. In a week-to-week rental agreement, the notice is shortened to 10 days
  • Danger to others termination – landlord has the right to terminate a rental agreement with just three days’ notice, provided that documentation is given the tenant specifying the nature and time of the activity constituting a danger to others. The tenant retains the right to contest the landlord’s case in court
  • Termination for non-payment – when the tenant fails to pay rental monies in accordance with the lease, a landlord can terminate that lease after providing three days’ notice
  • Termination for failure to comply with lease – landlord can void the lease after providing seven days’ notice to the tenant, noting the precise violation of the agreement
  • Unconditional termination – went two similar violations have occurred within six months, landlord has the option of unconditionally terminating the agreement after seven days’ notice
  • Entry notice – when the landlord wants to enter the premises of the tenant, at least 24 hours’ notice must be provided, and then only at reasonable times
  • Entry during tenant absence – this is allowable if tenant has abandoned the premises, or when reasonably necessary following a tenant absence of 14 days or more

Required Disclosures and Notes

– from the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law, Section 562A.13

  • Management disclosure – the tenant must be provided in writing with the contact information for any person or agency authorized on behalf of the owner to manage the premises
  • Utility rates – landlord is required to disclose to the tenant all relevant information about utility rates and charges before any lease has been signed
  • CERCLIS disclosure – tenant must be informed prior to signing a lease if the property comes under the aegis of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Information System
  • Domestic violence termination – landlord cannot void a lease to any person who has been a victim of domestic violence
  • Duties of the landlord – landlord is required to comply with health and safety codes for the rental building, maintain the building in a habitable condition, maintain common areas in a safe and clean condition, maintain all utility systems needed for tenancy and all appliances in good working order, and provide for regular removal of all trash
  • Tenant duties – tenant must comply with health and safety conditions for the building also, must keep the premises clean and safe, must dispose of all garbage promptly, use household systems and appliances in a reasonable and safe manner, must not willfully damage or remove essential objects from the premises, must restrict noise to an appropriate level in the consideration of others

Small Claims Courts

Eviction cases are allowed in small claims courts in Iowa, but can also be prosecuted in district courts. The amount of any contested rental agreement in small claims court must not exceed $5000, and there is a statute of limitations of five years on oral contracts and 10 years on written contracts. Below are some useful links to the Iowa court system:

For further information on the Iowa Courts System, you can check the following resources: Iowa Judicial Branch Guide to Small Claims Court in Iowa, and Iowa District Courts. For legal information and assistance: Iowa Attorney General, Iowa State Bar AssociationIowa Bar Association (for help with finding a lawyer), and Iowa Legal Aid. For local community action, check Iowa Community Action Association.

Iowa Realtor Associations

For additional information about state and municipal area realtors, the following sources are avaiable: Iowa Association of RealtorsDes Moines Association of RealtorsSouthwest Iowa Association of RealtorsWaterloo-Cedar Falls Board of RealtorsCedar Rapids Area Association of Realtors, and Iowa City Area Association of Realtors.

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