Iowa Rights, Regulations, & Landlord-Tenant Laws 
In the Hawkeye State, landlords and tenants must unravel the state’s intricate rental laws that directly influence their rights, responsibilities, and relationships. While Iowa’s landlord-tenant laws are comprehensive and helpful, their complex nature can be truly daunting for most.
To help both landlords and tenants make sense of their rights and responsibilities, we’ve put together this full guide on Iowa’s rental laws. Here, landlords can empower themselves to protect their rental properties and create healthy relationships with their renters. Simultaneously, tenants can gain crucial knowledge necessary to help them assert their fundamental rights.
Exploring an extensive range of topics, like tenant screening, security deposits, rental agreements, and of course, the eviction process, this guide will help you understand the intricacies of Iowa law outlined in the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law.
Let’s get started!
Is Iowa considered a landlord-friendly state?
Yes, Iowa is considered to be a landlord-friendly state. While it is not the most landlord-friendly state, it does not have any rent control policies, and the notice requirements are not as strict as in some other states. Additionally, Iowa allows landlords to terminate month-to-month leases without cause.
According to a list of the most landlord-friendly states, Iowa ranks third. This highlights the state’s overall inclination toward supporting landlord rights and property management practices.
Iowa landlord responsibilities and rights
Iowa landlords and real estate investors are have certain rights that let them run profitable and efficient rental businesses, as well as protect them from legal issues. Some of their main rights are as follows:
- Collecting rent payments on the due date
- Collecting and using a security deposit to cover rental damage beyond normal wear and tear and other unforeseen costs
- Pursuing the eviction procedure when a tenant breaches the rental agreement
Just as landlords in Iowa have rights, they also have certain responsibilities they must uphold to guarantee a smooth tenancy and safe living arrangement for their tenants. Their main landlord duties include:
- Keeping their property compliant with local and state housing codes
- Complying with the state’s security deposit limits and returning it within 30 days of the end of the rental period
- Making necessary repairs seven days after being notified in writing by the tenant
Iowa tenant rights and responsibilities
Same as landlords, Iowa renters have fundamental rights that protect their safety, health, and privacy while residing in a rental unit. Their main rights include:
- Living in a habitable property that complies with local building and housing codes
- Requesting repairs for significant damage, and seeking legal help if the landlord fails to make the repairs
- Having due process before an eviction
- Living in a property without interference of their privacy or right to quiet enjoyment
Renters in Iowa also have their on set of obligations to manage in order to maintain a healthy and respectful landlord-tenant relationship. Their main duties include:
- Paying rent on time
- Keeping the unit in safe and clean condition, including keeping all plumbing fixtures clean
- Making minor repairs when necessary
- Not disturbing other tenants or neighbors
- Not deliberately harming or neglecting any part of the dwelling unit
Iowa landlord-tenant laws through the rental cycle
Iowa rental application and tenant screening laws
Landlords in Iowa are allowed to request rental applications and screen potential tenants, as per the state's landlord-tenant law. The state does not prohibit rental application fees or how much a landlord can charge for one.
It’s important for tenants to note that application fees are non-refundable even if they aren’t selected for the property.
Additionally, landlords in Iowa cannot deny a tenant based on protected characteristics as established by the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Iowa rental agreement laws
Iowa law states that rental agreements can be either oral or written no matter the length of the tenancy. However, it’s always recommended to document rental agreements in writing since it grants important rights and responsibilities to both the landlord and renter. But in the absence of a written agreement, Iowa landlord-tenant law does provide certain material terms like the rent payment amount and duration of the lease.
While there are no legal requirements for the contents of a lease agreement, it is important to include certain information in the rental agreement such as the lease term, landlord contact information, security deposit amount, and rent amount.
In regards to increasing rent, landlords must provide a 30-day written notice to the tenant before changing the terms of the lease.
If a tenant wishes to terminate a lease early, they must provide a certain amount of notice to the landlord. Week-to-week leases are required to provide 10 days’ notice, month-to-month leases are required to provide 30 days’ notice, and year-long leases are also required to provide 30 days’ notice.
Tenants terminate a lease agreement early for the following reasons:
- Active military duty
- Landlord harassment
- Early termination clause
- Uninhabitable unit
- Illegal lease term
It’s important to note that in Iowa tenants may still be liable to pay the rest of the rent owed on the lease, even if they terminate early for legal reasons.
Iowa security deposit laws
Iowa landlords are allowed to collect a security deposit at the start of a lease to cover property damage and other unforeseen costs. They, however, cannot charge more than two months’ rent for the deposit.
Landlords should also note these other important Iowa security deposit laws:
- Landlords do not have to provide a receipt for a security deposit.
- Landlords have to pay interest on security deposits after a tenancy has gone on for five years.
- Security deposits have to be held in a trust account or a federally insured bank, savings and loan association, or credit union.
At the end of a lease, landlords have 30 days to return the security deposit to the tenant. If the landlord made deductions, they must provide a written statement outlining the specific reasons they withheld the deposit.
Landlords can legally withhold a portion or all of the funds if there is unpaid rent, damages damage beyond normal wear and tear, eviction costs, and other charges outlined in the lease agreement.
If the deposit is returned late or not returned at all, Iowa tenants can file a lawsuit seeking twice the monthly rent, the full security deposit, actual damages, and attorneys' fees.
Iowa rent laws
Iowa landlord-tenant law (Chapter 562A-12) requires rent payments to be made at the beginning of each month. Since Iowa doesn’t have rent control laws, landlords may charge whatever they want for their rental unit, but if the agreement does not specify a rent amount, the rent will be equal to the fair market value of the property.
If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, landlords are allowed to charge a late fee and do not have to provide a grace period before doing so. However, how much a landlord can charge for a fee is limited:
- Rent below $700 can charge up to $12/day or total of $60/month
- Rent above $700 can charge up to $20/day or total of $100/month
It's important to note that Iowa tenants cannot withhold rent for any reason.
Iowa repair and maintenance laws
Similar to other states, Iowa landlords have to comply with building and housing codes to maintain their properties in good condition. After being notified by a tenant of a maintenance issue, landlords have seven days to make the repair.
If the landlord fails to make the repair in a timely manner, tenants have several options: suing for costs, filing a court order to force the landlord to make the repair, or canceling the rental agreement early. In certain cases, they can use the “repair and deduct” remedy, but they must first notify the landlord of their intention to do so.
Iowa tenants may also abandon the property altogether if there is material non-compliance with the rental agreement or non-compliance that affects the tenant’s health and safety.
Iowa notice of entry laws
In Iowa, landlords can enter the property without the tenant’s consent for emergencies. For all other reasons, like inspections, maintenance, and property showings, they are required to provide the tenant with 24 hours' notice before entry and only enter at reasonable times.
Iowa eviction and lease termination laws
There are certain legal reasons an Iowa landlord can move forward with the eviction process.
The main reasons and the required notice period are as follows:
- Unpaid rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord may issue a three-day notice to pay. If the tenant still does not pay, the landlord may proceed with an eviction.
- Lease agreement violation: If a tenant violates the terms of the lease agreement, the landlord can also issue a seven-day notice to cure or vacate. If the issue is not cured within those seven days, the landlord must a three-day notice to quit before moving forward with the eviction process.
- Illegal activity: In Iowa, if illegal activity is committed within 1,000 ft. of the rental property, the landlord may issue a three-day notice to quit.
- Safety violations/material health: If the tenant violates a health, safety, or housing code, the landlord may issue a seven-day notice to comply. If the tenant still does not correct the issue, the landlord must issue a three-day notice to quit before filing for an eviction.
It’s important to note that self-help evictions are illegal in Iowa. This includes forcibly removing the tenant or their possessions from the rental property and diminishing services such as interrupting major utilities.
Additional Iowa landlord-tenant rental laws
In addition to addressing issues such as repairs and evictions, Iowa rental law also covers topics such as required disclosures and landlord retaliation. We will discuss some of these topics below.
Housing discrimination laws
The Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, disability, family status, or age. Discrimination in housing is also prohibited under the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Like in many states, it’s illegal for Iowa landlords to retaliate against their tenants for taking protected actions including reporting the landlord to a government body for building and housing code violations, complaining to the landlord for failing to keep up the premises, and becoming a member of a tenants’ union.
Retaliatory actions in Iowa include increasing rent, decreasing services, and threatening to repossess the rental property.
Landlords in Iowa must provide renters with the following mandatory disclosures before the start of a lease:
- Lead-based paint: Landlords with rentals built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
- Authorized authorities and managers: Landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties owning and managing the property.
- Shared utility meter: Landlords must explain all utilities and their rates prior to starting the lease.
- Environmental liability: Landlords must disclose if their rental property appears on the “Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Information System” (CERCLA System).
Understanding Iowa’s landlord-tenant laws
Acquiring a solid understanding of Iowa's rental laws is essential for fostering a peaceful and healthy landlord-tenant relationship. These all-encompassing regulations have been designed to uphold the rights and duties of both parties, cultivating a just and balanced rental environment.
For landlords in Iowa, comprehending and abiding by these laws will safeguard their investments and nurture favorable interactions with their tenants. In turn, these regulations lay the groundwork for a safe and respectful living space that tenants can genuinely consider their home.
Iowa landlord-tenant resources
In addition to this guide, here are some resources that cover Iowa state and city laws, ensuring you have the information you need to make informed decisions and comply with your rental property’s specific regulations.
- Small Claims Court Primer: This online resource can help both landlords and renters understand the best ways to file a case with Iowa’s small claims court system, as well as its limitations.
- Legislative Guide to Landlord-Tenant Law: This guide explores every aspect of landlord-tenant laws currently recorded in Iowa.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.