In this article...

In this article, we discuss what happens when there are damages to your rented property and your landlord is not compliant in fixing them. We cover some questions including: What happens in I can't pay my rent in Iowa?, What can I do if my landlord won't make repairs in Iowa?, Can I make repairs to my rented property myself?, How do I end my lease in Iowa?, What if I can’t make the repairs on my rented property or move out?, and What if my landlord tries to get revenge or retaliate against me? 

In this article, we discuss what happens when there are damages to your rented property and your landlord is not compliant in fixing them. We cover some questions including:

  • What happens in I can't pay my rent in Iowa?
  • What can I do if my landlord won't make repairs in Iowa?
  • Can I make repairs to my rented property myself?
  • How do I end my lease in Iowa?
  • What if I can’t make the repairs on my rented property or move out? 
  • What if my landlord tries to get revenge or retaliate against me? 

Tenants often face difficulties when their houses or apartments fall into disrepair. Not all landlords are eager and willing to fix the issues with your residence. If you simply don’t pay rent because of the disrepair, your landlord may be able to evict you. So, what can a tenant do if your landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs to your resident? 

What happens in I can't pay my rent in Iowa?

 

While withholding rent is a potential remedy, it is not recommended. As previously noted, failing to pay rent because your landlord doesn’t make repairs to your residence is dangerous and risky. The landlord may evict you, leaving you homeless. While you can take the case to court, you do not know whether a judge will agree that the problem with the residence was so bad that you had the right to withhold rent. However, it is illegal for a landlord to refuse to make necessary repairs or to shut off utilities because a tenant is simply behind on rent. 

 

What can I do if my landlord won't make repairs in Iowa?

 

Under the Iowa Landlord Tenant act, tenants can do a number of different things when repairs are necessary to keep the property safe and in habitable condition. Some remedies may not be an option for tenants who cannot afford to do repairs or aren’t able to find other housing options. Some steps a tenant may take when a landlord fails to make repairs include: 

 

  • Making repairs yourself then deducting the cost from rent 
  • Ending the lease and moving out 
  • Call the housing inspector to make a complaint. 

 

Can I make repairs to my rented property myself?

 

Under Iowa law, making repairs yourself to your residence is an option when a number of factors are met. First, the problem has to impact the livability of the property as defined by Iowa Code Section 562A.15. These problems can include code violations regarding health and safety. Examples of this include mold problems, bug problems, issues with the plumbing, heating/cooling or electrical systems, problems with garbage pickup, and windows or doors being broken. Issues with decorative elements of the property, such as paint, do not qualify. Second, the problem cannot be the fault of you/the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family or a guest of the tenant. Finally repairing the problem cannot cost more than one month’s rent. 

In order to make the repairs yourself, follow these steps.  

  1. Provide the landlord written notice. By law, this notice must be in writing and dated. Be sure to keep a copy for your own records. The notice should state the issue with the property, how the issue affects the safety or health of the tenant, and what repair is necessary to fix it. Finally, the note will state that the repair will be deducted from the rental payment. The notice should be sent by mail or hand delivered and the landlord should sign an acknowledgement that they received it (this can also be done through certified mail). Notice must be received at least 7 days before rent is due, unless you send via mail, then it must be sent 11 days before rent is due.  
  1. Make the repairs. It is highly recommended that you do not do this yourself and leave it to a professional. Keep all receipts and records from the repairs. Remember, a landlord still might file an eviction action for nonpayment of rent if you make the repairs and deduct it from the rent. In that instance, a judge will determine if the repairs were necessary and if the cost of repairs were reasonable. If deemed not necessary or the cost too high, you could still be evicted. 
  1. Deduct the cost from your next month's rent. Make sure you have copies of the receipts and give those copies to the landlord. Keep the originals for yourself. The cost of the repairs must be less than a month’s rent and the repair should be completed immediately and before you get a nonpayment notice from the landlord. 

 

Essential Services note: If the problem has to do with something essential to living such as heat or water, you can immediately obtain the repairs and deduct the cost. You still need to send the landlord written notice outlining the problem and what is being done to correct it. However, there is no 7-day notice in this circumstance.  

 

How do I end my lease in Iowa?

 

You can only end your lease if the problem affects the livability of the property and you aren’t at fault for creating the unlivable condition. 

 

To end your lease due to your landlord’s failure to make repairs, follow the below steps: 

 

  1. Give your landlord written notice. State what repairs are needed and that, if the repairs aren’t made within 7 days, the tenant will end the lease and move. Like above, send the notice via regular or certified mail or in person if the landlord is willing to sign an acknowledgement that they received the notice. Like previously noted, if you’re sending by mail, you need to send this notice at least 11 days before rent is due. 
  1. If the landlord doesn’t make the repairs, move out. If the landlord doesn’t make the necessary repairs within 7 days, the tenant has to move out by the date specified in the notice. You cannot stay in the residence hoping to live rent free for a while. The landlord may still attempt to start an eviction proceeding against you. If the landlord does make the repairs within the 7 days, you cannot move out and the lease will continue. 

 

What if I can’t make the repairs on my rented property or move out? 

 

There are many reasons why you can’t make repairs yourself or move out. Maybe you don’t have another place to stay or the cost of the repairs is significant (think a broken heating system during winter that would cost thousands to fix). Some repairs are overwhelming and simply too large to take on yourself. There are some options in these circumstances.  

 

One option is to call the rental housing inspector if there is one in your city. These inspectors enforce local housing codes. If there is a violation affecting the livability of the residence, the inspector can order the landlord to immediately fix the issue. A landlord who doesn’t fix the issue could be taken to court or fined by the city. Additionally, if the inspector finds the rental unfit to live in, the tenants may be able to immediately move out. 

 

Finally, if all else fails, filing suit and demanding the repairs be made might be necessary. If the judge decides that the landlord hasn’t met their duty to provide essential services or to keep the apartment in livable condition, causing harm to the tenant, the judge may order the repairs along with potential compensation.  

 

What if my landlord tries to get revenge or retaliate against me? 

 

The landlord may not retaliate or get back at the tenant for trying to get your residence repaired.  They may not raise rent, try to evict the tenant or reduce the services, etc. If a landlord tries to do any of this within one year of the tenant making a complaint, Iowa law treats this as retaliation. If the landlord can’t provide some other reason for their actions, they could be held liable under the law. It’s worth noting that if the tenant has not paid rent, courts don’t assume the landlord is retaliating if the landlord tries to evict the tenant.  

 


Posted 
January 5, 2021
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