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Eugene Nassif

Discrimination is a serious issue that many face, but it’s reassuring to know that Iowa housing and landlord laws keep you from being discriminated against when renting a property. Learn more about these laws and what rights you have when renting a property.

This article covers the following questions: 

  • Has my Landlord Discriminated against me? 
  • What is considered a disability under Iowa and Federal law? 
  • How do these laws apply to families with children? 
  • Are there any situations where these protections don’t apply? 


Has my Landlord Discriminated against me? 


Under Iowa law as well as federal law, a landlord or apartment management may not discriminate against a person on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, religion, national origin, disability, handicap (mental or physical) or family status (pregnancy or parental responsibilities) when in the process of choosing a tenant, advertising for tenants or choosing terms of a rental agreement with a tenant. (See Iowa Code Sections 216.8 & 8A, 216.12, US Code Vol. 42, Section 3601). Similarly, a tenant can’t be discriminated against based on race, color, creed, sex, religion, national origin, disability, family status or age of any of that tenant’s guests or visitors. People with disabilities have additional protections. Finally, Iowa law extends discrimination protections for housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  


What is considered a disability under Iowa and Federal law? 


Physical or mental health issues which limit them in an important way are covered for purposes of housing discrimination. Also included are people who have a handicap or are thought to have one. An example is someone who has tested positive for exposure for HIV, even if they aren’t necessarily positive or sick themselves for AIDS. The federal Fair Housing law and Iowa state law states that people who are abusing drugs are not protected. 


How do these laws apply to families with children? 


There are a number of ways landlords or management can discriminate against families in violation of the law. Some examples include: 

  • Adults only policies; 
  • Making available or denying a unit base on whether the tenant has children; 
  • Actions to discourage families with children from renting or buying; 
  • Limits on the age or number of children allowed in a unit; 
  • Restricting families with children to only certain buildings, floors; 
  • Setting different rents or security deposits for people with children. 


The law covers the following types of housing: 

  • Single family dwellings; 
  • Condominiums; 
  • Cooperative apartments; 
  • Rental units; 
  • Mobile home parks. 


Are there any situations where these protections don’t apply? 


Both Iowa’s fair housing law and the federal fair housing laws do have some exceptions.  

Iowa’s housing discrimination law doesn’t apply in the following circumstances: 

  • Housing provided by religious institutions, unless the institution owns or operates housing for a commercial purpose or unless the religion restricts membership based on race, color or national origin. 
  • Housing where the landlords lives in a building where two households live independent of one another and the landlord lives in one of those two units. The same is true if there are 4 or less units, if the landlord lives in one, and qualifies for the homestead tax credit for that dwelling. 
  • Housing where the landlord lives in a housing arrangement with three or fewer roommates in a single house set-up.  
  • There is an exception to the rule against discrimination against families with children for certain housing set aside for the elderly. 


Even though Iowa fair housing law might have exemptions, federal law could step in to protect a tenant from the discrimination. Because of this, is important to analyze both the state and federal law when determining whether housing discrimination has occurred. If you feel you are being discriminated against, or are being neglected by your landlord, read our article on Tenant's Guide to Breaking a Lease in Iowa to learn more about your options.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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