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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss the legal obligations of a landlord in Iowa and what rights tenants and landlords have in Iowa.

Every renter fears the scenario of moving into a new dwelling only to have it fall into disarray because of an irresponsible landlord. Conversely, every landlord’s worst nightmare is a tenant who destroys the property, doesn’t pay the rent, and then refuses to leave the dwelling. While both scenarios are common, thankfully, there are laws in place to protect both parties. 

Iowa Landlord Obligations

The Federal Government and the State of Iowa have specific laws in place to govern the obligations of landlords in Iowa. Landlords who don’t adhere to these obligations are liable and subject to penalty under the law. While certain stipulations under landlord-tenant laws may vary from state to state, in Iowa the landlord obligations can be broken down into five categories.

  1. Obligation To Manage The Security Deposit and Unpaid Rent. Every landlord has the right to charge their tenants a security deposit. This security deposit remains the property of the tenant but the landlord is obligated with keeping the security deposit until termination of the lease. To read more about security deposits in Iowa check out Iowa Security Deposit Law Explained.
  2. Obligation to Disclosure the Owner of the Property. Information about the owner of the property, including a name, address, and contact information, must be given to the tenant in writing before the tenancy begins. It is the obligation of the person who signs the lease agreement with the tenant. This information is important because the tenant needs to know who to contact in the case of maintenance issues, rent collection, or legal matters. It is the responsibility of the person who signed the lease agreement with the tenant to provide this information. If the owner’s information is not conveyed to the tenant then the person who signed the lease agreement with the tenant becomes the legal go-to.
  3. Obligation to Deliver Possession of the Unit. This obligation basically refers to the landlord being required to deliver the unit to the tenant on a contractually agreed upon date. If the property is not ready by that date the tenant can pursue legal action.
  4. Obligation to Maintain the Property. The landlord must keep the property up to code, provide any repairs, maintain all common areas, keep all vitals services running such as plumbing, electricity and heat, and provide property trash receptacles.
  5. Liability. The landlord is liable until the property is sold and notification of the transfer to a new owner is delivered to the tenant. The original owner is still obligated to manage the tenant’s security deposit, which in the case of a transfer can be returned to the tenant, minus any deductions, or transferred to the new owner, minus any deductions.

Iowa Landlord and Tenant Rights Under Iowa Landlord-Tenant Laws

Landlord Disclosures

Iowa landlords are required to disclose certain information to the tenant. This information can typically be found in the lease agreement. Some of the common items include:

  • Security deposit information
  • Information on Iowa landlord-tenant laws
  • Information on registered sex offender databases
  • Presence of any potential health hazards associated with the property
  • Smoking policy
  • Rights of domestic violence victims
  • Any recent flooding or damage to the property
  • Utility arrangements

Failure to disclose specific information will usually lead to a penalty for the landlord. However, statutes regarding failure to disclose vary widely and are somewhat dependent on what information the landlord failed to disclose. Tenants can lodge a complaint with their local government agency and the landlord may be fined, or have his landlord’s rental license revoked, but a failure to disclose typically will not be a legal reason that a tenant can break a lease.

Iowa Security Deposits

Iowa tenants reserve the right to sue their landlords for failure to return a security deposit. The claim is capped at $5000 but usually will match the security deposit amount, plus attorney and court fees. For more information on Iowa Security Deposit Law check out Iowa Security Deposit Law Explained.

Raising Rent in Iowa and Other Rent Rules

There are several laws regulating rent-related grievances in Iowa. Common issues cited include late fees, which can start at $12 per day or $60 per month and go up to $20 a day or $100 a month based on the rent price, the amount of notice required to give tenants before raising rent (30 days in Iowa), and how many days a tenant has to pay late rent before the landlord can legally begin the eviction process (3 days in Iowa).

Iowa’s Tenants Right to Withhold Rent

Iowa tenants have the right to withhold rent due to a failure on the part of the landlord to repair or replace broken or faulty components of the property. There are a handful of actions the tenant can take if the landlord has ignored requests from the tenant to repair the property.

  • Withholding the full amount of the rent until the problem is resolved
  • Bringing the claim to state and local health and safety officials
  • Have the problem repaired by a professional and then deduct the amount from a rent payment
  • Move out
  • Pay rent as normal and then sue the owner for the difference between the rent you have paid the cost of the defective property

Iowa Termination and Eviction Rules and Landlord’s Right To Access the Property

There are a number of laws surrounding lease termination and eviction rules in Iowa. In general, it is important to note that according to Iowa Code 526A.27 a tenant has 7 days to resolve the lease violation or move out before the landlord can evict them. A landlord’s access to a property is dependent on the reason that necessitates access to the property and tenant’s situation.

Because of the many stipulations surrounding this issue, it is best for landlords to check with their attorney if they need to access a property and are unsure of their legal right to do so. If the tenant feels their landlord has illegally accessed the property he or she should speak with an attorney or local authority right away.

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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