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If you are renting in Iowa and are facing eviction, you need to know of your legal rights in defending the eviction. In this article, we explain a tenant's rights during an eviction in Iowa. We cover the following questions:

  • What are the grounds for eviction in Iowa? 
  • What are the notice requirements for failing to pay (nonpayment of) rent? 
  • What are the notice requirements for a lease violation? 
  • What should I expect during the eviction process? 
  • What are defenses a tenant can raise in an eviction? 
  • What if my landlord tries to evict me without a court proceeding?
  • What if a landlord evicts the tenant for a lease violation?
  • What if the landlord discriminates against the tenant? 

If you are renting in Iowa and are facing eviction, you need to know of your legal rights in defending the eviction. In this article, we explain a tenant's rights during an eviction in Iowa. We cover the following questions:

  • What are the grounds for eviction in Iowa? 
  • What are the notice requirements for failing to pay (nonpayment of) rent? 
  • What are the notice requirements for a lease violation? 
  • What are the notice requirements for a lease violation? 
  • What should I expect during the eviction process? 
  • What are defenses a tenant can raise in an eviction? 
  • What if my landlord tries to evict me without a court proceeding?
  • What if the landlord did not maintain the rental unit? 
  • What if a landlord evicts the tenant for a lease violation?
  • What if the landlord discriminates against the tenant? 

Landlords can evict tenants in Iowa for many different reasons, not just failure to pay rent or breaking your lease contract. However, under Iowa law, tenants have a number of defenses they can raise to challenge these evictions.  

What are the grounds for eviction in Iowa? 

 

Iowa has adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant act which regulates the relationship between landlords and their tenants. Included within the act are rules and regulations regarding the process landlords need to take to evict a tenant. The two most common reasons for eviction are failure to pay rent and violation of the lease agreement by the tenant. There are different notice requirements depending on the reason for the eviction by the landlord.  

 

What are the notice requirements for failing to pay (nonpayment of) rent? 

 

The single most common reason a landlord will evict tenants in Iowa is for failure to pay rent. As soon as rent is late, but prior to filing an eviction action with the court, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice. This notice must state that the tenant has three days to pay rent or face termination of their lease. If the tenant does not pay rent within the three-day period, the landlord will then be able to terminate the lease and begin the eviction proceedings against the tenant. See Iowa Code 562A.27(2) for more information regarding this process.  

 

What are the notice requirements for a lease violation? 

 

A landlord can also evict a tenant for violating their lease or rental agreement/contract. As soon as a landlord finds out about a lease violation, the landlord can give the tenant a seven-day notice. The notice must state that the tenant has seven days to correct the violation or the tenant will face termination of their lease. After that notice is delivered to the tenant, the tenant will need to correct the issue within that seven-day period. Otherwise, the landlord can terminate the lease and begin the eviction proceedings. 

 

Should the tenant fix the violation within the seven-day period, the tenant can remain in the lease. However, if the tenant then violates the lease in the same way again within six months, the landlord has the right to give the tenant a seven-day notice stating that the lease will terminate at the end of the seven-day period. At that point, the landlord will be able to begin the eviction proceedings against the tenant even if the tenant has corrected the violation. See Iowa Code 562A.27(1) for more information regarding this process.  

 

What should I expect during the eviction process? 

 

After the time frame has ended for the tenant following the landlord’s notice, the landlord may file a petition with the district court to begin eviction proceedings. This is also called a forcible entry and detainer suit. The clerk of court will set a hearing date and send notice to both the landlord and tenant regarding the date and time for the hearing. Should the tenant want to challenge the eviction, they must attend the hearing. At the hearing the judge will hear arguments from both the landlord and tenant regarding the grounds for the eviction and make a decision as to whether the eviction can happen. See Iowa Code 648.5 for more information regarding this process. 

 

Often times, the tenant may find that challenging the eviction isn’t always the best option. In some instances, should the tenant fight the case and lose, they will have to pay the landlord’s court and attorney’s fees. The tenant can also receive a significant hit to their credit rating, harming their ability to find a place to live in the future. Most of the time, the best option for the tenant is to negotiate an agreement with the landlord outside of the courtroom. This can often happen through a process called mediation. 

 

What are defenses a tenant can raise in an eviction? 

 

There are a number of defenses available under Iowa law that a tenant can raise during an eviction. These defenses may be able to help the tenant stay in their rental. 

 

What if my landlord tries to evict me without a court proceeding?

 

The only way a landlord can evict a tenant is by going to court and getting a court order allowing the eviction to occur. Iowa law makes it illegal for landlords to attempt to force a tenant out of a rental property through any other means, such as changing locks, shutting off utilities or sending people to physically kick you out. This type of eviction is often called a “self-help” eviction or an “unlawful ouster.” Should a landlord try to evict a tenant with any of these actions, the tenant can sue the landlord for damages and repossession of the rental property. See Iowa Code 562A.26 for more information regarding this defense.  

 

What if the landlord improperly evicts the tenant? 

 

It is very important for a landlord to follow all the rules outlined in the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act when attempting to evict one of their tenants. If a landlord doesn’t follow the proper procedures, a court could rule that the eviction is invalid. For example, if the landlord does not give the tenant proper notice (three or seven days typically) before filing the eviction action, the eviction lawsuit will likely be dismissed by the court. If the tenant continues to not pay rent, the landlord can still give proper notice and then file a new eviction lawsuit.  

It is important here to understand that the landlord’s failure to follow the proper procedures doesn’t mean they cannot evict you. It merely delays the process until the landlord follows the proper procedures. The eviction will proceed once all rules and regulations are properly followed by the landlord.  

 

What are a tenant’s defenses for not paying rent? 

 

There are two main defenses a tenant can use to defend a landlord’s action against them for failure to pay rent.  

 

If Tenant pays rent in full 

 

As noted previously, a landlord is required to give their tenant a three-day notice prior to filing an eviction with the court. The tenant then has three days to pay the rent in full to prevent termination of the lease. Should the tenant pay rent in full within those three days, the landlord cannot file an eviction suit. See Iowa Code 562A.27(2) for more information regarding this defense. 

 

Should the tenant try to pay the rent in full, it is important to get a receipt with a time stamp in order to prove that rent was paid in full within that three-day period. This will prevent the landlord from filing an eviction suit and falsely claiming you did not pay within the three-day period.  

 

What if the landlord did not maintain the rental unit? 

 

A landlord is required to maintain their rental units to the minimum standards set out by Iowa law. According to the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, the landlord is, at a minimum, required to: 

  • Keep the rental fit and habitable; 
  • Keep all common areas clean and safe; 
  • Comply with all building and housing codes affecting health and safety; 
  • Provide trash bins and trash removal; 
  • Maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and any other appliances the landlord has agreed to supply to the rental unit (including elevators); 
  • Supply running water and hot water; and 
  • Supply heat. 

See Iowa Code 562A.15 

 

If the rental unit needs repair or maintenance to address one of the above areas, the tenant must notify the landlord in writing of the issue in need of maintenance/repair. The tenant must give the landlord at least seven days to make the repair. If they fail to make the repair within that seven-day period, the tenant has a number of options to remediate the issues.  

 

If a landlord attempts to evict the tenant for taking measures to remediate the issues with their residence, the tenant can defend against the eviction by showing that the landlord failed to maintain the rental unit pursuant to Iowa code. The court may require the tenant to pay rent to the court during the proceeding. Then, the court will make a decision as to who will receive the rental payment at the end of the suit. See Iowa Code 562A.24 for more information regarding this process.  

 

What if a landlord evicts the tenant for a lease violation? 

 

As previously noted, the landlord is required to give the tenant seven days to correct the violation or pay for any damages caused by the tenant’s lease violation. If the tenant does correct the violation within that period, the landlord cannot file the eviction suit with the court. It is very important to keep documented evidence of what the violation was, how it was remediated, and when it was remediated. If the landlord files the eviction anyway, the tenant can use the documented evidence from the correction of the violation as defense of the eviction.  

 

Remember, as noted previously, if you receive a second notice for the same violation within six months, the landlord can evict a tenant without allowing the tenant to remediate the issue. 

 

What if the landlord discriminates against the tenant? 

 

Federal law, specifically the Fair Housing Act, makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on race, gender, nationality, familial status (children, pregnancy, etc.), and disability. In addition, under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If a landlord tries to evict a tenant based on any of these characteristics of the tenant(s), the tenant can raise the issue of discrimination in the eviction proceeding as a defense.  


Posted 
January 6, 2021
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