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Iowa Property Management Laws

Property management laws cover many different, sometimes complicated situations between tenants and landlords. Staying informed about your rights as a property manager and your obligations to those who lease your dwellings can go a long way toward keeping your property management operations flowing smoothly. This guide on Iowa property management laws provides an overview of the appropriate legal information that will guide you through many of the main situations that occur when leasing a dwelling. Included at the end of the guide are further resources to consider.

Key Points

  • 1 The Iowa Civil Rights Act provides explicit protections for members of certain classes from rental application discrimination.
  • 2 Mobile home parks in Iowa are often subject to similar but tangibly different property management laws.
  • 3 Some local Iowa laws require rental properties to be registered with a rental inspection program.
  • 4 Iowa landlords are legally required to maintain their buildings to a safe and comfortable standard.

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.

Property Management Laws Overview in Iowa 

Code Description
Rental Application Laws
562A.9 Terms and Conditions of Rental Agreement
562A.12 Rental Deposits Law
562A.15 Landlord to Maintain Fit Premises Law
562A.19 Access Law
562A.23 Wrongful Failure to Supply Essential Services Law
562A.27 Non-Compliance With Rental Agreement Law
562B Mobile Home Parks Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
562A.36 Retaliatory Conduct Prohibited Law
216 Iowa Civil Rights Act
648.5 Forcible Entry and Detainer Law
193E Disclosure of Agency Law
IDPH IAC 641 Lead Paint Law

Rental Application Laws

What application fees are allowed? 

Iowa doesn’t limit the amount of fees a landlord can charge a tenant who is applying to rent a dwelling. Additionally, these fees are non-refundable to the tenant, even if his or her application is denied. 

Can a landlord discriminate against prospective tenants?

The Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 states that everyone should have an equal opportunity to rent a dwelling, regardless of their race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, mental disability, physical disability and familial status.

Anyone who believes they have been discriminated against can lodge an official complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. 

Security Deposit Laws

Is there a limit on the security deposit amount that can be charged? 

Yes, the maximum amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit cannot exceed the cost of two months’ rent (562A.12).

Does the landlord have to hold the security deposit in a specific way during occupancy? 

Security deposits must be kept by the landlord in a federally insured, interest-accumulating bank or credit union account separate from any other personal use accounts. Any interest accrued while the security deposit is held belongs exclusively to the landlord. 

How long does the landlord have to return the security deposit after move out? 

The landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of the termination of the lease. If some or all of the security deposit is withheld, a written statement indicating the reasons for keeping the deposit must be furnished to the tenant within 30 days of the end of their tenancy. 

What are the reasons why a landlord can withhold part or all of the security deposit?

A failure to pay rent or other financial obligations due to the landlord, a need to restore the dwelling to the condition it was in before the tenant rented it and to reimburse any expenses incurred from evicting the tenant who did not leave in good faith once their lease expired are all sufficient reasons for the landlord to withhold part or all of the security deposit. 

The landlord is required to prove that these expenses are reasonably due to them and to provide an itemized written list to the tenant detailing the exact cost of any and all liabilities. 

What is the penalty if the landlord doesn’t return the security deposit? 

If the landlord intends to keep some of the deposit but doesn’t supply the tenant with a written statement indicating their reasons for withholding security deposit funds within 30 days of the end of their lease, the landlord automatically relinquishes all rights to keep the deposit. This is not true if the tenant does not provide a new mailing address or sufficient contact information when they move. If after one year the tenant still does not provide this information, the entire security deposit becomes the landlord’s property.

A “bad faith” failure to return the security deposit means the landlord can be sued for punitive damages. They would then be responsible for paying those damages, plus the entire cost of the security deposit (which may not exceed two months’ rent). 

Laws About Leases and Lease Termination

What types of lease terms are allowed? 

Leases can describe a fixed term of tenancy, traditionally for a year. If the lease does not specify such terms, the default term is one year (562B). It is also possible for a tenant to be “at will,” which means the tenant is only allowed to stay on the premises with the express permission of the owner, and their rental obligations renew automatically on a month-to-month basis (562.4).

What happens in the tenant violates the lease? 

There are different ways a tenant can violate their lease, which is addressed further down on the list. If a tenant violates his or her lease, their landlord may file eviction proceedings against them, called a forcible entry and detainer suit.

How much notice is required for a month-to-month lease termination? 

Tenants leasing on an “at will” or month-to-month basis must provide 30 days’ written notice to cancel their lease, and landlords must do the same.  

When can a tenant terminate a term lease without penalty? 

A tenant is released from his or lease without penalty if the unit violates Iowa health and safety codes (562A.23), if the landlord harasses him or her or violates his or her privacy or if the tenant is a uniformed service member.

How much notice do service members have to supply before terminating the lease?

Service members can end their leases at any time by providing written notice to the landlord indicating they are ending their lease for military reasons. The lease will then end 30 days after the next date that rent is due. 

Are there special lease termination rules for victims of domestic violence? 

Iowa does not have any special legal provisions that allows victims of domestic violence to end their leases early without penalty. However, federal or local laws may have special provisions. 

How and when can a landlord evict a tenant? 

If a tenant is late paying their rent, the landlord will provide them with a written notice saying that the tenant has three days to pay the balance due or their lease will be terminated and the landlord can begin an eviction suit against them (648.5).

A landlord can also evict a tenant if they are in violation of their lease terms — for example, if they cause extensive damage to the property or if they or someone they know represents a clear and present danger to the property, the landlord or other tenants. The landlord must provide a written notice telling the tenant that they are in violation of their lease, and if the tenant does not correct the behavior, their lease will be canceled seven days after receipt of the notice (562A).

There is one exception to the above law: victims of domestic violence who are at no fault for any dangerous or harassing behavior and take certain legal steps to protect themselves and the property from harm are exempt from eviction for a violation of lease terms. A local attorney can further guide them on their rights in such a situation. 

Laws About Rent and Late Fees

When can a landlord increase rent? 

A landlord can increase rent at the beginning of a new lease term but must provide the tenant with 30 days’ notice before the increase will take place. Iowa does not have any rules on how much of an increase the landlord can charge. 

Is there a maximum amount of rent that a landlord can charge tenants? 

The Iowa State Legislature does not have any provisions on rent control, but federal and local laws may apply. 

Is there a state-mandated grace period that landlords must give tenants before charging a late fee? 

No, Iowa does not have a statute for how long a landlord must wait before they can charge a fee for late payment of rent. 

Is there a limit on how much of a late fee the landlord can charge tenants?

If the monthly rent is less than $700, the maximum amount a landlord can charge is $12 a day to a maximum of $60 a month. If the rent is over $700, the fee can be $20 a day to a maximum of $100 a month.

Legally Required Disclosures

What types of disclosures are landlords required to supply regarding ownership of the property?

For a written lease, a landlord is required to indicate the amount of the rent, when that rent is due, where and how it should be collected, how long the lease runs for, if there is a grace period for late payments and the amount of any late fees for overdue rents. 

Can the owner designate an agent to serve and receive disclosures? 

An agent can represent an owner only if the agent discloses that they are not themselves the property owner but someone working on their behalf (193E).

What disclosures related to mold are landlords required to supply?

Iowa doesn’t require landlords to disclose the presence of mold before renting a dwelling, but toxic mold may make the residence uninhabitable due to a health hazard, which would be in violation of Iowa’s health and safety code, allowing the tenant to end their lease without penalty (562A.23).

What disclosures related to lead paint are landlords required to supply?

A landlord must tell a lessee if the dwelling contains lead-based paint and must provide them with a written statement (IDPH IAC 641).

Laws About Landlord Responsibilities

How much notice does the landlord have to supply before entry? 

For non-emergency visits, a landlord should let the tenant know they need to enter the dwelling 24 hours beforehand (562A.19).

When can the tenant refuse to allow the landlord entry? 

A tenant can legally prevent their landlord from entering if the landlord has not provided 24 hours’ notice for a non-emergency visit, does not visit at a reasonable time or abuses his or her right to entry. 

What steps must the landlord take to keep the property habitable? 

A landlord must make sure the dwelling follows Iowa health, safety, building and housing codes and must keep the common areas of the property clean and safe. He or she is charged with making whatever repairs are necessary to fulfill this obligation.  

What amenities must the landlord supply and maintain? 

Iowa law requires landlords to provide appropriate trash disposal receptacles and to keep electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation and elevator services running properly. 

What utilities must the landlord supply and maintain? 

Unless heating and hot water is in a separate unit specific to a tenant’s dwelling and is under the sole control of the tenant, a landlord must make sure all units have continual access to running water and a “reasonable” amount of hot water. 

Does the landlord have to supply a certificate of inspection? 

As of 2017, some Iowa landlords are required to register their rental units with the Rental Housing Inspection Program, but they do not necessarily have to provide a current certificate of inspection. 

Are retaliatory actions prohibited?  

Landlords in Iowa are legally prohibited from engaging in retaliatory actions, such as increasing rent, stopping services or utilities or engaging in threatening or harassing acts against tenants who have complained to the landlord or to a government agency or have joined a tenant’s union (562A.36).

Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

How long does the landlord have to make repairs? 

Iowa law does not specify an exact timeframe in which landlords must respond to requests for repairs. 

What type of maintenance is the tenant responsible for? 

A tenant is responsible for any maintenance that is written into their lease as long as such terms do not violate Iowa law. 

Is the landlord responsible to fix damage caused by tenants? 

No, the tenant assumes responsibility for any damage he or she causes to the dwelling, whether intentional or not. 

When can a tenant request an official inspection to determine substandard or dangerous living conditions? 

Iowa does not have a legal mandate for when a tenant can request an official inspection.  

Under what circumstances can a tenant make a repair and deduct the cost from the rent paid to the landlord? 

If the problem was not caused by the tenant him or herself and if the issues affect the ability of the tenant to safely live in the dwelling as defined by the Iowa State Health and Safety Code, the tenant may have recourse to do the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from the rent. If they do, they must provide the landlord written notice seven days before the rent is due that they intend to claim part of the rent as reimbursement for their repairs.

When is a landlord required to pay for relocation assistance? 

The landlord is not required to pay for relocation assistance, but certain Iowa government bodies may have to, depending on the reason for relocation. 

Who Is Exempt?

If a religious institution offers rental housing, they are exempt from following Iowa’s Civil Rights Act, which protects certain classes from discrimination. This is not true if the religious institutions’ housing doubles as a commercial enterprise or if it discriminates based on race, color or national origin. 

A landlord is also exempt from the Civil Rights Act if they are renting space in a single house to three or fewer roommates. 

Some housing specifically earmarked for elderly tenants may be able to discriminate against people with children. 

Landlords who lease mobile homes must provide tenants with 14 days’ notice before terminating the lease in the event of a tenant’s non-compliance with lease terms, rather than the seven days’ notice required for landlords of other dwellings. Other exemptions for mobile home property managers exist and can be referenced in the Iowa state code (562B). 

To find out specific information about these unique situations, it is best to consult with a local attorney. Additionally, while Iowa State law may offer exemptions in some situations, local or federal laws may still apply. 

Additional Rental Law Resources for the State of Iowa

To keep up to date with the latest information on property management laws in Iowa, tenants and landlords can look through the additional resources included below. 

Name Phone Number Description
Manual on Low Income Housing in Iowa N/A Published by the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural and Economic Development, this guide details low income housing options available to Iowa residents. 
Fair Housing Know Your Rights Brochure N/A An easy-to-read fact sheet detailing Iowa residents’ rights to equal housing opportunities, put out by the Iowa Commission on Human Rights. 
Iowa Civil Rights Commission (800) 457-4416 If you believe your housing rights have been violated, you can call this government agency for advice or to lodge an official complaint. 

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.