5 Basic Rights of Every Iowa Tenant

Freedom From Discrimination and Landlord Retaliation

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Iowa has a group of laws, referred to as Iowa’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law, which spells out the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in the state. Included in these rules are the right to Fair Housing, laws for landlord entry and specific rent disclosure requirements. Here are five rights every Iowa tenant is entitled to.

Iowa Tenant’s Right to Fair Housing

§216.8, §216.8A

Iowa tenants have the right to freedom from discrimination in housing. This includes:

  • Renting property.
  • Getting financial assistance with the rent at that property.
  • Trying to purchase a home.
  • Getting financial assistance to purchase that home.

Iowa tenants are protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act, and also by Iowa’s own Fair Housing Act. The Federal Act protects seven classes of people and Iowa’s own law protects an additional four classes, so in total, eleven groups of people are protected from housing discrimination in Iowa.

11 groups of people are protected from housing discrimination in Iowa.

The 11 Protected Groups Include:

  • Age- Only a protected group if the person is a guest of the tenant.
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Disability
  • Familial Status
  • Gender Identity
  • National Origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

An example of a discriminatory act would be if a landlord has a common lease that they sign with all tenants. If the landlord changes the lease terms for one tenant based only on the fact that the tenant is a member of one of the above groups, it would be considered housing discrimination.

Iowa Tenant’s Right to the Security Deposit

§562A.12

Amount:

Iowa law protects tenants by limiting the amount a landlord can charge. In Iowa, the most a landlord can collect as security is two times the monthly rent.

Rules for Storing Deposit:

Landlords are responsible for placing a tenant’s deposit in an account in a financial institution, such as a bank or credit union. If the account does earn any interest, the interest belongs to the landlord for the first five years of the tenant’s tenancy. After that time, any interest earned would be the property of the tenant.

Deductions From Deposit:

Iowa landlords can take deductions from the tenant's deposit to cover:

  • Damage in excess of normal wear and tear.
  • Costs that the landlord has incurred from the tenant refusing to move out of the rental.

30 Days to Return Deposit:

Landlords in Iowa have 30 days after receiving a tenant’s forwarding address to return the security deposit amount owed back to the tenant. The tenant has one year after moving out to supply the landlord with their forwarding address. If the tenant does not provide a forwarding address within a year, then the deposit becomes the landlord’s property.

Iowa Tenant’s Right to Notice Before Landlord Entry

§562A.19, §562A.35

Notice Before Entry:

In Iowa a landlord must usually give 24 hours’ notice before entering a tenant's apartment. The landlord can only enter during reasonable hours, which would be normal business hours unless the landlord and tenant agreed on another time.

Legally Allowed Reasons for Entry:

Even with notice, the landlord is only allowed to enter for certain reasons. These reasons include:

  • To inspect the property.
  • To make necessary repairs, alterations or improvements.
  • To supply necessary services.
  • To show the unit to prospective tenants, buyers, contractors or buyers.
  • Under court order.
  • To repair or maintain a health or safety issue at the property caused by the tenant’s failure to maintain the unit.
  • If the tenant has been away from the unit for more than 14 days.
  • If the tenant has abandoned the property.

Entry for Emergencies:

In emergency situations, a landlord does not have to provide notice. A fire at the property would be considered an emergency.

If Tenant Refuses Entry:

If a tenant refuses to allow a landlord into the unit when the landlord has followed all legal rules, the landlord can obtain an injunctive order to gain access to the unit or can terminate the tenant’s lease. The landlord may also be entitled to damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.

If Landlord Abuses Entry:

If a landlord abuses the right to enter a tenant’s unit, the tenant can obtain injunctive relief to prevent the landlord from entering the unit or can terminate the lease agreement. The tenant may be entitled to damages equal to at least one month’s rent and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Iowa Tenant’s Rights After Landlord Retaliation

§562A.36

Acts of Landlord Retaliation:

Iowa’s landlord tenant law protects tenants against acts of landlord retaliation. Examples of landlord retaliation could include:

  • Increasing a tenant’s rent.
  • Decreasing services to a tenant.
  • Failing to make necessary repairs.
  • Failing to perform needed maintenance.
  • Harassing the tenant to attempt to force the tenant to move.
  • Filing to evict the tenant.

Tenant’s Legal Rights:

The above actions could be considered retaliation if they occur within one year of:

  • A tenant complaining to a government agency about a possible health or safety violation at the property.
  • A tenant complaining to the landlord about a possible health or safety violation.
  • The tenant joining or organizing a tenant’s union.

Court Award for Landlord Retaliation:

If a court decides the landlord has acted in retaliation, the tenant can be awarded damages, plus reasonable attorney’s fees, as well as possession of the unit if they have been unfairly evicted.

Times When a Landlord’s Actions Are Not Considered Retaliation:

  • The tenant makes the complaint against the landlord after a rent increase.
  • The landlord has had an increase in costs to maintain and operate the property.
  • The health or safety violation is a result of the tenant’s failure to maintain their rental unit.
  • The tenant is behind on their rent.
  • A landlord’s compliance with a building or housing code would require the tenant’s unit to be repaired to such an extent that the tenant would not be able to use the unit.

Iowa Tenant’s Right to Rent Disclosure

§554.3512, §562A.9, §562A.13(5), §562A.27

In Iowa, tenants have a right to know certain things about the rent. The landlord is allowed to include the rent terms in the lease agreement, as long as the terms are all legal under Iowa’s landlord-tenant law.

The Lease Agreement Can Include:

If Specific Rent Terms Are Not in the Lease, the Following Terms Apply:

  • The rent amount will be the fair market rent for the property.
  • Weekly or monthly rent will be collected at the rental unit.
  • Rent is due at the beginning of the week or the beginning of the month, depending on the length of the lease.
  • For tenants who rent a room in a property, the lease term will be assumed to be weekly, for all others, the lease term will be assumed to be monthly.

Late Fees:

Landlords in Iowa can charge tenants a late fee if they do not pay their rent on time. However, a tenant’s right to not be overcharged for this late fee is protected by Iowa law.

  • Rent of $700 dollars a month or less:
    • The late fee can be no more than $12 dollars a day or $60 dollars a month.
  • Rent more than $700 dollars a month:
    • The late fee can be no more than $20 dollars a day or $100 dollars a month.

Rent Increase:

Iowa landlords have the right to increase a tenant’s rent. However, they must follow certain rules to do so.

  • Written Notice:
    • Landlords must provide tenants with at least 30 days written notice before increasing a tenant’s rent.
  • When:
    • Rent can only be increased at the beginning of a new lease term.
  • Amount:
    • Iowa’s law does not set a limit on how much a landlord can increase a tenant’s rent by. The actual amount of the rent increase is up to the landlord.

Termination for Nonpayment:

  • Written Notice:
    • If a tenant has not paid their rent, a landlord in Iowa must send them a notice to pay rent or quit.
  • Three Days
    • Within three days of receiving this notice, a tenant must pay the rent that is owed. If the tenant fails to pay the rent within three days, then the landlord can file to evict the tenant.

Bounced Check:

If a tenant pays their rent by check and the check bounces, the landlord is entitled to collect an additional fee from the tenant. The landlord must follow certain rules in order to collect this fee.

  • Fee:
    • For a bounced check, a landlord can collect a maximum of $30 dollars from the tenant.
  • Notice:
    • In order to collect any fee for a bounced check, the landlord must inform the tenant of the fee beforehand. The landlord must post a clear notice in the place where the tenant usually pays their rent. 

Iowa’s Landlord Tenant Law

If you would like to read Iowa’s Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Law, please see Iowa Code §562A.