Eviction Law in Iowa

What Is an Eviction?

An eviction is the forceful exiting of tenants following an issued notice by the property owner or landlord. Evictions usually come as a result of failure to pay rent, or from violations of the lease agreement. However, evicting a problem tenant can be a long and costly experience as landlord-tenant laws favor tenants. Getting a better understanding of Iowa eviction law can help.

Even though eviction notices happen as a result of serious problems with the tenant, not all eviction notices lead to an actual eviction. Oftentimes, eviction notices serve as a final warning for the tenant. If the tenant can then pay rent, or begin to follow the lease agreement, they may avoid eviction.

When Can Landlords Send a Termination Notice?

The Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent

If a delinquent Iowa tenant frequently pays rent late, or has not paid rent at all, there is a good reason for eviction. Some states do have a grace period for an occasional late payment. However, if a tenant makes a habit of always paying late, that grace period does not apply and the property owner can provide an eviction notice.

According to the Iowa State Legislature, there is no law establishing a grace period for late rental fees. However, a landlord can include this provision in the rental agreement if they desire. If the rent on a unit is $700 or less a month, a landlord cannot charge more than $12 per day, up to $60 per month, as a late fee.

You should always provide your tenant with “late rent” notices and keep a copy for yourself in your files. That way, if the eviction case goes to court, you have paper evidence of their failure to pay rent on time.

The Tenant Violates the Terms or Conditions of the Lease Agreement

Lease agreements are legal contracts. This means if your tenant violates the contract in any way, it can be grounds for eviction. For example, if your lease agreement says that your tenant cannot have an additional person living in the unit, and they violate this rule, you can begin the eviction notice process.

The lease agreement is also legally binding for the landlord. This means that any Iowa landlord must also follow the rules in the agreement and Iow eviction law, such as making repairs, and performing maintenance written into the lease.

The Tenant Damages the Property

Tenants are going to cause damage to the property; it’s unavoidable. Wear and tear when living in a home is normal. Still, there’s a difference between scratches on the wall or broken blinds, and intentional destruction of property.

If it’s clear that your tenant is doing severe damage to your property, such as breaking through walls or smashing windows, this may be cause for eviction. However, if your tenant makes repairs themselves, and doesn’t make any major changes to the property, this might not be grounds for eviction.

The Tenant Uses the Property for Illegal Purposes

If your tenant is using your Iowa property for illegal purposes, such as selling drugs or weapons, this can be clear grounds for eviction. Reporting the issue might also bring criminal charges against the tenant.

However, you should prepare to provide evidence that the tenant is using the property for illegal purposes. If law enforcement came to the property to address these issues at any time, these reports could prove helpful.

How to Evict a Tenant in Iowa

If you want to evict a tenant for any reason, then you need to understand the eviction process. Here’s how it works.

Step 1. Check Iowa Eviction Law

Iowa eviction law is different than in other states and can also vary at the city level. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws before taking any action. Always ensure you have a legally valid reason for an eviction before giving notice. A qualified Iowa attorney can help review your case to determine if you do.

Iowa Legal Aid lists the most common reasons for evictions in the state. Failure to pay rent, or violating the rental agreement can give the landlord legal cause to terminate your residence. A tenant may also face eviction if he or she allows a guest of theirs to become or create a “clear and present danger”.

Step 2. Give a Formal Notice of Eviction

If you have tried to reason with your tenants and they continue to violate the terms of your lease, you should then provide them with a formal notice of eviction. Your eviction notice will serve as an ultimatum or final warning. It should explain how your tenant is in violation, as well as what they can do to stop the eviction process.

The eviction notice should include a deadline for the tenant to either pay rent or move out, and the amount the tenant owes. If you’re unsure of how to create an eviction notice, you can use online templates or seek legal advice.

Iowa Landlord Guidance warns against anyone taking illegal steps or actions to evict a tenant. Methods of “self-eviction” such as changing the locks, removing a tenant’s personal property, or shutting off access to essential services is illegal and punishable by law. A tenant must be served with written notice of eviction. They should also have time to pay off the balance if the eviction is due to late rent payments. If a tenant has left behind valuable property once they vacate, a landlord is obligated to serve them with notice and hold the property for a reasonable time so that the tenant may recover it.

Step 3. File the Eviction with the Court

You must file the eviction notice with the court within a few days. The court will then set a hearing date and will notify the tenant of the hearing by a summons. Landlords seeking to remove a tenant must file in an Iowa Small Claims Court. They will have to file an action for forcible entry and detainer.

Step 4. Contact an Experienced Iowa  Eviction Attorney and Prepare for the Hearing

You should find an attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare for the hearing. Then, when you go to the hearing, you should bring the following documents:

  • Lease agreements
  • Records of payments
  • Bounced checks
  • Record of communication between you and the tenant
  • Record of the eviction notice
  • Proof that the tenant received the notice

Step 5. Evict the Tenant

If you’ve won the hearing, your tenant will have time to move out of your property. The amount of time allowed is dependent on the state, but it typically ranges from 48 hours to one week. If the tenant refuses to leave, you can contact Iowa law enforcement to forcibly remove them from the property.

Step 6. Collect Past-Due Rent Payments

If your tenant owes you rent money, you may still have a long fight ahead to collect past-due payments. You can try to collect these payments through a number of methods:

Work with an Experienced Eviction Attorney in Iowa

The tenant will likely try to argue that you did not follow proper procedures for providing an eviction notice. Having a qualified Iowa attorney on your side can take the pressure off your back, and help ensure a court victory. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Iowa state lines.

Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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