Official State of Iowa Website

Forcible Entry and Detainer Hearings

A variety of places provide useful information on the eviction process, including Iowa Legal Aid and the Iowa Judicial Branch. Also consider checking your local county’s website for more information on the eviction process (for example, the Johnson County Sherriff's Office). Most importantly, do not ignore any notices you receive regarding eviction.

A landlord cannot simply remove you from your rental if you do not want to leave. The landlord must first win a Forcible Entry and Detainer action. The specifics of a Forcible Entry and Detainer action, including the notice requirements, can vary between cases. The following information is a general summary.

Before bringing an action for Forcible Entry and Detainer, a landlord must first provide the tenant with a notice to quit. If a tenant receives a notice to quit from their landlord and does not leave, the landlord can then bring an action for Forcible Entry and Detainer. When a landlord brings this action the court will schedule a hearing and another notice must be served on the tenant, in this case informing the tenant of the hearing. 

Icon of a person standing in front of a judge with a documentThe tenant can prepare an answer with defenses before the trial, but the tenant is not required to do so. Filing an answer involves completing forms with the court that outline the defenses the tenant plans to use to defend against the landlord's eviction request. The tenant can also bring up these defenses during the hearing. Defenses tell the court why the tenant should not be evicted from the property. The tenant can also file counterclaims, in which the tenant explains, for example, why the landlord owes the tenant money.

If the tenant fails to attend the hearing in Court, the landlord will get a default judgment from the court against the tenant. Getting a default judgment in this case means the landlord will receive a court order to evict the tenant just because the tenant didn’t attend the hearing.

After the hearing, the court will decide in favor of either the landlord or the tenant. If the court decides in favor of the landlord, the court will issue an Order of Removal.  The landlord can then request that the court clerk issue a Writ of Possession, and the landlord can schedule an eviction date with the local sheriff’s office.

The losing party may file an appeal within 20 days of the judgment. If the court decided against the tenant, the tenant will still need to move out of the rental, even if they have filed an appeal. A notice of appeal for Small Claims Court is available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website's Court Forms page in the Small Claims folder. In the appeal, the appealing party will explain why they believe the court's decision was wrong.

Iowa Legal Aid operates six eviction help desks throughout the state of Iowa. For more information on evictions in Iowa, visit the Iowa Legal Aid website.