Official State of Iowa Website

Home Improvements and Repairs 

Making repairs or improvements to your home can be expensive. You will want to carefully select who you hire to make these repairs or improvements.  

Searching for and selecting a contractor 

Icon of an eye looking through a magnifying glassA good home improvement or repair experience begins with selecting the right contractor or repair person. 

The Iowa Attorney General’s website gives helpful information for people who are making home repairs or improvements, including: 

If a contractor comes to your house that you did not invite, do not make any agreements until you have had time to investigate the contractor. If you did sign an agreement, you may still have time to give the contractor a notice of cancellation in writing. For more information, see Iowa Code chapter 555A.   

After you’ve selected your contractor, you and the contractor should sign a written contract. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office recommends including the following information in the written contract

  • details of the work to be done 

  • the brand and specifications of the materials to be used 

  • the price 

  • who handles obtaining building permits and scheduling inspections 

  • language saying that all change orders must be in writing 

  • who handles cleanup  

  • start date and completion date (as well as what happens if the contractor does not meet them) 

Mechanic’s lien 

When a contractor performs work on your home, the contractor can get a “mechanic’s lien” on your home under certain circumstances. Iowa Code chapter 572 covers mechanics’ liens.   

A lien is a claim against your property that can allow a contractor who was not paid for work they did on your home to sell your property or be paid if you sell your property, to compensate the contractor for the labor and/or materials supplied.  

Every person or company that supplies material or labor for the work on your property, whether the contractor or one of its subcontractors, is entitled to a lien to secure payment for the materials or labor supplied. This is true even if the homeowner does not have a direct contract with the subcontractor or supplier.  

Icon of a hand typing on a keyboardTo have a valid mechanic’s lien for a residential construction project, a preliminary notice must be posted to the Mechanic’s Notice and Lien Registry (MNLR) before the balance due is paid to the general contractor. You can search the MNLR for commencement of work notices, preliminary notices, and mechanics’ liens. Iowa Code section 572.13A covers notices posted by the general contractor and Iowa Code section 572.13B covers notices posted by a subcontractor. When you make your final payment, you should have the general contractor sign a release and waiver of lien, a sample of which is included at the end of this document from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.  

If a contractor or subcontractor has placed a mechanic’s lien on your property, you will receive a notice in the mail or the notice will be personally delivered (served) to you. For more information on these mechanics liens and what to do if you receive notice of a lien on your property, see Iowa Legal Aid’s Mechanic’s Lien page and the Iowa Secretary of State’s Mechanic’s Notice and Lien Registry page for Property Owners.    

Reporting fraud to the Attorney General 

If you know or suspect your contractor has overcharged you or has been dishonest with you about your project, you can file a complaint with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office