Landlord Rights, Duties, and Remedies
The tenant is the person renting the home, room, or apartment to live in, while the landlord is the person (or group of people) renting the apartment to the tenant. For example, if Gregor is renting an apartment from Juanita, Gregor is the tenant and Juanita is the landlord.
While a variety of federal, state, and local laws can apply to the relationship between a landlord and a tenant, this page focuses on the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
The Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Iowa Code chapter 562A, includes parts that are called “Landlord Obligations” and “Landlord Remedies.” While the Act does not include a part called “Landlord Rights,” because the act imposes duties on tenants, we can also find landlord rights in the chapter.
Landlords have a legal right to protect their property and investments. In rental agreements, landlords can limit how the rented areas can be used, how many people can live in the space, whether pets are allowed, etc. They can require fees and reasonable security deposits to help pay for restoring the apartment to a rentable condition, once the current lease ends. Landlords, with sufficient notice, have a right to enter apartments for inspections and to make repairs. Landlords also have the right to evict tenants for not paying rent, for violating rental agreement terms, or for violating laws. For more information on evictions, see our section on Evictions.
Landlord duties (or obligations)
The Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act has several sections that focus on “Landlord Obligations,” meaning things the landlord has a duty to do. These obligations are located at Iowa Code sections 562A.12 through 562A.16.
Landlords have a duty to deliver possession of the apartment, meaning they need to give the person leasing the apartment the ability to access and live in the apartment.
Landlords must also:
- Take no more than two months’ rent as a security deposit
- Return the security deposit within 30 days of the end of the lease to the address the tenant supplied, along with a written explanation if the landlord withheld some or all of the deposit
- For more information, see our page on Security Deposits
- Follow building, housing, city, county, and state laws to provide healthy and safe living spaces
- Make all repairs within apartments and common areas to keep them safe for people to live
- Provide and maintain supplied appliances and utilities, such as electricity, plumbing, garbage removal, and hot running water
We also know from section 562A.19 that landlords must provide at least 24-hours' notice before entering the apartment for normal inspections and repairs.
The Iowa Code provides landlords with several remedies when tenants do not follow the lease’s terms or create problems that make apartments dangerous or unhealthy places to live. Landlords cannot cut off the utilities, change the locks, or raise the rent to try to force the tenants to leave. Landlords need to read Iowa Code sections 562A.27-562A.36 carefully to make sure that they take the right steps to notify tenants about problems and give tenants a chance to fix them.
- If the tenant does not pay rent on time, send the tenant a written, dated notice telling the tenant they must pay within three days or you will end the lease. If the tenant pays, the lease continues.
- If you discover serious problems the tenant has caused that create unhealthy or unsafe living conditions, send the tenant a written, dated notice telling the tenant of the specific problems they need to fix within seven days or you will end the lease. If the tenant fixes the problems, the lease continues.
- If the tenant possesses illegal drugs, or threatens or attacks others physically or with a weapon, send the tenant a written, dated notice, listing the specific incidents, and stating the lease will end in three days.
If the tenant does not pay their rent or correct the problems, terminate the lease and start a lawsuit to regain possession of the apartment and to recover unpaid rent. You may also have a separate claim for damages and for reasonable attorney fees in certain circumstances. Iowa Code section 562A.32.
For more information on landlord rights, duties, and remedies, see Iowa Legal Aid’s Summary of Iowa Landlord and Tenant Law and the Iowa Legislative Services Agency’s Legislative Guide—Landlord-Tenant Law (December 2016).