Asking Your Landlord to Make Repairs
Notify your landlord and keep a copy of your request
Notify the landlord of all necessary repairs in writing and keep a copy of the request for your records. If you need to speak with your landlord in person or over the phone, you should follow up the conversation with an email summarizing the conversation and any agreements that you and the landlord made.
In some cases, the landlord may use an online portal or online maintenance request form for tenants to request repairs. After you complete the request, take a screenshot of the request before submitting it and also take a screenshot of the confirmation screen, if there is one, making sure to save each screenshot before taking the next one.
After a tenant submits a request, a landlord has the right to enter the rental to make repairs. Iowa Code section 562A.19 requires landlords provide at least 24 hours’ notice to enter, unless there is an emergency or it is “impracticable” for the landlord to give this notice.
Agreements for the tenant to make repairs
Tenants should also be cautious about oral agreements to make the repair in exchange for reduced rent. A landlord and tenant of a rental unit (other than a single-family residence) may agree in writing that the tenant will perform specified repairs or maintenance, if:
(a) the agreement is entered into in good faith with adequate consideration, and
(b) the agreement does not affect or diminish the landlord’s obligation to other tenants
The lease should describe exactly what repairs the tenant will make and who pays for the supplies. If the rental is a single-family home, the agreement only needs to be entered into in good faith. Iowa Code section 562A.15.
Steps to take if the landlord refuses to make necessary repairs
If the landlord refuses to make repairs that they are required to make, Iowa Code section 562A.27(4) provides an option for tenants. The tenant must notify the landlord in writing of the problem and inform the landlord that if the problem is not fixed within seven days, the tenant will fix the problem and deduct the cost of the repair from rent. If the landlord does not fix the issue within seven days after receiving the written notice, then the tenant may pay for the repair and deduct the costs from the next month’s rent. The cost of fixing the problem should be reasonable and cannot be more than one month’s rent.
Additionally, the tenant may contact the rental housing inspector if there is one in the city. The city inspector could order the landlord to fix a problem if there is a violation of the city code. A landlord who does not fix the issue may be taken to court or fined by the city.
Your landlord cannot retaliate against you (try to punish you) for requesting necessary repairs or complaining about the landlord’s failure to make repairs to appropriate city officials, with some exceptions. Iowa Code section 562A.36 provides more information on the specifics of retaliation and when it is not allowed.
Visit Iowa Legal Aid’s page How Do I Get My Landlord to Make Repairs? for more information.