Iowa eviction laws vary from county to county, but they still follow the same general eviction process:
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that the tenant could exploit.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your justice court to make sure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Failure to comply with rent deadlines
Rent is usually considered late a day past it is due. A grace period may be available if stated in the lease/rental agreement.
Before a landlord can start the eviction process, they are required to give the tenant an official written 3-Day Notice to Pay.
If rent is paid within those 3 days, then the filing for eviction does not continue. If they are unable to pay, the landlord reserves the right to continue filing for eviction.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of their stay. Agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.
If a tenant violates any terms from the lease agreement, the landlord must issue a 7-Day Notice to Comply. If the tenant resolves these issues on time, the eviction process does not continue.
Lease violations may include:
- Damage to the rental property
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.
If the violations are not resolved, or they remain on the property, then the landlord has to present another 3-Day Notice to Quit before they may continue with the eviction.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, the landlord must issue an official written 3-Day Notice to Quit.
Examples of illegal activities are:
- Illegal use and/or possession of a firearm
- Theft, violence, assault
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance
The above also applies if a guest or co-resident living with the tenant commits the illegal acts. And if anyone commits such acts within a 1,000 feet radius around the rental property.
Landlords are advised to keep a close eye on their tenants to make sure illegal behavior does not go unnoticed.
4. Material health or safety violation
Iowa law takes into account the health, building, safety, and housing codes. If a tenant violates any of these codes, the landlord must issue a 7-Day Notice to Comply to allow the tenant time to fix the problem.
Violations under this could include:
- Not throwing out trash for long periods of time, inviting bugs and/or rodents.
- Damaging the electrical wiring of a unit
- Ruining the plumbing fixtures of a unit
The tenant has to finish repairs or fix the problem by the end of the 7 days. If they are unable to do so and continue remaining on the property, then the landlord has to present another 3-Day Notice to Quit before they may continue with the eviction.
5. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends
In Iowa, landlords cannot evict a tenant or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
But if they stay in the property even a day after their lease/rental agreement ends and have not arranged for renewal, landlords can issue a written notice to move, including a 10-Day Notice to Quit, or a 30-Day Notice to Quit
If the tenant still has not left by the time their notice period ends, then the landlord has to present another 3-Day Notice to Quit before they may continue with the eviction process.
For your own Iowa lease agreement, visit DoorLoop's Forms Page to download a template along with many other forms.
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
The eviction process can only begin after the issuance of the appropriate written notice. Enough notice time must have been allowed before filing for eviction.
The eviction process is as follows:
- Proceed to the justice court the rental property belongs to
- File a complaint
- Pay the fees
It takes about 3 to 33 days from the issuance of the Notice to Vacate/Quit.
Notice to Comply
Before filing for an eviction with the court, you need to issue the tenant a notice to comply. You can either download the free PDF or Word template, or create your Iowa eviction notice from here using a step-by-step wizard that guides you through the entire process to make sure you are submitting the legally correct notice.
Keep in mind, the step-by-step wizard will ask you to pay a small fee at the end - it's a small price to pay to ensure legal compliance and protection. The last thing you want is to go to court only to find out you did the first process incorrect.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
Any adult who is unrelated to the case delivers the Summons for the hearing and the Complaint to the tenant at least 3 days before the eviction hearing is scheduled.
There are several methods to do this:
- Personal Service: The representative delivers the Summons and Complaint in person to the tenant
- Substituted Service: If the tenant is unavailable, someone living with the tenant who is over the age of 18 may receive the documents. A family member may also be the one to receive the documents
- Posting and Mailing: The representative leaves a copy of the documents for the tenant. It is placed in a secure and visible position by the entrance of the tenant’s rented property. When using this method, the server also mails the documents via first-class and certified mail.
Neither the landlord nor their lawyer is allowed to serve the documents to the tenant.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant has at least 3 days before the eviction hearing to prepare. They are not required to reply to the Summons.
The documents should be served to the tenant at least 3 days before the hearing is scheduled.
Want a complete overview of the Iowa landlord-tenant laws? Visit DoorLoop's Complete Guide to Iowa's Landlord-Tenant Laws to learn more.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgement and get a Judgement for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.
If the landlord does not win, they can still appeal within 20 days post-judgment for reconsideration.
Eviction hearings are scheduled 8 to 15 days after the complaint was filed.
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, a Writ of Execution is issued immediately.
The Writ of Execution gives the tenant a maximum of 3 days to vacate the property.
2. Move out process
Once judgment is passed in favor of the landlord, the tenant must move out within 3 days.
Only the sheriff or proper authorities are allowed to remove the tenant by force. Even if the landlord wins the case, they are not allowed to engage in illegal methods of eviction.
The state of Iowa does not specify what to do with a tenant’s belongings. If any belongings are left behind, landlords are advised to contact the tenant and give them a reasonable timeframe to claim them. After the timeframe has passed, the tenant’s property may be sold or disposed of.
The tenants have 3 days upon judgment being passed in favor of the landlord to vacate the property.
Iowa Eviction Timeline
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process. This timeline does not include special cases such as requests for an appeal or continuance.
On average, it would take anywhere between 3 weeks to 9 weeks for a complete eviction process.
1. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of Iowa, a reply from the tenant is not necessary for a court date to be scheduled. They only have to show up to the hearing.
During the eviction hearing, the landlord needs to support the claim with evidence and show it during the hearing.
This could include, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and lease
- Rent receipts and ledgers
- Bank statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.
If the judge rules in favor of the tenant, the landlord has 20 days to appeal the ruling, and vice versa.
2. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the request to begin the eviction process and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and ultimately win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything including lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
3. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, a letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
4. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can I force a tenant to move out in Iowa?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes.
In the state of Iowa, tenants can sue their landlord for the following amounts:
- Actual and punitive damages
- Attorney’s fees
- Twice the monthly rent
As another consequence of forceful eviction, the statute allows tenants to stay on the property and pays for their court costs and legal fees.
Which eviction methods are considered illegal in Iowa?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s property
What are the penalties for a self-help eviction in Iowa?
According to Iowa Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay if this were to occur.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other laws should I be aware of in Iowa?
Landlords should be aware of the changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of Iowa. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also wise for landlords to check out laws on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay their rent.