Iowa has adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act with certain local variations. This law was designed to harmonize with landlord-tenant laws across the United States. The act covers nearly every aspect of landlord-tenant relations, yet gives both parties considerable freedom to negotiate the terms of their lease.
Security Deposit Limitations
Iowa limits the amount of a security deposit to two months' rent. The landlord must open a separate bank account for security deposits and may not co-mingle these funds with his personal funds. If the landlord deducts any amount from the security deposit at the end of the tenancy, he must specify in writing--within 30 days of the end of the tenancy--exactly why the money was deducted, or forfeit his right to retain any portion of the security deposit. If the tenant fails to give the landlord a forwarding address within one year of the end of the tenancy, the landlord may keep the entire security deposit regardless of whether or not he had the right to deduct any amount from it.
Repair and Maintenance Obligations
The landlord is responsible for maintaining the rental premises in "habitable" condition, i.e., she must ensure that electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning and other systems remain in good working order. The landlord is responsible for all repair maintenance work, except for day-to-day maintenance such as removing garbage and changing light bulbs, unless the lease agreement places some or all of these responsibilities on the tenant.
The landlord may enter the property, and the tenant must allow entry, as long as the landlord has reasonable grounds for entry and gives the tenant 24 hours advance notice. In case of an emergency, such as a fire or a crime in progress, the landlord may enter without prior notice.
Termination and Eviction
If either party commits a serious breach of the lease agreement--extended failure to make repairs or pay rent, for example--the other party is entitled to terminate the agreement. If the landlord fails to fulfill his duty to make repairs, the tenant has the option to keep the lease in force and deduct the cost of necessary repairs from the rent. If the tenant breaches the lease by failing to pay rent or creating a hazardous condition that threatens the health or safety of others, the landlord may notify the tenant that she has seven days to remedy the breach or face eviction. If the breach is not remedied, the landlord may send the tenant a written notice of termination and a "notice to quit." After a three-day period (to allow the tenant to prepare a defense), the landlord may sue for eviction of the tenant.
If the tenant moves out before the term of the lease, the landlord may seek another tenant and sue the former tenant for the balance of the rent due on the lease. The amount that the tenant owes is equal to the rent owed between the time the tenant moves out and the time that either the lease expires or a new tenant paying the same rent moves in, whichever occurs first.