During a Tenancy

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Collecting a security deposit


Pursuant to the Iowa Landlord and Tenant Law, a landlord shall not charge a tenant more than two months' rent for a security deposit at the commencement of a lease. All security deposits shall be held by the landlord for the tenant in a bank or savings and loan association or credit union, which is insured by an agency of the federal government. Security deposits shall not be commingled with the personal funds of the landlord. Any interest earned on a security deposit during the first five years of a tenancy is the property of the landlord.

Right of entry

From time to time, you may need to enter a tenant’s unit to make repairs, perform inspections, or for other reasonable circumstances. Cooperation should always be sought during these situations, but there are times when either the tenant(s) or landlord are uncooperative. For situations such as these, you may reference the Iowa Landlord and Tenant Law. According to the Iowa Landlord and Tenant Law, a landlord should give the tenant(s) of a unit at least 24 hours notice before entering the rental unit. During the event of an emergency, though, the landlord may enter the unit without reasonable request. Furthermore, the tenant should not deny the landlord reasonable access to a rental unit.

Collecting rent

The rental lease should have specified a date when rent needs to be paid, the amount of rent that is due by the specified date, the location in which tenants can pay rent, and the forms of payment the landlord accepts.

If rent is unpaid when due and the tenant fails to pay rent within three days after written notice by the landlord of nonpayment, and the landlord’s intention to terminate the rental agreement if the rent is not paid within that period of time, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement.


The Iowa Landlord and Tenant Law outlines the duties a landlord assumes in order to keep a rental unit in a safe and healthy condition. Unless previously agreed upon in a written agreement, the landlord must uphold the following:
  1. Comply with building and housing codes that affect health and safety (Ames Municipal Code Chapter 13).
  2. Make all repairs to keep the premises in a fit, habitable condition.
  3. Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean, safe condition.
  4. Maintain in working order all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other appliances and facilities, including elevators in the premises.
  5. Provide and maintain appropriate garbage receptacles to all tenants for central collection of garbage. 
Similarly, the tenant should abide by the following duties in order to put forth effort to prevent the necessity of repairs.
  1. Comply with provisions in the Ames Municipal Code Chapter 13 that are imposed upon tenants.
  2. Maintain a clean and safe rental unit.
  3. Dispose of all garbage to the central garbage location.
  4. Use in a reasonable manner electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other appliances and facilities, including elevators in the premises.
  5. Not deliberately destroy, deface, damage, or remove a part of the premises or knowingly permit a person to do so.

In the event the landlord fails to make the necessary repairs requested, the tenant should properly notify the property management in writing of the needed repairs. If after reasonable time has passed with no actions from the property management, a written complaint can be filed with the City of Ames Inspection Division. A complaint form can be completed by clicking here.

Additionally, once the written document has been received by the landlord, the landlord has seven days to remedy the stated problem(s). If after seven days the problem has not been remedied, the tenant may elect to terminate the rental lease. If, though, the repairs are a result of a deliberate or negligent act by the tenant(s), the tenant's family members, or other persons on the premise with the tenant's consent; the tenant(s) may not terminate the rental lease.

Retaliatory conduct

It is illegal for a landlord to get back at a tenant for complaining about the condition of the property to the landlord or housing inspector. In such cases, the law presumes that the landlord is retaliating against (getting back at) the tenant, if within one year the landlord tries to raise the rent or evict the tenant. An important exception, however, is that when the rent is not paid, and the landlord takes proper action to collect rent, the law does not presume retaliation.

Terminating a lease

Normally, unless there is a violation of the agreement, neither the landlord nor the tenant can end a rental agreement during its term. For example, in most cases a six month rental agreement cannot be ended until the six months are up. To end a month-to-month agreement, written notice must be given at least 30 days before the next time rent is due (not including any grace period). For example, if rent is due on the first of the month, and the landlord gives a notice to end the agreement on the 10th of June, the earliest the tenancy could end would be the 1st of August.

Returning the security deposit

If a tenant paid the landlord a security deposit upon moving into a unit, the landlord is required to return the deposit to the tenant upon termination of the lease. There are circumstances, though, in which the landlord can withhold any or all of the security deposit. Security deposits can be withheld for the following reasons:

  • To restore the dwelling unit to its condition at the start of the rental agreement.
  • To compensate for expenses incurred in acquiring possession of the unit from a tenant who failed to vacate the unit.
  • To remedy a tenant’s non-payment of rent or of other funds owed to the landlord, pursuant to the rental agreement.

When the tenant returns the keys to the rental unit, they should also provide the landlord with a forwarding address in order to receive their security deposit. After the tenant has moved and left a new mailing address, the landlord has 30 days to return the deposit or explain to the tenant in writing exactly why the landlord is keeping some or all of the deposit. If the landlord does not contact the tenant in writing within the 30 days, then the landlord loses their right to keep any of the deposit. Also, if a tenant fails to provide a new mailing address, the tenant forfeits the security deposit.