State Evictions

Iowa Eviction Process

October 24, 2023

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Eviction In Iowa

If you own and rent properties in the state of Iowa, you are responsible for complying with Iowa eviction laws. Reviewing eviction laws by state is the best way to stay up to date about important legislation that could impact your rental business. In this article, we break down each step of the legal eviction process in Iowa. 

Iowa’s eviction laws can be found at Iowa Code § 562A.27-562A.37 and Iowa Code § 648

Eviction Process in Iowa 

  1. Landlord serves a three- to seven-day eviction notice. 
  1. Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court. 
  1. Court serves tenant a summons. 
  1. Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment. 
  1. Tenant gets up to three days to move out. 
  1. Sheriff returns to forcibly remove the tenant. 

In Iowa, tenants can be evicted for failing to pay rent, violating the lease, holding over after the lease ends, or creating a clear and present danger to others. 

It’s important to note that if a landlord in Iowa allows the tenant to violate the lease or rules subsequently adopted by the landlord, they will automatically waive their right to terminate the rental agreement for that breach. The landlord may, however, grant a tenant a temporary waiver for a certain number of days (Iowa Code § 562A.30). 

1. Landlord Serves a Three- to Seven-Day Eviction Notice 

If any of the above lease violations occur, the landlord must first serve an eviction notice in Iowa and state that the tenant has the appropriate number of days to remedy or cure the violation. There are three possible eviction notices a landlord may send in Iowa: 

  • Rent Demand Notice: 3 days to pay or quit. If rent is unpaid when due, the landlord must deliver this Iowa three day eviction notice stating the amount of unpaid rent required to remedy the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate if it is not paid (not less than three days after receipt of the notice) (Iowa Code § 562A.27(2)). 
  • Lease Violation Notice: 7 days to cure or quit. If a tenant violates another lease term, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the breach and what is required to remedy it, as well as the date on which the lease will terminate if the tenant does not cure the breach (not less than seven days after receipt of the notice) (Iowa Code § 562A.27(1)). 
  • Repeat Violation Notice: 7 days to quit. If the tenant commits substantially the same violation within six months of the first one, the landlord may send a seven-day quit notice with no opportunity to cure (Iowa Code § 562A.27(1)). 
  • Unconditional Notice to Quit: 3 days to quit. This notice gives no opportunity to “cure” the violation and applies if the tenant creates a clear and present danger to the health or safety to others as per Iowa Code § 562A.27A, including: 
    • Physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault someone 
    • Using a firearm or other weapon illegally, or threatening to 
    • Possessing a controlled substance (except for medical purposes) 

All notices should be written and served in one of the following methods as per Iowa Code § 562A.29A

  • Delivered to a resident of the unit at least 18 years old 
  • Personally served to the tenant as per Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure 1.305 
  • Posting the notice on the front door of the unit and mailing it by both regular and certified mail with a return receipt 

2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court 

If the tenant has not cured the breach by the end of the notice period (or if the violation is uncurable and the notice period expires), the landlord can then file an action for forcible entry and detainer (the eviction lawsuit) with Iowa Small Claims Court in the county where the property is located. The specific form the landlord is required to file is called an Original Notice and Petition for Forcible Entry and Detainer (downloadable here). The landlord will also need to complete and file a Verification of Account (downloadable here) and pay a filing fee of $95 (Iowa Code § 631.6a). The landlord can make one claim for possession and rent and a separate claim for reasonable attorney’s fees and other actual damages, but note that if the Action for Money Judgment is filed later, an additional $95 fee will apply (Iowa Code § 562A.32).  

The court will then set a date for the hearing no later than eight days after the filing date. However, if the landlord requests or consents to a later trial, the hearing can take place up to 15 days after the filing date (Iowa Code § 648.5(1)(a)). If improper notice is given or the court date is set less than three days after the eviction notice is initially served, then the tenant has the right to a continuance to have more time to prepare or get an attorney (Iowa Code § 648.5(5)). 

3. Court Serves Tenant a Summons 

After the landlord files a claim, the clerk of the court where the landlord filed will issue a summons, which the landlord should have served to the tenant. The summons should be served with a copy of the complaint by someone who is not part of the case (can’t be the landlord or their attorney). As per Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1.302, the summons will include: 

  • The name of the court 
  • The names of all parties 
  • The name, address, and phone number of the landlord’s attorney 
  • The date the eviction lawsuit was filed 

The tenant is not required to file a written answer to the summons and can present any justification as to why they shouldn’t be evicted at the eviction hearing. However, if the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, a default judgment will be awarded in favor of the landlord. 

4. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment 

On the day of the eviction hearing, the landlord should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the judge, who will afterwards issue a judgment. If the judge rules in the landlord’s favor, the court will issue a writ of possession. 

If the court determines that a genuine issue of material fact exists (a disagreement about facts relevant to the case), an evidentiary hearing will be held, and the court will delay the hearing to a future date until the facts can be verified (Iowa Code § 648.5(7)). 

5.  Tenant Gets Up to Three Days to Move Out 

Once the writ is issued, the sheriff will post it at the tenant’s residence. The maximum amount of time Iowa tenants get to move out is 72 hours, as the writ must be executed within three days (Iowa Code § 648.22). 

The tenant may choose to appeal the judgment from a small claims court hearing; however, they must do so within 20 days of the decision. 

6. Sheriff Returns to Forcibly Remove the Tenant 

If the tenant does not move out by the time the sheriff returns or at the end of the three days, they will be forcibly removed from the unit and asked to leave the premises. The writ can only be executed in the daytime (Iowa Code § 648.20). 

Evicting a Squatter in Iowa 

A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. In Iowa, squatters must have color of title to invoke Iowa squatters rights and claim right of possession. Color of title is the right of legal ownership without a formal, written deed for the property. A squatter obtains color of title in Iowa if they satisfy any of the following criteria as per IA Code § 560:  

  1. The squatter is a purchaser in good faith at a judicial or tax sale made by the proper officer, whether that officer actually had the authority to make the sale or not. 
  1. The squatter lived in the property for five continuous years. 
  1. The squatter lived in the property less than five years, but paid property taxes for at least one year, and the owner has not offered to repay them. 
  1. The squatter lived in the property for three years under a state or federal law or contract. 

The squatter’s possession must also be: 

  • Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner 
  • Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property 
  • Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there. 
  • Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.  
  • Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession. 

If a squatter meets one of the four criteria in IA Code § 560 and all the above criteria, they can file an action for adverse possession in Iowa to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in Iowa, you should: 

  1. Call local law enforcement. 
  1. Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter. 
  1. If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer. 
  1. If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office. 
  1. Send the squatter an eviction notice as per Iowa eviction law. 
  1. If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process. 
  1. Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer. 

Iowa Eviction Cost Estimates 

This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of an eviction in Iowa, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress. 

Action Approximate Cost 
Filing fee $95 
Service of court summons Varies by county 
Service of writ of possession Varies by county 
Legal fees $500-$10,000 
Average locksmith fees $160 
Storage fees for abandoned property Varies 
Tenant turnover costs Varies 

Iowa Eviction Time Estimates 

The chart below shows an estimate of the duration of each part of the eviction process. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.  

Action Duration 
Eviction notice period 3-7 days 
Eviction hearing  8-15 days after filing 
Issuance / service of writ of restitution Varies 
Time to quit after writ is posted 3 days or less 
Time to appeal after judgment 20 days 
 Total  3-8 weeks 

Court Documents 

Additional Resources 

Conclusion 

The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures and Iowa laws on eviction, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state. 

Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information. 

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