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The eviction process in Iowa is designed to give the landlord the tools necessary to force tenants who fail to pay rent, break the rental agreement or violate Iowa code out of the rental unit. Landlord should use the eviction process for removing a tenant from a dwelling unit. It is never okay to just change the locks or throw the tenant's property out of the rental unit. Some examples of when to use the eviction process are:
The information provided below is meant to serve as a basic guideline to the eviction process. It is always a good idea to consult a lawyer when taking legal action.
 
 
 
 
Eviction Process


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Notice of Nonpayment of Rent

Notice of Material Noncompliance with the lease

3 full days

7 full days to comply with the lease

Forcible Entry and Detainer (F.E.D. action)

Forcible Entry and Detainer (F.E.D. action)

3 full days

3 full days

F.E.D. Hearing

F.E.D. Hearing

3 full days

3 full days

Tenant moves out or Writ of Removal must be filed

Tenant moves out or Writ of Removal must be filed

Sheriff's office arranges forced move-out

Sheriff's office arranges forced move-out

In order to recover damages, back rent and any future rent, a small claims case must be filed by the landlord

In order to recover damages, back rent and any future rent, a small claims case must be filed by the landlord

Termination for Nonpayment of Rent 562A.27(2)
1. If the tenant fails to pay rent when due, the landlord must serve a 3-day Notice of Nonpayment of Rent, stating:
a. The amount of rent due
b. The applicable late fees 535.2 (7)
c. Any other sums due and owed under the lease
d. That the lease will terminate if the tenant does not pay rent within the three days

2. If the tenant tenders the full amount of rent, plus late fees within the three-day period, the landlord must accept it. The landlord is under no obligation to accept partial payment after service of the 3-day Notice of Nonpayment of Rent.

3. If the tenant does not pay rent within three days, the landlord may proceed with an eviction by filing an F.E.D.

4. The landlord does not have to give a separate Notice to Quit after the Notice of Nonpayment of Rent. 648.4

5. 30 days' peaceable possession is a bar to an action for possession for that month's rent. 648.18
Example: Rent is $500.00, due on the 1st of each month. Tenant owes $200.00 as partial rent from June and has not paid rent for July. Landlord serves a Notice of Nonpayment of Rent, stating the tenant owes $200.00 from June plus $40.00 late fees and $500.00 from July plus $40.00 late fees, for a total of $780.00. If the landlord did not serve a 3-day notice in June, the landlord cannot evict for the rent due that month and the tenant only has to tender $540.00 (July's rent) to cure the default.
Even if an action for possession is barred by 30 days' peaceable possession, the landlord still has a separate action for rent due under the lease.
Even if the landlord plans to work with the tenant, a 3-day notice should still be served promptly on the expiration of the grace period. This will avoid any waiver of the landlord's right to evict.

Termination for Material Noncompliance with the Lease
1. If the tenant fails to comply with a provision of the lease (other than paying rent), the landlord may serve upon the tenant written notice stating: (the tenant can do this as well if the landlord fails to comply with a provisions of the lease or Iowa law)
a. The exact nature of the violation
b. If the violation is not cured within seven (7) days of service, the tenancy will be terminated

2. If the tenant fails to remedy the breach, the landlord may proceed with an eviction by filing an F.E.D.

3. If the tenant remedies the breach, but he/she commits substantially the same violation within six months, the landlord may terminate the tenancy with seven days' written notice and does not have to give the tenant the chance to cure the material noncompliance.

Termination for creating a clear and present danger 562A.27A
1. If the tenant creates a clear and present danger to the landlord, the landlord's employees, or other tenants, the landlord may terminate the tenancy

2. "Clear and Present Danger" includes:
a. Physical assault or the threat of physical assault
b. Illegal use of a firearm or other weapon
c. Possession of a controlled substance

3. The landlord must serve a 3-day Notice to Quit and the tenant cannot remedy the situation

4. If the tenant fails to move within the 3-day period, the landlord may proceed with an eviction by filing an F.E.D.
NOTE: The landlord must provide proof to the Court that there is a clear and present danger. Signed affidavits from witnesses are fine, but a police report is best.
 

A. THE THREE-DAY NOTICE
1. Before beginning an action for possession, the landlord must serve a 3-day Notice to Quit after the tenancy has been terminated by one of the methods above 648.4.
Exception: If the landlord has previously served a 3-day Notice of Nonpayment of Rent, a further 3-day Notice to Quit is not necessary.

2. The 3-day Notice does not have to be served by a private process server or the Sheriff.

3. The 3-day Notice can even be posted on the dwelling unit.

4. Three full days must expire between the service of the Notice and Forcible Entry and Detainer Action.

Example: Rent is due on the 1st and is late after the 5th of each month. On the 6th the landlord serves a 3-day Notice of Nonpayment of Rent. The landlord must wait until the 10th before filing an F.E.D.

B. ACTION FOR FORCIBLE ENTRY AND DETAINER
1. The F.E.D. is an action for possession only and the landlord cannot seek to obtain delinquent rent or damages.

2. The F.E.D. must be filed with the Clerk of Court and should include the 3-day Notice (either Notice to Quit or Notice of Nonpayment of Rent) and a return of service for the Notice.

3. The tenant must be given three full days between the date of service of the F.E.D. and the hearing. (648.5 was amended from five days to three days between service and the hearing.)
Example: In the above example, the tenant is served with a 3-day Notice on the 6th of the month and doesn't pay. The landlord files an F.E.D. on the 10th. The earliest date on which the hearing should be set is the 14th, assuming the F.E.D. can be served the same day it is filed.

NOTE: If the landlord alleges damages in the F.E.D., the tenant may ask the Court to treat the action as a money judgment, giving the tenant twenty days in which to file an answer, followed by a hearing date two to three weeks in the future.

4. The F.E.D. must be served upon the tenant by:
a. Personal service 562A.29(1)
b. Certified mail, if the tenant signs for it 648.5
c. Posting on the rental unit, if
    (1). Personal service has been attempted two (2) times
    (2). Notice is sent via regular mail to the tenant's last known address
    (3). Notice is sent via certified mail to the tenant's last known address
    (4). An affidavit is filed stating that a copy of the F.E.D. was both mailed and posted 631.4(c)

C. THE F.E.D. HEARING
1. If the tenant appears at the hearing and if the tenant has no defense, the landlord is entitled to possession of the rental unit three (3) days from the hearing. (648.22 has been amended to give the landlord possession in three days rather than ten.)

2. If the tenant fails to appear at the hearing, the landlord is entitled to immediate possession.

3. If the tenant shows up with cash, the landlord is not obligated to take the money and can demand any sum in order to dismiss the F.E.D. Once the 3-day cure period has expired for nonpayment of rent, the landlord is under no obligation to accept any money.

4. The parties can agree to a judgment for possession and can negotiate a date for the tenant to move out.

The landlord must wait for the expiration of the 3-day period before obtaining a Writ of Removal. If the hearing falls on a Tuesday or later in any given week, the landlord will be unable to obtain a Writ of Removal until the following Monday. Giving the tenant until midnight Sunday to move out looks like the landlord is "negotiating" without compromising the landlord's position.

5. The parties can enter into a Stipulated F.E.D. The hearing is continued to an agreed-upon date. The tenant agrees to pay a certain sum before the new hearing date. If the tenant pays, the landlord or the Court will dismiss the action. If the tenant doesn't pay, the landlord is entitled to immediate possession.
Example: At the hearing, the tenant swears he can pay the $540.00 delinquent rent. The landlord requires that the tenant pay the $540.00 delinquent rent, plus $240.00 for June's rent, plus the costs of the action and service, to the landlord by a certain date.

You can encourage the tenant to make partial payment as a "good faith" showing. If the tenant then fails to pay all of the money by the agreed upon date of the new hearing, the landlord is entitled to possession of the rental unit AND may keep any partial payments made.

D. THE WRIT OF REMOVAL
1. The landlord must obtain an Order for possession based on the F.E.D. action. Self-help is never an option for the landlord. He/she MUST rely on the Court system before removing a tenant or the tenant's belongings from the rental unit.

2. If the tenant is still in possession of the rental unit past the date the Court sets in the Order, the landlord must obtain a Writ of Removal.

3. The Clerk of Court will issue a Writ to the Sheriff, who will visit the rental unit.

4. On an agreed-upon date, the Sheriff will supervise the tenant's forcible move-out
a. The landlord must supply the workers.
b. The landlord must supply boxes, bags, etc.

5. Take photographs or videotape of the move out, including pictures of the tenant's personal property after removal.

The tenant's possessions may be removed to the public right-of-way.

Under NO circumstances should the tenant's possessions be left inside the property or taken to an off site storage unit.


Damage Claims

A. F.E.D. IS NOT AN EXCLUSIVE REMEDY
1. The F.E.D. is an action for possession only, and should not be combined with a claim for damages.

2. However, the landlord still has a claim for damages.

B. DAMAGES
1. Damage to the rental unit
a. Landlord has a claim for the cost to return the rental unit to its pre-rental condition.
b. However, landlord may not claim for costs due to normal wear and tear.
c. Tenant must have caused the damage by deliberate or negligent act, or have allowed the damage to occur. 562A.12(3)(b)

2. Back rent owed

3. Future rent due under a written lease if the tenant vacated prematurely
a. The landlord has a duty to mitigate damages by attempting to re-rent the apartment
    (1). Landlord does not have to rent the vacated apartment first,
            if there are other vacant apartments in the complex.
    (2). Landlord cannot refuse to rent the vacated apartment
b. Be Careful! A landlord cannot tell prospective tenants that there are no apartments available when one sits vacated. Nor should prospective tenants be told that it is "company policy" not to re-rent an apartment that is still under lease.
c. If the landlord cannot re-rent the apartment after good-faith efforts, the landlord has a claim for monthly rent until the apartment is re-rented, or monthly until the expiration of the lease, whichever occurs first

C. SEPARATE DAMAGE ACTION
1. An action for damages must be brought as a separate action.
a. The jurisdictional limit for small claims court is $4,000.00.
b. If the landlord's damages are in excess of $4,000.00, the action must be brought in District Court.

2. Damages must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.

3. In the initial action, damages may be estimated. The Court at the hearing will demand proof of the damage costs. Photograph the damages. Provide the bills for the work done or provide written estimates for work to be performed.

4. Have the tenants served early, while you still know where they are:
a. Serve the tenants at the same time the F.E.D. is served.
b. Serve the tenants at the F.E.D. hearing.

5. The tenants will have twenty (20) days from the date of service to file an Answer.

6. If the tenants fail to file an Answer, the landlord is entitled to judgment for all the damages that can be proven to the Court.

7. If the tenants file an Answer, a hearing will be set.

D. ENFORCING A MONEY JUDGMENT
1. Repayment plan through the Court

2. Promissory Note in favor of the landlord

3. Garnishment of wages
a. After the judgment is entered, the landlord must file garnishment documents with the Clerk of Court and Sheriff.
b. Always know where the tenants work, so you can garnish their wages.
c. Garnishment will take a fixed percentage, based on the tenant's yearly income.

4. Garnishment of bank accounts
a. The landlord may take all the money held in a checking or savings account.
b. As a practical matter, this works once because the tenant will change banks.
c. Set the garnishment to be executed shortly after payday to maximize the return.

5. Till Tap
a. If the tenant is self-employed in a business that keeps a cash register, the landlord can garnish all funds on hand at the business.
b. Coordinate with the Sheriff to execute the garnishment during peak business hours.


Conclusion
The three keys to a successful landlord / tenant relationship:
1. Careful screening of prospective tenants
2. Document everything
3. Know the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (Chapter 562A of Iowa Code) and follow it

Take photographs or videotape of the rental unit before move-in and after move-out

Put everything in writing
1. Lease
2. Receipts for security deposits
3. Receipts for rent payments
4. Receipts for keys, garage openers, etc.
5. Notices to tenants
6. Repairs

Always make sure that the landlord is complying in good faith with duties and obligations:
1. Clean, well-maintained rental units
2. Written leases that do not include prohibited provisions
3. Regular housing inspections and current certificates
4. Respect for the tenant's possessory rights
5. Prompt attention to tenant complaints
6. Professional handling of tenant problems

Have a regular system for handling late rent payment:
1. Send out 3-day Notices of Nonpayment of Rent immediately after the expiration of the grace period
2. Treat all tenants the same

Know how, why and when you can terminate a tenancy.

Ensure you comply with the regulations regarding security deposits:
1. Collect a maximum of two months' rent as deposit
2. Hold the deposit in a separate, interest-bearing account
3. Return the security deposit promptly after move-out
4. Only retain that to which you are entitled
5. Send a written notice of the disposition of the security deposit, even if the tenant left no forwarding address

Use the court system to:
1. Terminate a tenancy
2. Evict a tenant
3. Remove a tenant's personal property from the unit

Sue former tenants if they owe money
1. It's easier to proceed in small claims court
2. Give the tenant credit for money retained
3. Be professional and well-documented
4. Know how to enforce the judgment

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