Evictions (Forcible Entry and Detainer) in Iowa

In Iowa, to evict a tenant, a landlord cannot engage in self-help but must obtain a court order to evict a tenant. The procedure in Iowa to evict a tenant is called a forcible entry and detainer (FED) action.

Typical reasons to evict include the tenant violated a lease term, the tenant created a clear and present danger to other residents, and the tenant has not moved out after the lease ended. Violations of lease terms include nonpayment of rent, having a pet in violation of the lease, etc. A “clear and present danger” includes physically assaulting or threatening another person, illegally using or possessing a firearm, and possessing illegal drugs. There are specific ways that a tenant may cure a clear and present danger problem.

Before instituting eviction proceedings, the landlord must give the tenant written notice. If written notice is not given, then the court will dismiss the FED case. The notice that is required depends on the type of case. For nonpayment of rent, creation of a clear and present danger, and notice to quit, the landlord is required to give a three-day notice. For curing lease violations or to terminate a lease with no right to cure, the landlord must give a seven-day notice. The written notice must be served on the tenant by the following means: (1) personal service, (2) hand delivery by the landlord if the tenant signs an acknowledgement of service, and (3) posting at the tenant’s dwelling unit along with regular and certified mail.

If the tenant cures the problem within the required period of time, then the landlord cannot evict the tenant; however, if the tenant within six months commits substantially the same violation, the landlord may terminate the tenancy with seven-days notice and does not have to give the tenant a chance to cure. If the tenant does not cure the problem within the required period of time or only partially cures the problem and does not move, then the landlord may start the eviction process with the court by filing an FED petition.

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The FED hearing cannot be set any sooner than seven days after the FED petition is filed. The FED petition must be served on the tenant by (1) personal service or (2) if personal service cannot be made after at least two attempts, the landlord may elect to post a copy of at the dwelling unit and must send by certified mail a copy at the place the tenant holds out as the place for receipt of communications or in the alternative the last known place of residence. The tenant must be served with notice of the hearing at least three days before the hearing.

At the hearing, if the tenant fails to show and the landlord has complied with the proper procedure, then the court will order eviction. If the tenant and the landlord show to the hearing, the tenant and landlord may or may not come to an agreement. If the tenant and landlord do not come to an agreement, then the court hears testimony and evidence from the parties. If the landlord has not followed the proper procedure, then the case is dismissed. (However, the landlord may file a new eviction case after giving the right notice.) If the landlord has followed the proper procedure, eviction is granted. The court can delay issuance of the writ to give the tenant time to move out. The sheriff oversees the removal of the tenant’s property, and depending on its schedule, further delays of the execution of the writ are possible.

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