Evictions in Iowa from the Landlord’s Perspective, Part II

III. Forcible Entry and Detainer Filing and Notice Requirements

A. Notice to Quit

Iowa law requires that, prior to a forcible entry and detainer action being filed, the landlord serve the tenant with a notice to quit demanding that the tenant surrender and vacate the premises within 3 days. At this point, the tenant may simply move out and the process would be complete. As a practical matter, the landlord should not stop the procedure until the landlord is certain the tenant has actually vacated and when the tenant returns the keys to the landlord. The best practice at that point is to change the locks so as to eliminate any “spare key” issues. If three days expire and the tenant has not vacated, the landlord may begin the actual court proceeding to evict the tenant.

B. Filing of Forcible Entry and Detainer Petition and the Perils of Providing Proper Notice of Hearing Date.

The first actual filing in court in a forcible entry and detainer action is the Petition and Original Notice. This is filed in small claims court and requires an $85.00 filing fee. The Petition states the ground(s) for the eviction and warns the tenant that failure to appear may result in judgment for possession and for court costs. The Petition also allows the landlord to select from one of two options related to the length of time until the hearing is scheduled. The landlord can request that the Court set the hearing within eight days of the filing of the Petition or within fifteen days.

The choice on whether to have the hearing scheduled within eight or fifteen days is often determined by the landlord’s confidence in getting the tenant served with notice in a short period of time. The tenant needs three days of notice of the hearing date prior to the hearing date. The landlord may serve the Petition through personal service or through acknowledgment but this has to be done “not less than three days prior to the hearing.” As one would imagine, having a person served at least three days prior to the hearing when the hearing date is only eight days away can prove troublesome. If confident, the landlord may select the eight-day option. Generally, the best course of action is to allow fifteen days because of the rules related to service of the Petition if the tenant cannot be served personally by the Sheriff or will not sign an acknowledgment of receipt of the Petition.

The rule states that two attempts must be made to have the tenant served personally or to get an acknowledgment before a different form of notice may be employed. If those two attempts have been made but the tenant has not been served, the landlord may post the Petition on the primary entrance door and mail by regular and certified mail to the tenant’s last known address (usually the rental unit unless they have moved). The rub lies in the fact that the rule states that the mailed notice is not deemed received until four days after it is postmarked and deposited in the mail. So, in order to serve the Petition by posting and mailing, two attempts have to be made at personally delivering the Petition and the mailing has to occur at least eight days prior to the hearing which all but eliminates any chance of proper service within eight days.

Properly serving the Petition on the tenant is fraught with potential complications. The rules cannot be overlooked as proper service is jurisdictional, meaning the court is in no position to hear the merits of the case without the required notice. If service is properly made, the small claims court will have a hearing which will be discussed in Part 3 of this blog post.

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Evictions in Iowa from the Landlord’s Perspective, Part I

I. Introduction

Iowa law requires landlords to strictly comply with a number of procedural requirements prior to being able to evict an individual or individuals from a rental unit. Following the rules is imperative as any slight failure could result in an action being dismissed, thereby requiring the landlord to repeat the steps again which will, in turn, increase the time and expense of the eviction and prevent the re-renting or other intended disposition of the rental unit.

Iowa eviction actions are controlled by Iowa Code Chapter 648 and are referred to as actions for “forcible entry and detainer.” That Chapter intersects with Iowa’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law which is found at Chapter 562A of the Iowa Code. This blog post will be broken into separate parts dealing with lease termination, notice requirements, and the eviction hearing itself.

II. Lease Termination

To evict a tenant, the tenant’s lease must be terminated. The notice required to terminate a lease is often dictated by the terms of the rental agreement itself but may also be determined by law depending on the reason for the termination.

A. Expiration of the Lease Term

If the lease term is simply ending (e.g. the year-long lease is up) and there is no written lease dictating the notice required or the written lease does not address the issue, the amount of notice required depends on the length of the lease:
• If week to week, then 10 days’ notice is required;
• If month-to-month, then 30 days’ notice is required; or
• If longer than month-to-month, then 30 days’ notice prior to the expiration of the term is required.

B. Holding Contrary to the Terms of the Lease

If the tenant is using the property in some way that violates the agreement of the parties (e.g. allowing more people to live in the unit than allowed or smoking inside the unit), the landlord must provide the tenant with a “cure notice” giving the tenant 7 days from the date they receive the notice to remedy the violation. This requirement also applies to a situation where the tenant is not complying with the landlord-tenant law and such noncompliance materially affects health and safety. Failure to cure the violation is grounds for termination.

C. Nonpayment of Rent when Due

Where the tenant has not paid rent, the landlord does not have to provide any notice greater than a 3-day notice of termination of tenancy which should be combined with a notice of nonpayment of rent and the 3-day Notice to Quit described in the next edition of this post. If the tenant does not pay the rent within 3 days, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process regardless of the length of the lease.

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Iowa Workers' Compensation Part 2

Employees are covered by the workers' compensation act. Independent contractors are not covered. The title of "employee" or "independent contractor" is a question of fact to be determined. A list of factors are reviewed, including but not limited to a.) how long the worker is employed, b.) payment method and c.) if the work is part of the employer’s regular business. The parties’ intent and/or any one factor does not control.

A person who has a work-related injury is generally entitled to three major benefits: 1.) medical benefits; 2.) temporary disability or healing period benefits (to compensate for time off work while recovering from the injury); and, 3.) permanent disability benefits (if the work injury results in a permanent functional impairment).

Iowa Code § 85.27 identifies that the employer is responsible to pay the medical bills stemming from a work injury. In theory, medical care remains open indefinitely. If the employer continues to pay medical bills, the employer gets to pick the doctor. Generally, if the injured worker receives medical care from an "unauthorized" doctor, the employer will not be responsible for payment of the corresponding medical bill.

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Iowa Workers' Compensation

Iowa has an administrative agency known as the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission that handles injured workers’ claims. A jury trial is not available for a worker’s compensation claim. An Arbitration Petition must be filed with the Commission in order preserve some benefits, specifically temporary disability/healing period benefits and permanent disability benefits.

There is a 90-day window in which an injured worker must inform the employer that the worker has been injured AND the injury is related to work. The employer can have actual notice of the injury, written notice of the injury and/or verbal notice of the injury.

There are also time limits for filing a worker’s compensation case so a person who suffers a work-related injury must take timely action. If no weekly disability benefits have been paid to the injured worker, the injured worker has 2 years from the date of injury to file a workers' compensation claim. If weekly disability benefits have been paid, then the injured worker has 3 years from the date of last payment to file a claim. Note that payment of medical benefits DO NOT count as weekly benefits.

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Welcome to Brown, Kinsey, Funkhouser and Lander’s updated website! Our firm provides legal expertise in personal injury, wrongful death, Social Security disability, worker’s compensation, real estate, estate planning/probate, and corporate/business law. Our blog will cover various topics within these practice areas in order to introduce some basic legal principles.

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