When landlords or tenants have questions about rental rights and obligations, both should look to the Iowa Landlord Tenant Act (Iowa Code 562A) and the rental agreement for the apartment. Let’s review the access rights and obligations from the Iowa Landlord Tenant Act regarding entering a tenant’s apartment.
Iowa Code 562A.19, “Access” defines a landlord’s rights and obligations in regards to accessing the rental unit. First, 562A.19(1) explains that a “tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises, make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers or contractors.” This section states that in case of an emergency, the landlord may enter without consent of the tenant.
Landlords also have specific rights to access the unit upon a court order, a tenant’s failure to maintain the unit, and a tenant’s abandonment of the unit. A landlord’s right to access pursuant to 562A.28, “Failure to Maintain”, is based upon health and safety concerns. A landlord may access the unit for emergencies due to failure to maintain or, if not an emergency, is required to give the tenant seven days’ notice to cure the failure to maintain before a landlord may access to remedy. In addition (562A.29), a tenant’s absence in “excess of fourteen days” gives the landlord the right to access the unit during the absence at reasonably necessary in order to maintain the unit. In the case of a tenant abandoning the unit, the landlord is required to access the unit and make reasonable efforts to rent it to a new tenant at a fair rental rate.
A tenant’s legal rights to use and occupy the dwelling unit is important as well. Therefore, 562A.35 restricts landlords from abusing the right of access as a means to harass the tenant. Unless the rental agreement outlines a longer time frame or it is impracticable to do so, landlords must give tenants a notice of at least twenty four hours prior to access the unit. Even with the notice, the landlord’s access shall be “only at reasonable times.” Section 562A.35 outlines remedies available to the landlord and tenant if the other violates the right of access. The non-violating party may recover actual damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and terminate the unit rental agreement or obtain an injunction to provide or prevent access.
When questioning whether you as a landlord may access a unit or you as a tenant may restrict a landlord’s access, look to the Iowa Landlord Tenant Act. Don’t forget to review your rental agreement before and after execution as it may add terms to the rights and obligations of access.