How to Evict a Tenant (Process)
A landlord seeking to evict in Iowa must serve the tenant with a written notice of eviction and wait a set number of days before canceling their lease. Individual situations will permit the tenant to retain their occupancy if they fix their non-compliances or provide payment for overdue rent. However, other cases may be incurable and offer the tenant no option other than vacating the premises. If the tenant does not satisfy the notice terms, the landlord can seek judgment by filing a Forcible Entry and Detainer with the district court.
Step 1 – Notice of Eviction
The landlord will need to provide the tenant with a written notice outlining the details of the eviction. This letter will inform the tenant of the reason for the eviction and whether they have the option of resuming their tenancy by curing their violations. Depending on the eviction circumstance, the tenant will have between three (3) and thirty (30) days to comply with the notice.
The landlord must begin by filling out one (1) of the following eviction notices:
30-Day Notice to Quit – To cancel a month-to-month rental agreement (no cause for eviction required).
7-Day Notice to Comply or Quit – For a tenant who is non-compliant with the terms of the lease or rental agreement (e.g., material damage, unsafe conditions). The tenant may cure their non-compliances to waive the landlord’s right to terminate the lease.
3-Day Notice to Quit – For a tenant who creates a clear and present danger to anyone within one thousand (1,000) feet of the rental unit.
3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit – For a tenant who fails to pay rent by the agreed upon date. The tenant must pay rent in full or vacate within three (3) days.
Step 2 – Deliver Notice to Tenant
After filling out the notice, a copy will need to be served to the tenant. Iowa requires eviction notices to be served using at least one (1) of the following methods:
1. Personal delivery; the tenant must sign a written Acknowledgment of Service.
2. Certified mail with a dated receipt signed by the tenant.
3. Posting the notice on the main entrance of the rental unit AND sending a copy by both certified and standard mail.
4. Service by a process server.
If the notice is sent by mail, the notice period begins four (4) days after the letter is deposited and postmarked.
Step 3 – Prepare a Forcible Entry and Detainer
The tenant will be required to comply with the notice by either curing their violations (e.g., pay rent, fix damages) or by vacating the premises. If the tenant does not meet the notice terms within the specified timeframe, the landlord must file a Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED).
A FED form can be obtained on the Iowa Court webpage (select “Small Claims” and download the “Original Notice and Petition for Forcible Entry and Detainer”).
Step 4 – File the Forcible Entry and Detainer
The FED can be filed in person at a district court or online via the State’s eFiling service; online filers must create an account (review the eFile Instructions for more information). If the landlord claims that the tenant owes money for damages, an Action for Money Judgment should also be filed at this time.
A filing fee of $85 must be paid if the landlord is suing the tenant for damages of $5,000 or less. If the landlord is seeking to claim costs above $5,000, a fee of $185 will be required.
Step 5 – Court Hearing
A clerk of the court will schedule a hearing once the landlord has filed the case. The trial date shall be set for no later than eight (8) days from the date of filing. However, this date could be extended if the landlord agrees to postpone the hearing or if an Action for Money Judgment has been filed. After the hearing date is set, the landlord will receive trial papers which must be served to the tenant.
Step 6 – Serve Trial Papers
The landlord must arrange to have the trail information served to the tenant at least three (3) days before the hearing. The landlord can personally deliver the papers to the tenant or another resident of the premises who is of legal age (the recipient must sign an Acknowledgment of Service). A process server or the sheriff may be hired to serve the tenant.
Two (2) or more service attempts must be made. If the efforts are unsuccessful, the court papers must be posted on the front door of the rental unit AND sent to the tenant by both certified and regular mail.
Step 7 – Hearing
Both parties will have the opportunity to present their cases during the court hearing. The landlord should prepare by meeting with their witnesses and gathering copies of all pertinent paperwork including the lease/rental agreement, eviction notice, FED form, and photographs.
If the landlord wins the lawsuit, they must ask a clerk to send a Writ of Possession, a.k.a “eviction order,” to the sheriff in the county where the property is located (a fee will be required). The sheriff will then serve the eviction order to the tenant thus notifying them of the date they will be required to vacate.
Step 8 – Eviction Date
The tenant will be required to vacate the premises by the date outlined in the Writ of Possession. On the final date of the notice period, the landlord should visit the rental unit to see if the tenant has vacated and removed their belongings. The landlord should then call the sheriff’s department to confirm whether or not law enforcement will be required to remove the tenant from the premises.
If the tenant has yet to vacate, a law enforcement officer will be able to forcibly remove them from the premises (the landlord cannot take any actions to remove the tenant on their own). It will be the landlord’s responsibility to remove the tenant’s personal belongings and deal with them as deemed required by the court.