Property Management Blog

Breaking a Lease in Waterloo, Iowa - Know the Laws

EPM Iowa LLC - Wednesday, March 15, 2023

As a landlord in Iowa, it's important to understand the rules and regulations surrounding the breaking of a lease. While a lease is a legally binding contract that tenants are expected to honor, circumstances can arise that may require them to move out before the lease term ends. 

It's crucial to know your rights and obligations when a tenant breaks their lease, and how to handle the situation legally and ethically. In this article, we will cover legally justified reasons for early lease termination. This way you will be well-informed when it comes to your rights as well as your tenants’ rights. 

By understanding these important considerations, as well as all landlord-tenant laws, you can ensure that they are prepared to handle any potential lease-breaking situations with their tenants.

Rental Agreement in Iowa 

It is crucial to have a concise rental agreement. As a landlord, it is your duty to inform your tenants about the consequences of terminating the lease without a valid reason and their entitlements for ending the lease with a justifiable cause when they sign the lease.

Additionally, your rental agreement should specify the amount of notice that the tenant must give you before terminating their periodic lease in Iowa. In compliance with Iowa state regulations, your tenant is required to give you the following notice

  • In the case of a month-to-month lease, you must give a notice of at least 30 days before the periodic rental date mentioned in the notice.


  • If you want to terminate a yearly lease with no end date, you must provide a notice of at least 30 days before the end of the first or subsequent term of the tenancy mentioned in the notice.

Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Iowa

Under Iowa law, breaking a lease without a valid reason is considered a breach of contract and can result in legal and financial consequences. Some examples of unjustified reasons to break a lease in Iowa include:

  • Wanting to move to a nicer or cheaper apartment: Unless there are significant issues with the current living conditions or the landlord is in breach of contract, wanting to move to a different apartment is not a valid reason to break a lease.

  • Disliking the neighbors or neighborhood: Disliking the neighbors or the neighborhood is not a valid reason to break a lease.

  • Getting a new job in a nearby city or town: If the tenant is not required to move for work-related reasons, getting a new job in a nearby city or town is not considered a valid reason to break a lease.

  • Wanting to move closer to family or friends: Unless there are extenuating circumstances such as a medical condition, wanting to move closer to family or friends is not a valid reason to break a lease.


  • Problems with roommates, such as disagreements or difficulty paying rent, are not usually valid reasons to break a lease.

If tenants decide to break a lease for any of the reasons mentioned above without obtaining court approval or violating the terms previously specified in the lease agreement, they may face tangible consequences. 

In case tenants intend to terminate a lease for any of these reasons, they should request their landlord's agreement for a mutual termination.

Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Iowa

Iowa law provides tenants with several justified reasons to break a lease without incurring any legal or financial penalties. Some of these reasons include:

  • Active Military Duty: Tenants who are members of the military and receive orders for active duty or a permanent change of station are allowed to break their lease without penalty. They must provide written notice to their landlord and include a copy of their military orders.

  • Domestic Violence: Tenants who are victims of domestic violence, harassment, or sexual assault can break their lease without penalty under Iowa law. They must provide their landlord with written notice, including documentation from a qualified professional, such as a law enforcement officer, health care provider, or counselor.


  • Unit is Uninhabitable: Tenants have the right to a safe and habitable living space. If a landlord fails to maintain the unit or address any health or safety concerns, tenants may be able to break their lease. Examples of uninhabitable conditions include no heat or hot water, mold, infestations, and structural issues.

  • Landlord Harassment: Landlords have a duty to provide tenants with peaceful enjoyment of their rental unit. If a landlord engages in harassing or threatening behavior towards a tenant, the tenant may be able to break their lease. Examples of landlord harassment include entering the unit without notice, making unwarranted threats of eviction, or refusing to make necessary repairs.

Landlord's Breach of Lease Agreement: If the landlord has breached the lease agreement, such as failing to make necessary home repairs or provide essential services, the tenant may have a valid reason to break the lease.

The Importance of Laws When Breaking a Lease 

Staying updated on the laws of breaking a lease in Iowa is important for landlords for several reasons:

  • Avoiding Legal Trouble: As a landlord, it is crucial to understand the legal implications of breaking a lease in Iowa to avoid potential legal trouble. Failure to comply with the law could result in costly fines or legal action against the landlord.

  • Protecting the Landlord's Rights: Understanding the laws of breaking a lease in Iowa can help landlords protect their rights as property owners. By knowing their legal options, landlords can take action to enforce the terms of the lease agreement and protect their investment.

  • Maintaining Positive Tenant Relationships: Landlords who are knowledgeable about the laws of breaking a lease in Iowa can communicate effectively with their tenants about the lease agreement, and any potential issues that may arise. This can help maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship, leading to greater tenant satisfaction and retention.

  • Minimizing Financial Loss: Understanding the laws of breaking a lease in Iowa can help landlords minimize financial loss in the event that a tenant breaks their lease. By knowing their legal options, landlords can take appropriate action to recover any damages or unpaid rent owed by the tenant.


With the information you've gained about breaking a lease in Iowa, you can safeguard yourself from any possible legal issues with your tenants. 

Should you have any further inquiries regarding rental laws in Iowa, such as security deposit laws, please do not hesitate to get in touch with EPM Iowa

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.