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Landlord Notices of Clear and Present Danger

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded
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For a survivor of domestic abuse, getting a protective order is important, but it may not take care of all problems with the abuser. Sometimes the abuser continues to do things that cause problems for the survivor of domestic abuse. For example, an abuser may come over, even if there is a protective order, and cause damage or become violent. The landlord may try to evict the tenant giving a notice of "clear and present danger." Under Iowa law, a tenant can get this notice, even if someone else caused the problem. Under a new law, tenants who get this notice will also be told how to fix the problem and prevent an eviction. The notice will tell tenants how to show the landlord that they have taken steps to fix the problem caused by the other person. This resource explains Iowa's "clear and present danger" law.

In Iowa, a landlord can evict a tenant if the landlord feels the tenant is creating a situation which places others in danger. These are called "Clear and Present Danger" evictions. The danger must be some sort of threat to the health or safety of other tenants, the landlord, the landlord's employees or other persons. It must occur within 1,000 feet of the landlord's property.

Some examples of Clear and Present Danger include physical assault, illegal use of a weapon, possession of an illegal firearm, or possession of drugs. A tenant can be evicted for their own actions, or the actions of a guest.

If the landlord believes dangerous activity is happening on the tenant's property, the landlord will give a 3-day notice to the tenant. This notice may be served on the tenant by the landlord. The notice must state exactly what happened to cause a clear and present danger.

If the danger is from someone other than the tenant, the 3-day notice must say the tenant can take certain actions to avoid eviction. These actions include:

  • seeking a Protective Order/Restraining Order against the person who is causing the danger;
  • reporting the dangerous activity to the police; or
  • writing a letter to the person telling them not to come back to the property.

The tenant must provide written proof to the landlord that one of these actions was taken. This section of the law provides a "safety net" for tenants who got the notice because of the behavior of someone else. The new law, which took effect on July 1, 2004, says that landlords must tell tenants about actions they can take to avoid eviction. If the landlord's notice does not give the tenant this information, it could be used as a defense in court.

The tenant has three days to give proof to the landlord that one of these steps was taken. If the tenant does not use one of these options or move out within three days, the landlord can file a Forcible Entry and Detainer (Eviction) lawsuit. This petition will contain the date set for the hearing.
If the tenant does not provide proof before the eviction is filed, the judge will make a decision based on all the evidence. Each case is different. However, it is important to bring proof of the steps the tenant took to try to fix the problem, even if everything wasn't done in the three days allowed by the notice. The judge can take the tenant's attempts to fix the problem into account, along with other evidence given at the hearing.

At the eviction hearing, the judge will decide if the tenant will be evicted. There are some defenses to an eviction for Clear and Present Danger. It is possible that the tenant was not aware that the dangerous activity occurred. Perhaps the activity wasn't really dangerous. It is also a defense if the notice sent by the landlord did not say all of the things the law says it should say.

A Clear and Present Danger notice is the first step in this type of eviction. The defenses listed and discussed in this article are just some examples of arguments a tenant could make in court. If you receive a Clear and Present Danger notice, you should contact a lawyer right away.

Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275. 
Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or 
apply online at iowalegalaid.org
 
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org.   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice. 
Last Review and Update: Jan 08, 2016
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