An appropriately cleared sidewalk after a snowfall.
The snow ordinance in Iowa City states that the entire width of a public sidewalk must be cleared of a 1 inch or greater snowfall within 24 hours after the snow has stopped. The Department of Neighborhood and Development Services receives complaints and investigates to verify that the snow and/or ice has not been removed. If the inspector finds that the public walk has not been cleared, the property is posted and a letter of violation is sent by regular mail to the property owner. An inspector will return to the property approximately 24 hours later and if the property has still not been cleared, the City hires an outside contractor to clear the snow and the property owner is charged that amount, plus a $100 administrative fee. If there is a second violation confirmed during that same season, the City can immediately clear the sidewalk without notification of the property owner.

Residents who wish to report a property where the adjacent public sidewalk has not been cleared have three ways to notify the Neighborhood and Development Services Department:

Complaints must be specific and must include an actual address in order for City staff to respond. 

Tall grass/weeds

Tall grass and weeds around a utility pole.
The enforcement period of the Iowa City weed ordinance is year round. If the Department of Neighborhood and Development Services receives a complaint during that period, an inspector is sent out to verify if the grass and/or weeds are 10 inches or more tall. The property owner is also responsible for mowing the City right of way adjacent to their property. Also, any plant material is not allowed to obstruct a public way or sidewalk no matter what its height. If the inspector confirms the complaint, the property is posted and a letter of violation is sent to the property owner stating that they have seven days to mow the property. On the eighth day, the inspector goes back to the property to see if it has been mowed. If not mowed, the City will hire an outside contractor to mow the property and charge that amount to the property owner, plus a $100 administrative fee. If there is a second violation confirmed during the same season, the property owner is given three days to mow the property; if not mowed in that time frame, the City will hire a contractor to mow.

Inoperable/obsolete vehicles

An inoperable vehicle parked in a driveway.
The storage, parking and/or leaving of an inoperable/obsolete vehicle upon private property in Iowa City in excess of 48 hours is prohibited. An inoperable/obsolete vehicle is defined as any vehicle which may be transported or drawn upon a public street which exhibits any one of the following characteristics:
  1. a broken windshield or any other broken glass
  2. a broken door, fender, bumper, steering wheel, hood, trunk top or tail pipe
  3. lacks an engine or one or more wheels or any other part which renders the vehicle inoperable
  4. is a habitat for rats, mice, snakes or any other vermin or insects
  5. is not capable of moving in both forward and reverse

If the Department of Neighborhood and Development Services receives a complaint about an inoperable/obsolete vehicle, an inspector is sent out to verify the complaint. The inspector will post the vehicle and the property which gives the property owner 48 hours to move the vehicle. If the vehicle is still there after 48 hours, it is then posted with a "Notice to Abate" which informs the property owner that they have 10 days to move the vehicle or the City will tow it off of the property at the owner's expense.

Junk and salvage material

Garbage in a yard.
It is considered a public nuisance to allow junk and/or salvage material, solid waste, garbage or refuse to remain on any lot. If the Department of Neighborhood and Development Services receives a complaint about such a public nuisance, an inspector will go to the property to verify the complaint. If the complaint is verified, a notice of violation is sent to the property owner giving an amount of time to abate the nuisance. If the property is not cleaned up in the required amount of time, the City can have the material removed at the property owner's expense.

Abandoned/vacant buildings

An abandoned house
The City defines an abandoned/vacant building as a building or portion of a building that is unoccupied and unsecured, or unoccupied and secured by means other than those used in the design of the building, or declared a dangerous building under the uniform code for the abatement of dangerous buildings, or unoccupied and unfit for occupancy, or unoccupied with housing and building code violations, or unoccupied for a continuous period of more than 180 days.

The owner of an abandoned/vacant building is required to register the building with the City and have the building inspected on an annual basis if it remains vacant. Both a registration fee and an inspection fee will be required. The building must be maintained to comply with building, housing and nuisance codes. Failure to register an abandoned/vacant building and/or maintain the building will be considered a municipal infraction and result in subsequent fines and court costs.


Graffiti on a bridge overpass
When the City receives a complaint of graffiti vandalism, it is investigated by the Iowa City Police Department or by the Department of Neighborhood and Development Services. Graffiti vandalism is any real property that is visible to public view that has been defaced by painting, drawing, writing, etching or carving with paint, ink or knife or any similar method. Notification is sent to the owner of the property which has been defaced by the graffiti vandalism that the graffiti must be removed within seven calendar days. If the graffiti is not removed, the City can remove the graffiti and charge the cost of the abatement to the property owner. If the costs of the abatement are not paid, the costs may be assessed against the property in the same manner as the property tax.


Overgrown trees obstructing a sidewalk
Any dead, diseased or damaged trees or plant materials which may harbor serious insect or disease pests or disease injurious to other trees or plant materials is considered a nuisance. Also any tree in such a state of deterioration that any part of such a tree is likely to fall and damage property or cause injury to a person is considered a nuisance. Trees and bushes cannot be allowed to grow in such a manner that they block public sidewalks or other types of public right-of-way or impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic or make such traffic unsafe. Notification will be sent to property owners if such tree or plant growth has been determined to be a nuisance. After a reasonable time, if the nuisance is not abated, the City may abate the nuisance and assess the costs to the property owner.


The Iowa City off-street parking ordinance requires that vehicles on private property be parked on a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt. New gravel parking areas cannot be created but gravel parking areas created before 1974 can continue to be used as long as they are maintained. Parking vehicles on the grass is specifically prohibited. Vehicles cannot be parked so that they obstruct public sidewalks. Vehicles obstructing public sidewalks will be ticketed.


Begging is illegal when accompanied by harassment, assault or fraud; or conducted in confined spaces, thereby intruding on the physical privacy of others; or conducted in an area where the activity will impair orderly movement or otherwise create unreasonable health and safety concerns. (City Code 8-5-2).

Contact the Iowa City Police Department at 319-356-6800.

Disorderly house

It is unlawful for a person to engage in or not take legal steps to prevent any quarreling, fighting, disorderly conduct or any other conduct or condition that threatens injury to others or damage to property, or loud, raucous, disagreeable noises to the disturbance of the neighborhood, or to the disturbance of the general public upon their property or in their possession and/or to the disturbance of others in public places.

Contact the Iowa City Police Department at 319-356-5275.

Open burning

Open burning for campfires and outdoor cooking is permitted without any burning permit if performed in an approved container constructed of steel, brick or masonry. For more detailed information on Iowa City firepit regulation, visit the Iowa Fire Department website.

Contact the Iowa City Fire Department at 319-356-5260.


The City does not authorize amplified sound in a residential area with the exception of events held at churches or schools. If an event is planned in a residential neighborhood which would generate amplified sound, it is advised the planner contact neighbors as a courtesy to let them know when and how long the event will last. The planner should also contact the Iowa City Police Department at 319-356-5275 to let them know where, when and a contact name in case they are called to the property due to a complaint. The Police Department may ask that the volume be lowered or turned off.

Contact the Neighborhood and Development Services Department at 319-356-5120.