The City of Iowa City is in the process of implementing changes to the rental permit process in an effort to preserve neighborhood stability. 

New state legislation goes into effect on January 1, 2018, and requires the City to change the way it regulates the occupancy of rental properties. City Code previously limited occupancy to no more than three unrelated people in the same dwelling, which was critical in regulating density and overcrowding. 

Browse the following sections for more information about rental permit requirements in Iowa City: 

Rental Permit Cap 

The City's new ordinance establishes a 30 percent rental permit cap on single family homes and duplexes in several Iowa City neighborhoods. This limit, specific to single family and duplex homes, will not impact apartment buildings or condos. All existing rental permits for single family and duplex properties within capped neighborhoods will be grandfathered in. 

The rental permit cap helps keep owner occupied homes available to families as the value of rentals can price them out of these desired neighborhoods. 

Six neighborhoods currently exceed the 30 percent limit and new single family and duplex rental permits will not be issued in those locations. Three other neighborhoods are approaching the cap. Exceptions will be made for owner-occupied duplexes, bed and breakfast home-stays, inns, and accessory dwelling units

The City can, under limited circumstances, also issue temporary rental permits that are good for up to two years.


A map of the current rental permit rate in Iowa City neighborhoods.
A map of Iowa City's rental districts, click the image to view an interactive version.

Additional Rental Codes 

In addition to the established rental permit cap, safety requirements have also been added, including deadbolts and the physical separation of duplex units. Restrictions on paving backyards, and bedroom additions are also part of the changes.

  • Bedroom requirements 

Rental property owners looking to add bedrooms will need to verify that the total bedroom square footage does not exceed 35 percent of the finished floor area of the dwelling. All new bedrooms must have a minimum of 100 sq. ft. of floor area and all of the smoke alarms must be interconnected. 

  • Existing duplexes must be permanently separated 

Duplex units functioning as one single unit are not allowed. 

  • Deadbolts are required on all unit doors 

A deadbolt is defined as a lock where the bolt cannot be moved to the open position except by rotating the locked cylinder. 

  • Owner-occupied dwellings with more than one tenant are required to obtain a rental permit 
  • Zoning change to restrict paving in backyards 

This will limit the conversion of backyards into parking lots. 


The frequency of rental permit inspections will also increase. Revenue from these inspections will fund a portion of an additional Police Officer and additional Code Enforcement Officers tasked with addressing rental housing and nuisance violations like noise complaints and property maintenance standards.

As an existing policy, rental tenants, as well as single-family homeowners, must follow the City’s Property Management Policy and mow grass, shovel sidewalks and pick up trash. Continued complaints will result in repercussions, including the possibility of suspending a landlord’s rental permit.

Enhanced rental permit sanctions will be enforced beginning in July 2018, and the time period for City review will increase from 12 to 24 months. 

Staff Contact 

For more information, contact Senior Housing Inspector Stan Laverman at 319-356-5135 or