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Iowa Code §6B.3(3) requires notice of a condemnation proceeding, even to parties without a current interest in the subject property.  In addition, a determination of the damages owed to the property owner for the condemnation must be made within 120 days of the filing of condemnation proceedings. If the governmental entity seeking condemnation fails to comply with the 120 day rule, the proceedings are terminated and a new condemnation proceeding must be filed. 

March 1, 2010 | Erin Herbold



This case concerns an owner of a corner lot located in a private subdivision that was zoned agricultural. The county zoning administrator and county Board of Adjustment determined that the lot needed to have a side-yard setback of thirty feet. The zoning ordinance in question was adopted by the county in 1984 and specified that any residence was to have a side-yard setback for access- corner lots had a thirty foot setback. The property owner disagreed with the setback rules and constructed a home on the lot that did not comply with the ordinance. 


Typically, attorney’s fees incurred in successfully defending title to property are awarded as part of an overall damages award if the fees are “necessary and reasonable.” However, the “warrantor” of the title (seller) must be notified of the court proceedings and be given the opportunity to defend the warranty.  



Iowa’s Real Estate Disclosure Act (Iowa Code Ch. 558A) requires real estate sellers to disclose “significant defects in the structural integrity of the structure” to prospective buyers. If the seller fails to make the requisite disclosure, they are liable to the buyer for the amount of “actual damages” suffered if they had actual knowledge of the inaccuracy or failed to exercise ordinary care in obtaining information regarding structural defects. 


Here, buyers purchased a home from a builder in 2001. Six years later, the buyers sued the builder, alleging that the home was defectively constructed. They sought damages for breach of contract, fraud and breach of an implied warranty of workmanship. 


 “Chain of title” is a collection of documents used to find the true owner of a parcel of real estate. Sometimes, the “chain” has weak links and this case exemplifies the pitfalls of transferring title when multiple parties are involved. 

July 29, 2010 | Erin Herbold


This case involves legal issues arising from residential home sale transaction.  The parties signed a purchase agreement requiring the seller to pay “reasonable attorney fees” if the seller failed to disclose material defects in the property of which they had actual knowledge or should have found out about upon an inspection and the buyer prevailed at trial as to any resulting damages from the non-disclosure. Indeed, the seller failed to disclose a significant water problem in the basement, and the buyers filed sued for damages and attorney’s fees.

August 31, 2010 | Erin Herbold



September 7, 2010 | Erin Herbold


In Iowa, an easement can be created either by express grant or reservation in a deed , by prescription, (3) by necessity or by implication. 

November 15, 2010 | Erin Herbold


In this case, a real estate developer appeals a trial court’s decision to value certain lots at fair market value and not use an “absorption discount.”  The developer argued that the court should have accounted for expert testimony supporting a discount of 20-33% from market value due to the time it would take to sell the lots.  But, the Iowa Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s determination that a discount of this kind is not an “economically sound concept.” 

December 30, 2010 | Erin Herbold


March 30, 2011 | Erin Herbold



Iowa law provides for various protections against fraud.  But, is there a provision governing contracts for the construction of personal residences?  The plaintiff in this case claimed that there was.  Indeed, the plaintiff claimed that Iowa Code §714H.5 which provides that a “consumer who suffers an ascertainable loss of money or property as the result of a prohibited practice or act in violation of this chapter may bring an action at law to recover actual damages” applies to personal residence construction contracts.  The trial court said the statute did not apply.  

July 16, 2011 | Erin C. Herbold-Swalwell


August 11, 2011 | Erin C. Herbold-Swalwell


August 27, 2011 | Erin C. Herbold-Swalwell


The petitioners in this case purchased an apartment building and decided to remodel the second floor and attach an enclosed staircase resting on the roof of a garage located behind the apartment building. The petitioners assumed that they were entitled to use the garage, because the prior owners had used it. Unfortunately, the garage encroached onto the property of the respondents- adjacent landowners to the south. 

August 27, 2011 | Erin C. Herbold-Swalwell



October 5, 2011 | Erin Herbold-Swalwell


April 3, 2012 | Erika Eckley


If a contract for the sale of a specific property is breached by the seller, a buyer may obtain possession of the goods by court order. This remedy is known as specific performance.  In a recent Iowa case, the long-time tenant thought he had a valid contract to purchase agricultural land.  He sued to enforce the alleged contract.  The court disagreed, finding he did not have an enforceable contract entitling him to specific performance.


A mechanic’s lien is a claim created by law for the purpose of securing priority of payment for the price or value of work performed and materials furnished to improve real property. The lien attaches to the real property. Iowa Code Chapter 572 controls mechanic’s liens in Iowa. In a recent Iowa case, the court had to determine what amounts could be recovered when a mechanic’s lien is foreclosed for a contract that was not completed. 


Two recent Iowa cases point out that when details of intentions concerning the use and responsibilities between parties affecting land are not explicitly written out, disputes can occur upon change in ownership and control of that land. That is precisely what happened in the following cases. The parties and facts are the same for both cases.


In Iowa, when owners of adjacent property have treated certain objects as the recognized boundaries for more than 10 years, the recognized boundaries become the actual boundaries regardless of what subsequent surveys may show.  In this case, neighbors ran into issues when one party decided to change the established boundaries after acquiring an old survey.


Adverse possession requires open, hostile, actual, exclusive and continuous possession of property under a claim of title for at least ten years. The burden is on the party seeking to establish title through adverse possession to establish this possession by clear proof.


Drainage districts in Iowa are authorized under the Iowa Constitution. A county board of supervisors has the authority to establish a drainage district when it would be conducive to public health, convenience, or welfare. The power of drainage districts once they have been established is strictly proscribed through statute. Boards of supervisors must continue to maintain districts, plan projects, and fund the activities in a manner consistent with the statute. They are given discretion to make these decisions.


In order to establish claim to disputed property on a boundary by acquiescence theory, Iowa law requires evidence that adjoining landowners recognize, acknowledge, and affirmatively treat a definite boundary line as the true boundary for a period of ten years or more. In the following case, the defendants were unable to offer proof of either a definitive boundary line or any mutual recognition the boundary was where they claimed. As a result, the court declined to adjust the boundary between the plaintiffs’ property and the defendants’.


Zoning ordinances help ensure appropriate location and use of buildings, structures, and land for purposes of trade, industry, residences, or other purposes. Zoning restrictions cannot be unreasonable and should be utilized for the community’s welfare. If aggrieved by an ordinance or the application of one, landowners may petition for review through the judicial process. In the following case, the petitioners were found to be in violation of an ordinance, but they believed it was not being interpreted correctly and sought judicial review.

October 12, 2012 | Erika Eckley



A famous case decided by the Iowa Supreme Court in 1971 illustrates that an individual is not privileged to use force in defending property in excess of that reasonably believed to be necessary and cannot use such force as is likely to lead to great bodily injury or death. However, an individual can exert force that is likely to take a life if the person has a reasonable belief that their own life may be taken if they don’t act. But, what about insurance coverage in such a situation? That was the issue in this case.

December 29, 2009 | Roger McEowen


Insurance companies make money by paying out less in claims than they receive in premiums.  That result is achieved by careful drafting of language in the insurance policy by the company’s lawyers, and artful lawyering over the finer points of the meaning of that language.  This case is a clear illustration of both of those points.

January 10, 2010 | Erin Herbold



In recent years, in Iowa and elsewhere, courts have been faced with the issue of whether a general farm liability insurance policy containing a “pollution exclusion” clause excludes coverage for death of animals or humans caused by the release of carbon monoxide fumes inside a hog confinement facility.  To date, the majority of courts have said that carbon monoxide is a pollutant covered by such an exclusionary clause.