Iowa Road Signs

On-premise signs

On-premise signs

On-premise business signTypes of on-premise signs include business, real estate, personal opinion, political and crop variety signs.

Advertising device advertising the sale or lease of, or activities being conducted upon, the property where the sign is located. On-premise signs located along interstates have more restrictive regulations and may have to be permitted. If you have questions about an on-premise sign along the interstate, contact an Iowa DOT right-of-way agent at 515-239-1255.

The criteria to be used to determine if an advertising device qualifies as on-premises signing, excluding development directory signing, include, but are not limited to, the following.

  1. A sign that consists solely of the name of the establishment or identifies the establishment's principal or accessory products or services offered on the property is an on-premises sign.

  2. An on-premises sign must be located on the same property as the advertised activity or the same property advertised for sale or lease. A subdivided property is considered to be one property if all lots remain under common ownership and all lots share a common, private access to public roads. However, if any lot in the subdivided property is sold or disposed of in any manner, that lot will be considered to be separate property.

  3. Contiguous lots or parcels of land combined for development purposes are considered to be one property for outdoor advertising control purposes provided they are owned or leased by the same party or parties. However, land held by lease or easement must be used for a purpose related to the advertised activity other than signing.

  4. An on-premises sign shall not be located on a narrow strip of land that cannot reasonably be used for a purpose related to the advertised activity other than signing.

  5. An on-premises sign is limited to advertising the property's sale or lease, or identifying the activities located on or products or services available on the property.
  6. An advertising device is not an on-premises sign if it consists principally of brand or trade name advertising and either the product or service advertised is only incidental to the establishment's principal products or services or the advertising brings rental income to the property owner. "Principally" means 50 percent or more of the display area of the sign.

  7. An on-premises sign concerning the sale or lease of property shall not display the legend "sold" or "leased" or a similar message.

Real Estate signs

Real estate sign

Placement of real estate signs by realtors, brokers, developers, financers and others, including homeowners selling their own property, is subject to Iowa's regulatory sign laws and rules and in instances where the signs are visible from a state highway. Other local ordinances may also apply to signs placed along county roads and city streets.

View frequently asked questions about real estate signs.

Personal opinion signs

First Amendment
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees its citizens certain rights, including the right of free speech. If a landowner or resident wishes to express their opinion on a matter, they may do so through a message on a sign posted on property they own or on property where they reside.

Personal Opinion SignsLimitations
Personal opinions may not be expressed through the posting of signs on the public right-of-way. Personal opinion signs should not obstruct the view for motorists at intersections or railroad crossings. The signs should not resemble or imitate official traffic control devices. Lighting should not be used in such a way that it causes glare on the roadway or impairs the vision of motorists. Advertising products or services within the message is prohibited without a state outdoor advertising permit from the Iowa DOT, in accordance with Iowa Code chapters 306B and 306C.

Political signs

Political yard sign Political campaign signs are prohibited by Iowa Code 318 from placement within the public right of way of any highway, road, or street. Such signs are subject to removal by the highway authority with or without prior notice depending upon the proximity of the sign to the travelled portion of the roadway. Removal costs may be assessed against the person responsible for the placement of the sign. Although the condition of a removed sign cannot be guaranteed, signs removed by Iowa DOT personnel are generally preserved and held for 60 days at the nearest highway maintenance facility. For contact information in order to arrange to pick up removed signs, please visit the Iowa DOT Districts website.

Placement on private property may be permissible with landowner permission. However, restrictions for placement on private property exist within Iowa Code 68A.406. Questions regarding these restrictions may be directed to the Iowa Ethics Campaign and Disclosure Board.

Crop variety signs (also referred to as seed company signs)

Political yard sign During the growing season "ABC Seed" signs are allowed if plot contains "ABC Seeds" and the signs are located on private property and not within the right of way. The public right of way line is generally the same as the property line. Please ensure that you are able to identify this line and keep the sign on the private side. If the fence is running concurrent with this line, please refrain from posting the sign on the highway side of the fence.

Crop variety signs are not allowed to reference off-site locations where crop varieties or other products can be obtained, as these references are considered to be "off-premise," and thus not allowed in agricultural areas.

The sign/signs must be removed when the crop variety or product is no longer being shown or demonstrated on the site.


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