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Legal Issues

COVID-19 Update for Landlord Industry - March 17, 2020

Below is our latest update regarding the COVID-19 situation. Please contact your attorney for answers to your specific questions.

Please also refer to Davis Brown’s COVID-19 Online Legal Resource Center for additional resources, including links to our written materials and webinars in which we answer our clients’ most frequently asked questions. This information is accurate as of March 17, 2020.

Employer Implementation of CDC Recommendations and Operational Changes

Employers/businesses in non-critical infrastructure industries should begin the process of implementing the 03-16-20 CDC Recommendations as soon as possible and as much as practical, along with implementation of various other best practices operational changes, including the following:

  • All employees who can work remotely, should work remotely.
  • For remaining employees in the office, social distancing of 6 feet (or a minimum of 3 feet) between employees should be observed.
  • In-person meetings of any size, even when abiding by the above noted social distancing protocols, should be avoided whenever possible, and, per the CDC recommendations, in-person meetings of 10 or more people should not occur.
  • Employee and visitor/client screening for those in the office should be strongly considered by employers. Contact your attorney for specific advice on screening policies.
  • Any employee (or visitor or client) in the office who is or appears sick, has had contact with a person who is sick, or has traveled outside of the state to a region with an increased incidence of COVID-19 should be (1) sent home immediately, or otherwise assessed by the designated person, and (2) kept outside of the office for a mandatory 14 days. See our prior post with our COVID-19 travel policy recommendation.
  • Employers should develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. Contact your attorney for specific advice on this topic.

OSHA has issued the following written Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.

Likewise, CDC has issued this Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers RE COVID-19 .

Further Landlord Industry Specific Best Practices

Landlords and housing providers necessarily continue their operations and are attempting to operate as close to normal during these times, but should do so under the above noted parameters. Below is further guidance and information for landlords:

  • Suspend all non-emergency interior maintenance and repair work for a period of 30 days or other period of time. For work that must be performed, follow the above noted protocols when performing such work.
  • Close local property offices to in-person tenant traffic unless absolutely necessary.
  • Close indoor common areas unless absolutely necessary (e.g., laundry rooms), such as community centers. Maintain strict cleaning of laundry rooms and the like.
  • Consider closing/prohibiting traffic into exterior common areas such as playgrounds, or as reasonable, allow such areas to remain open for limited traffic and maintain strict cleaning/disinfecting of those areas.
  • Change in-person meetings with tenants and unit/home walk throughs to telephonic or virtual meetings whenever possible or reschedule for a later date. When that is not possible:
    1. Meetings should be strictly limited to essential people only (and in no circumstance, should include 10 or more people per the CDC recommendation).
    2. Maintain social distancing of 6 feet (or a minimum of 3 feet) in those meetings and walk throughs.
    3. Ask screening questions/perform screening of the tenants/prospective tenants prior to those meetings as noted above, and cancel/reschedule meeting as necessary.

Many landlords are currently considering business decisions regarding possible moratoriums on eviction actions, allowing rental payment plans for tenants affected by COVID-10 layoffs and wage decreases, waiving late fees, and the like. Contact your attorney for specific advice on these topics, and in all situations, comply with fair housing laws and ensure all similarly situated tenants are treated the same.

Iowa Court Proceedings and Real Estate Filings

As of March 17, eviction actions may proceed through the Iowa courts, while other matters are being continued, but this is subject to change in the future. Per the 03-14-20 Iowa Supreme Court Order:

  • Civil jury trials scheduled to commence between March 13-May 4 will be continued to a future date.
  • All small claims trials/hearings scheduled to commence between March 13-May 4 will be continued to a future date with the exception of FED/eviction actions and small claims appeals.
  • FED/eviction actions will continue on for the time being. Courts are allowing attorneys and parties to appear telephonically for hearings.
  • Civil nonjury trials and hearings may go forward as scheduled. However, motions to continue shall be freely granted where they would not result in unfair prejudice to a party.

The above information may change in the future. Notably, other localities have suspended all evictions, including the cities of San Francisco and Seattle and states like New York.

Mechanic’s lien filings and real estate filings/recordings are proceeding normally for the time being.

Unemployment Benefits and Other Employee Leave and Pay Questions

On Tuesday, March 17, Iowa Workforce Development hosted a webinar for employers to review IWD’s new changes to unemployment benefits due to COVID-19. Per the new changes, unemployment benefits are now available for a maximum of 26 weeks due to COVID-19 related absence from work, such as due employer shutdown (including temporary layoffs), self-quarantine, loss of child-care, school closures, COVID-19 illness, caring for a family member with COVID-19 exposure/illness.

Employers will not be charged for benefits relating to COVID-19. Jo Ellen Whitney compiled a detailed summary. Further resources on these matters are available on the IWD website. Contact your attorney with specific questions.

The U.S. Congress has pending a bill to widely expand FMLA to those affected by COVID-19 issues. More details to come in the next 24 to 48 hours.

This situation is rapidly changing, as is the guidance from the CDC, public health officials, and regulators. We encourage you to contact your attorney if you have any questions or need assistance developing your policies, procedures, communication pieces, and action plans to address Coronavirus/COVID-19. You can find the most up-to-date information at our Coronavirus/COVID-19 Legal Resource Center.

Davis Brown Law Firm blogs, legal updates, and other content are for educational and informational purposes only. This is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney/client relationship between Davis Brown and readers. Each circumstance is different; readers should consult an attorney to understand how this content relates to their personal situation. You should not use Davis Brown blogs or content as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Reproduction of Davis Brown content without written consent is prohibited.