On Friday, March 20, 2020, Governor Reynolds issued a Proclamation implementing various regulatory changes and further restrictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Proclamation contains the below quoted language pertaining to residential tenancies and evictions.
In short, the Proclamation provides for a statewide suspension of the below cited regulatory/statutory provisions allowing for the termination of leases and evictions of residential tenants in Iowa, with two exceptions: (1) clear and present danger/emergency evictions and (2) evictions for “squatters” and others under Iowa Code section 648.1(1). Currently, there is not a consensus on how local magistrates are interpreting this Proclamation in regard to evictions. As of now, some counties are continuing to allow for the filing/commencing of eviction actions (per my March 19 blog ) and then scheduling all hearings on or after May 4. Conversely, other counties are likely to dismiss any eviction actions filed after the issuance of the Proclamation.
SUSPENSION OF CERTAIN EVICTIONS
SECTION TWO. Pursuant to Iowa Code §§ 29C.6(6) and 135.144(3), and in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health, I temporarily suspend the regulatory provisions of Iowa Code §§ 562A.27, 562B.25, and 648.1(2)–(6), allowing for the termination of a rental agreement by a landlord and the eviction of a tenant under the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act or the Manufactured Home Communities or Mobile Home Parks Residential Landlord and Tenant Act in certain circumstances. This suspension does not apply to actions for forcible entry and detainer where the defendant has by force, intimidation, fraud, or stealth entered upon the prior actual possession of another in real property and detains the same, or any other emergency circumstances allowed by law. Suspension of these provisions shall apply during the duration of this Proclamation or any future extension of this suspension.
While filing an eviction action for a tenant’s current non-compliance (with the hearing scheduled on or after May 4) may be the only way for a landlord to 100% preserve all rights, such actions could certainly be dismissed and may have negative consequences from a PR or non-legal perspective, and, importantly, most practitioners believe landlords who choose not to commence actions will not waive any rights in light of the current global pandemic.
That said, landlords should consider additional ways to ensure their rights are preserved, including having non-paying tenants sign rent deferment agreements and modifying the language of any non-payment notices to account for this current situation. Contact me or your attorney for specific advice.
Finally, landlords would be prudent to affirmatively provide information to their tenants regarding the resources available to them to assist with income replacement and other assistance stemming from COVID-19 hardships, including the following resources.
State Unemployment Benefits
Iowa has implemented an expanded unemployment benefits program, with loosened restrictions, for all qualifying individuals affected by COVID-19, with benefits provided for up to 26 weeks and with checks expected to be issued within 7-10 days after the claim has been filed. More information for tenants can be found at the below two websites:
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
New benefits are available as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, effective April 2, which provides extended FMLA and paid leave benefits. More information for tenants can be found at:
Finally, there may be additional benefits, possibly in the form of checks mailed directly to certain Americans, to be implemented by the U.S. Government in the future, and there are further resources available regarding how families can protect themselves from the financial impact of COVID-19. More information for tenants can be found at the below two websites:
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