Eviction During COVID Pandemic
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The Iowa Supreme Court's Guidance on the CDC Order (October 2, 2020 and extended until CDC Order expires)
On September 4, 2020, the CDC published an emergency order entitled "Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of Covid-19." The CDC moratorium has now been extended until June 30, 2021.
On October 2, 2020, the Iowa Supreme Court issued guidance outlining the important rights tenants have under the CDC's order. In the guidance the court made clear that:
- Evictions for tenants who are covered by the CDC moratorium are required to be continued until after June 30, 2021.
- If a tenant has already been ordered to be evicted by the court, a covered tenant cannot be removed from their home until after June 30, 2021.
- If a tenant is otherwise qualified for protection under the CDC Order, they only need to be able to show to the court that they gave the declaration to their landlord. The tenant does not need to prove to the court that each aspect of the declaration is true. However, the declaration should only be signed if a tenant qualifies. Tenants who, by signing the declaration, make false or misleading statements or omissions could face civil and criminal penalties including imprisonment.
On March 29, the CDC extended the moratorium through June 30, 2021. The CDC moratorium has been extended multiple times and may be extended past June 30, 2021. Visit our website for updates.
In addition to the CDC moratorium, there are other protections in place for tenants facing eviction. Further information is below.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium Order do?
The CDC order prohibits landlords and property owners (or someone else who could evict a person) from removing or causing to remove a tenant for nonpayment of rent through June 30, 2021. To take advantage of the moratorium a tenant (and every adult on the lease) must provide their landlord or other person who might evict them with a declaration similar to what the CDC has provided in its order. Tenants can also use the declaration created by the Iowa Supreme Court.
If a tenant is otherwise covered by the CDC order and has provided their landlord with a signed declaration, any scheduled eviction hearing must be continued until after June 30, 2021. If an eviction order has already been entered, the tenant cannot be removed until after June 30, 2021. A tenant may provide the declaration to their landlord at any time prior to the sheriff removing them from their home to claim protection under the CDC Order. This means even if a judge has ordered the tenant to be evicted, the tenant can use the CDC protection as long as the Sheriff has not already come to remove them from their home.
The declaration can be found in multiple languages below.
What types of evictions does the order stop?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to tenants who provide their landlord with either the CDC declaration or a declaration similar to the CDC declaration, who are being evicted for nonpayment of rent or holdover if the underlying reason is nonpayment of rent.
During the state eviction moratorium earlier this year, Iowa Legal Aid saw a significant minority of landlords who tried to use other kinds of eviction to address nonpayment issues. If that happens to you, you may be able to argue that the true cause of the eviction is nonpayment of rent, no matter how the landlord presents the case. If you are eligible, providing the landlord with the CDC declaration (more details below) and connecting with agencies that provide rent assistance may be helpful to making your case.
What types of housing does the order cover?
The CDC eviction moratorium covers landlord tenant situations, but also probably more than that. For example, it likely covers people who are buying their home on land contracts, It does not cover temporary residence in a hotel, but if you are living in a hotel or a place like that long-term, you may be covered by the moratorium and by landlord-tenant law generally.
How do I take advantage of the moratorium?
The order requires that every adult on the lease signs a declaration under the penalty of perjury and gives it to their landlord, the owner of the property where they live, or any other person who has the right to evict them. Each adult on the rental agreement or housing contract should complete their own declaration and provide it to the landlord. The CDC has provided a sample declaration form, but residents may also use a “similar declaration.” The Iowa Supreme Court has also created a declaration form similar to the CDC declaration that tenants can use. The declaration must include information showing that you meet all five criteria outlined below and must include language that you understand that false or misleading statements or omissions may result in criminal or civil actions including fines, penalties, damages, or imprisonment:
- You must have used your “best efforts” to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing.
- You must expect to earn no more than $99,000 for calendar year 2020-2021 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return); OR not have been required to report any income in 2020 to the IRS; OR received a 2020 stimulus payment
- You must be unable to pay the full rent or housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of hours of work, have had a reduction in wages, or have extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses (i.e. expenses that are more than 7.5% of your income);
- You must be using your best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as your individual circumstances may permit, taking into account your other expenses; and
- An eviction would likely make you homeless— or force you to move into and live in close quarters in a new shared living setting—because you have no other available housing options.
It is important to note, that you can truthfully sign the declaration if you are unable to make any partial payments, if your individual circumstances do not permit you to do so.
The CDC's declaration is available here. Some online tools are now available to help you create a short letter and declaration that can be printed, emailed or texted with an electronic signature from a computer, tablet or smart phone.
You should make sure to get evidence that you sent the declaration, if possible - perhaps by sendintg it attached to an email, or keeping proof of mailing. You should also keep careful track of any partial payments you might make. You should also keep evidence of your attempts to apply for government rental assistance, such as copies of emails and applications. If an eviction has already been filed against you, you should file a copy of the signed declaration in your eviction case.
Once you provide your landlord with this declaration, then any attempt to evict you is a violation of the CDC Order, potentially punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Do I need to continue to pay rent during the moratorium?
Yes. The obligation to pay rent remains, as does the obligation to pay any legitimate late fees that are in the lease and can legally be charged. The order simply removes the power of landlords to evict under some circumstances. You should work with your landlord to make any payments that you can, and keep evidence of the payments you do make. You should also seek rental assistance if you need help paying rent. You can call 211 to learn more about available rental assistance in your area. More information is below.
The Iowa Rent and Utility Assistance Program is now open for applications. If you live outside of Polk County you can learn more at iowahousingrecovery.com. If you live in Polk County you can contact Impact online or at 515-518-4770.
Regardless of where you live in the state, there may be other public and private rent assistance funds available in your community. Call 211 to find out more. Houseiowa.org also has information on some of the available rent assistance by county.
What authority does the CDC have to do this?
The U.S. has used what is referred to as “quarantine powers,” to take actions to prevent the spread of disease since at least the 1700s. Congress has granted power to the CDC to prevent the spread of Covid-19 between the states. The CDC’s Eviction Moratorium Order lays out many reasons why the consequences of eviction, which include homelessness, moving in with friends and families, and moving out of state, will increase the spread of Covid-19 between the states and territories.
I heard a judge decided that the CDC order was not valid, is that true?
There have been multiple challenges to the CDC order in other states. These lawsuits are still working their way through the courts. Based on a review of those court decisions, as well as statements from the Department of Justice, we believe that the CDC moratorium still applies to landlords and tenants in Iowa.
A judge has already ordered that I be evicted, will this stop the landlord and sheriff from removing me from my home?
Yes. If you provide your landlord with a signed declaration after the court has already entered the eviction, you should file it in your court case. The court should stay (or stop) the eviction until after June 30, 2021. If that happens, it is possible you may still be removed from your home after June 30, 2021. However, if you work out an agreement with your landlord, or your landlord accepts rent from you, you may be able to request that the court dismiss the eviction. You should save proof of any payments you make to your landlord. Any agreements you make with your landlord should be in writing and you should save that writing.
Once an eviction order has been entered, the legal issues can become complicated and you may wish to speak to an attorney. Iowa Legal Aid provides civil legal help to low-income, elderly, and other vulnerable individuals.
What if the court already continued my eviction to early January? Does the latest extension help me?
Yes. The CDC's extension of the moratorium should require the Court to again extend any hearing dates. If a writ has already issued because you had a hearing before the moratorium took effect, the date you can be removed from your home should be moved until after June 30, 2021. However, you should NOT assume that the court will continue your case or extend the stay on your writ. You should make sure you review all court orders, appear in court if you have a court date, and ask the court to extend the stay on your writ if they do not automatically do so.
There have been several different policies, laws, and proclamations issued by the Governor of Iowa, the Iowa Supreme Court, and even the President, the CDC, and Congress that deal with the rights of tenants in rental housing. The issues can be complex and are changing all the time. Keep checking this website for updated information.
If you need help with these issues, you may qualify for assistance from Iowa Legal Aid (see the end of this article). Here is a list of some of the most important things to remember:
I am unable to pay rent…what should I do?
If you are unable to pay your rent, many agencies currently have rental assistance funds available. You can dial 211 to learn about available rent assistance in your area. Do NOT wait to seek out assistance. It is important to seek assistance as soon as possible.
Houseiowa.org also has a list of many, but not all, available rent assistance programs by county.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium, effective September 4, 2020, may provide protections against being evicted for nonpayment of rent. For more information read about the CDC Eviction Moratorium above.
Often not being able to pay rent means you have another underlying legal issue. For example, you may need help getting another source of income, such as unemployment benefits, social security, or child support, or your rental housing may have repair issues that need to be fixed. A lawyer may be able to help with these issues. Iowa Legal Aid provides legal help to low-income individuals.
I am worried about being evicted… what should I do?
Only a judge can enter an order to evict a tenant. A landlord trying to evict someone outside the court system is engaging in "self help eviction," which is illegal. Before filing an eviction, a landlord must serve a tenant with proper notices, and a tenant must have the opportunity to speak with a judge before an eviction will be ordered. If you receive a notice you may want to speak to an attorney about your rights. People who cannot afford an attorney may be eligible for services from Iowa Legal Aid.
Even though the CARES Act moratorium ended in July 2020, the CARES Act still requires landlords to provide 30-day notices to tenants before ending a lease in federally connected properties.
If an eviction action is already on file, you should have received a notice from the court with information on the day and time for your hearing. You should continue to look for updates from the court. If you do not know when your hearing is, and have not received an order form the court, you can check the online filing system (EDMS) or call your county clerk’s office.
Even if you have a hearing date scheduled, you may still have defenses to eviction. Often if you do not appear at the hearing the judge will enter an eviction against you even if you had a defense.
If you and your landlord came to some kind of alternate arrangement for payment, even if an eviction was already on file, that alternate agreement may constitute a “waiver” of the right to evict you. Make sure you keep as much documentation about any agreements as you can. It is also important to get receipts for any rent or other money you pay to your landlord. If you cannot get a receipt, carbon copies of checks, or pictures of dated money orders may also be helpful.
If the CDC Eviction Moratorium is published as expected on September 4, 2020, you may have protections against being evicted for nonpayment of rent. For more information read about the CDC Eviction Moratorium above.
I am at high risk for developing Covid-19, and I am worried about coming to the courthouse . . . what should I do?
Many county courthouses are hearing eviction cases in-person, while some are hearing eviction cases by phone or by video. If you are concerned about appearing at the courthouse in person for your hearing you can ask the judge to appear by video or phone by filing a motion on EDMS. If you need help signing up for EDMS you can call your county clerk’s office for help.
Appearing by phone or video may also pose many problems. You may not be able to appear by phone or video if you do not have a strong connection to the internet, enough minutes on your cell phone, or good enough cell service. You may also have a disability which prevents you from fully participating in a video or phone hearing. You may ask the judge if you can appear in person, by phone, or video if that would work better for you.
If you have a disability which puts you at higher risk for Covid-19, or a disability that would make appearing in the manner that the court has required difficult or impossible, the court may be required to provide you with a reasonable accommodation to enable you to fully and fairly participate in your hearing. You may wish to speak to an attorney about your rights, and how to request a reasonable accommodation.
What is the CARES Act, and does it apply to me?
On March 27, 2020, Congress passed and the President signed the federal CARES Act. The CARES Act deals with many different things, including evictions. Specifically, the CARES Act provides extra protection for people who live in "covered properties." A covered property is a property with some connection to the federal government. Until July 25, 2020, people who lived in those properties could not be evicted for nonpayment of rent or holdover. However, that eviction moratorium ended in July.
The CARES Act is different from the CDC Eviction Moratorium, which is currently in force until March 31, 2021 and prohibits most evictions for nonpayment of rent for people who are eligible. For more details read about the CDC Eviction Moratorium above.
What is a “covered property” under the CARES Act
A “covered property” is a property that has a certain kind of federal connection. Landlords are now required to file a form called a “CARES Act Verification” when they file an eviction. This form requires them to swear under penalty of perjury as to certain information courts need to know to figure out whether a property is a “covered property.”
However, even with this verification form requirement, it is still a good idea for a tenant to do their own investigation. Here are some ways to find out if you live in a “covered property:”
- Property subject to federal programs encouraging affordable housing. You can search by city at the National Low Income Housing Coalition website here to see if a property might be subject to such a program. If you use the map, a property subject to such a program should appear as a colored dot on the map on or near where the property is. You can click on the colored dot to check to make sure it is for the correct property, and see a list of programs that may cover that property. If you use the list, you can search by city, and look for your address. NOTE: the NHPD database is not 100% accurate, and sometimes gives a “false negative.” In other words, just because your property is not on the map or list does not mean it is not subject to one of these programs.
- Property where the tenant receives rental assistance through a Section 8 or USDA Housing Choice Voucher. A “Housing Choice Voucher” is a kind of rental assistance that can be accepted by almost any private landlord, and involves a three way set of agreements between a landlord, a tenant, and a public housing authority. If you have agreements with both your landlord and a public housing authority in connection with rental assistance, you probably have a Housing Choice Voucher.
- Property that is financed by a mortgage loan that is guaranteed by the federal government - FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac, or any other program connected to the federal government. Sometimes you can tell the home you live in is covered by a mortgage like this from public record, and sometimes you can’t. Here are some ideas that might help:
For FHA, VA, and some USDA mortgages, you can sometimes tell from the publicly recorded mortgage document because it will mention that government agency. You can check most publicly recorded documents by using Iowa Land Records (a free online service).
For “multifamily” housing (i.e. more than five unit), you can use the Fannie Mae Search Tool and Freddie Mac Search Tool. Be careful, because sometimes the tool is picky about what address you use and how it is spelled. It sometimes helps to try a few different ways. Just because you can’t find your property doesn’t mean it is not covered.
For all single-family (i.e. 1 to 4 unit) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, and some USDA loans, there is no way to currently tell this status based on public record.
What protections does the CARES Act give to people who live in “covered properties?”
The CARES Act requires that landlords of covered properties give their tenant a 30-Day Notice before they can evict.
Though the CARES Act eviction moratorium has ended for most “covered properties,” there is still a moratorium in place for a small group of federally connected properties. Tenants living in “multifamily properties” (i.e. more than five unit) where there is a forbearance on the property’s mortgage payment, cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent or late fess for the duration of the forbearance. The CARES Act eviction moratorium is different from the CDC Eviction Moratorium, which may be published on September 4, 2020, and prohibit most residential evictions for nonpayment of rent.
Tenants living in “single-family” properties (i.e. 1 to 4 unit) which have been acquired by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae through foreclosure or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure are protected from eviction through December 31, 2020.
NOTE: Even if you are still protected under the few remaining eviction moratoriums, eventually, all of the rent validly owed under the lease will be due. It is very important that you have a plan for what you will do when that happens. In order to do so, you may want to seek out other information, on this page and elsewhere, such as:
- How to qualify for unemployment benefits;
- Paid sick leave and expanded FMLA issues;
- How to deal with garnishments;
If you need help paying rent you can call 211 and ask about rent assistance available in your area. See more information about rent assistance above.
Does any of this apply to manufactured housing?
If you are renting both the home and land, then you are fully protected under the remaining CARES Act protections and the CDC moratorium. While the eviction moratorium under the CARES Act has ended, however tenants in covered properties cannot be evicted without a 30 day notice. See more details above. The CDC Eviction Moratorium, which may go into effect on September 4, 2020, would likely protect tenants in manufactured housing from both eviction from the lot and replevin to take back the home itself. Read more about the CDC moratorium above.
GENERALLY SPEAKING, IT IS ILLEGAL FOR A SELLER TO REMOVE A BUYER FROM A MANUFACTURED HOME WITHOUT A COURT ORDER. This is because it is difficult to remove a resident from their home without "breaching the peace," which is not allowed under the law of repossession.
I am being evicted from a house that I am buying on land contract. Do I have any rights under these moratoriums?
The moratoriums protecting individuals buying on land contracts have now expired. However, the CDC Eviction Moratorium, which went into effect on September 4, 2020, may protect people buying a home on contract.
None of the eviction protections put in place due to COVID-19 stopped any requirements to make payments under your land contract. If you have been unable to pay, or believe you will be unable to pay, you should contact the contract seller to make arrangements, and get it in writing! If you need assistance making payments you can dial 211 to find out if any assistance is available in your area.
If you are being evicted, you may still have defenses. You may wish to speak to an attorney. Iowa Legal Aid provides legal help to low-income Iowans.
I am being evicted from my home because of unpaid property taxes. Do I have any rights under these moratoriums?
To the extent that evictions because of unpaid property taxes were covered under one of the moratoria, that moratorium has now ended. If you are being evicted, you may still have defenses. You may with to speak to an attorney. Iowa Legal Aid provides legal help to low-income Iowans.
I am being evicted after a foreclosure of the home I lived in. What are my protections?
ee the section on foreclosure below.
Is there any protection from the eviction of my small business?
To the extent that evictions of businesses were covered by the state eviction moratorium, that moratorium has now expired. None of the federal moratoria covered small business or commercial evictions.
We are somewhat concerned that some landlords will try to force tenants to leave without a court order, through lock-outs, utilty shut-offs, or even physical force. This is called "self-help eviction," and it is illegal in Iowa. Tenants who are subject to illegal self-help eviction can get an "injunction" from the court, ordering the landlord to stop trying to remove them without a court order. In these cases, a tenant may also be able to obtain money damages, costs, and attorney fees. It is Iowa Legal Aid's opinion that injunctions to prevent lock-outs, utility shut-offs, and other illegal self help measures constitute "emergency proceedings" that should be heard quicky by the courts notwithstanding the reduced services policy currently put in place by the Iowa Judicial Branch.
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275.
- Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or apply online at iowalegalaid.org
- If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org. A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
- As of March 18, 2020, our offices are closed for walk-ins until further notice, due to the coronavirus outbreak.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.