COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on July 7, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
Its information is taken from these sources:Iowa Governor proclamationIowa courts postponementIowa Legal AidIowa courts COVID-19 infoPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect Tracker
- Are there any special protections for renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation preventing most evictions in Iowa before May 28, 2020. Evictions have since resumed. Before this order expired, your landlord could not evict you for nonpayment of rent, for noncompliance with the lease, or for staying in your home after the lease has terminated. Your landlord could still evict you if you have created a clear and present danger. After May 28th, renters no longer have these protections and evictions have resumed.
You may also be eligible for national protections that last through July 2020, read more below to check if you are.
- What do the protections mean for renters?
The protection means that before May 28, 2020 in Iowa:
- Your landlord could not serve you with a notice for nonpayment of rent or noncompliance with the lease. Any notice for nonpayment or noncompliance your landlord served you with is invalid and can create a defense to any evictions later filed.
- Your landlord could not evict you for nonpayment of rent, for noncompliance with the lease, or for staying in your home after the lease has terminated.
- Your landlord could still evict you if you have created a clear and present danger.
- Most eviction court hearings have been continued past June 15, 2020. However, hearings for eviction for clear and present danger are still happening.
- Law enforcement was only able to remove you from your home if there is a court order to remove you for clear and present danger or you were living in the property by force, intimidation, stealth or fraud.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?
Yes, Iowa renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the emergency through May 28th, but after these protections ended, you may now face eviction for nonpayment of rent
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here. Iowa Legal Aid has more information on communicating with your landlord.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make, that are signed and dated. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Keep proof of COVID-19’s impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help. The Iowa government has established a special rental assistance fund for renters who can't pay rent because of COVID-19.
- Can my landlord evict me during the emergency?
In most cases, you could not be evicted during the emergency period in Iowa through May 28th.
Your landlord could not evict you for nonpayment of rent, for noncompliance with the lease, or for staying in your home after the lease has terminated. Your landlord could still evict you if you have created a clear and present danger.
Once the emergency period ended on May 28th, landlords can begin to enforce evictions against renters once again.
- You may also have U.S. national protections against eviction that last through July 2020. Check here below to see if you are eligible for them.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency?
Electricity and gas cannot be shut off in Iowa due to statewide moratorium that ends May 28, 2020. Most water utilities have agreed not to shut off during the emergency.
After the protections end, there are other ways to avoid a utility shut off:
- You may be eligible for a 30-day extension for health related reasons. Contact your utility provider to explain your situation and request an extension.
- Everyone is entitled to at least one payment plan. Payment plans must be based on your actual ability to pay. Contact your utility provider to request a payment plan, and get in touch with lawyers if you need help negotiating a plan that fits your ability to pay.
- If you are unable to get a payment plan you can afford, you should not agree to that plan. You have the right to file an informal utility board complaint.
If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help to cover these costs.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is an illegal eviction. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.