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 August 13, 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
- Do Iowa renters have any special protections during the COVID-19 emergency?
Iowa's statewide emergency protections for renters have expired, though some renters may be protected through the national CDC moratorium.
Earlier, Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation preventing most evictions in Iowa before May 27, 2020. Evictions have since resumed. Before it 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 27th, renters no longer have these protections and evictions have resumed.
You may also be eligible for national protections that last through December 31, 2020. Read more below to check if you are.
- What do the protections mean for Iowa renters?
If you do not qualify for national or local protections, then in Iowa:
- Your landlord can serve you with a notice for nonpayment of rent or noncompliance with the lease.
- Your landlord can evict you for nonpayment of rent, for noncompliance with the lease, or for staying in your home after the lease has terminated.
- Your landlord can still evict you if you have created a clear and present danger.
- Courts may still hear an eviction case.
- Law enforcement may remove you from your home if there is an eviction court order.
Tenants who are being evicted for nonpayment of rent may try to defend themselves using the CDC eviction moratorium to stop the case through Dec. 31st.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?
Yes, Iowa renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
You may be protected from eviction for nonpayment of rent during the emergency through May 27th -- or through Dec. 31st if you get national protections. 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 Iowa?
Landlords can sue tenants for eviction since the Iowa protections ended on May 27th.
But if you can't pay your rent because of hardships during COVID, you can try to stop the eviction through the national CDC moratorium.
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 in Iowa?
Electricity and gas cannot be shut off in Iowa due to statewide moratorium that ends May 27, 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 eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through Dec. 31, 2020.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on Dec. 31, 2020, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through Dec. 31st. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through December 31, 2020. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on Dec. 31, 2020, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.