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Some Iowans Can Qualify For Temporary Federal Ban On Evictions In Response To COVID-19

Apartment building in Sioux City

The federal government has temporarily banned some evictions through the end of December to help keep people in their homes as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Iowans facing eviction for not paying rent have to submit a signed document to their landlord showing they meet certain criteria set out by the federal government.

The eligibility requirements include making efforts to obtain government housing assistance, being under a certain income level, being unable to pay the rent because of loss of work or income or because of major medical expenses, and making efforts to pay part of the rent. An eviction would also have to be likely to make you homeless or force you to live with more people.

“It is important that people are truthful on the form because it is being signed under penalty of perjury,” said Alex Kornya, litigation director for Iowa Legal Aid. “And so it is important that people make sure they are actually eligible for this before signing it.”

More information about who can qualify for the temporary hold on evictions is available on Iowa Legal Aid’s website.

Many Americans have lost jobs and income during the pandemic, and the additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits that were paid by the federal government expired. In Iowa, they were replaced this week with a $300 weekly payment that will only go to those already receiving at least $100 per week from the state.

Kornya said Iowa has seen a recent spike in eviction filings.

“In Polk County, for example, we were seeing roughly 50-60 per week,” Kornya said. “But then two weeks ago, we saw 169 filed in one week. The week after that we saw 202.”

The CDC used its quarantine powers to issue the eviction moratorium to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If people are evicted and have to move to a more crowded space like a shelter, the likelihood of getting or spreading the virus increases.

Kornya said the eviction moratorium doesn’t take away the obligation to pay rent.

“There’s an opportunity for tenants and landlords to work together to access some of the rental assistance that is currently available,” Kornya said.

State and local programs still have funding to help renters, and information is available by calling 2-1-1.

Kornya also said there’s a lot of confusion because the state court system still hasn’t provided guidance for uniformly implementing the eviction moratorium. This means for now, courts in different parts of the state might handle the declarations from tenants in different ways. More information may be available next week.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter