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Iowa Allows Evictions, Foreclosures To Resume This Week; Federal Funds To Help Some Iowans

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Apartment building in Sioux City

Evictions and foreclosures can resume Thursday in Iowa as Gov. Kim Reynolds allows the public health emergency moratorium on those actions to expire and the coronavirus continues to spread in the state.

In mid-March, Reynolds suspended most evictions and foreclosures to prevent people from having to leave their homes during the first part of the epidemic.

Reynolds said Tuesday the state plans to use federal coronavirus relief money to help prevent some residential evictions and foreclosures.

“We’ll take a look at the numbers and then look at who qualifies and we’ll set aside the appropriate amount of funding to meet the needs of Iowans during this really difficult time,” Reynolds said. “So we’re just changing the parameters in which we’re providing the assurance that individuals aren’t thrown out of their homes in these really difficult times.”

Reynolds said the state would have more information about eligibility later this week and that assistance would become available before June 1.

Advocates are expecting eviction filings to spike starting Thursday, though most eviction hearings will be delayed a few weeks because the state court system hasn’t fully reopened yet.

Iowa Legal Aid Litigation Director Alex Kornya said the situation “does not look good.”

“The main thing that can start taking place on Thursday is that people will begin to have their leases terminated for nonpayment of rent or for simple breach of lease,” Kornya said. “This was prohibited during the moratorium, and even though the actual hearings for those evictions won’t be taking place until maybe a few weeks…that is going to set in motion a chain of events that is going to be pretty catastrophic for a lot of people.”

Kornya said a review by Iowa Legal Aid found that as of last week, about 633 eviction cases were scheduled for hearings after the pause on evictions expires. He said most of those were filed before the moratorium, so he expects a large spike in new eviction cases at the end of this week.

And he believes about 35 percent of eviction cases filed after the moratorium were in violation of the governor’s order.

Kornya said the newly-announced program to prevent some evictions and foreclosures can help a lot of people. He said it should require landlords to promise they won’t take the money and still try to evict tenants, and should be part of a longer planning process for Iowans.

“Our clients and the general public are not really going to be able to navigate through this economic fallout of the pandemic without having a long term plan, of which this is an important element but only one element,” Kornya said.

Some evictions and foreclosures related to federally connected properties are still on hold until later in the summer because of action by the federal government. Iowa courts are now requiring landlords to provide information about those federal connections when filing for evictions.

Also on Thursday, almost all emergency debt collection protections will expire in Iowa, allowing garnishments and other actions to resume. Nursing home evictions and property tax collection penalties are still suspended until June 25.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter