Evictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Legal?

Evictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Legal?

Posted on 03/20/2020 at 03:54 PM by William Reasoner

In the Governor's most recent Proclamation (as of the writing of this blog), the rights of landlords to evict appears to be temporarily curtailed.

From March 19, 2020 until April 16, 2020 ("unless sooner terminated or extended in writing" by the Governor), the Governor has purported to limit real property owner's ability to obtain possession of their property. Based on the text of the Proclamation, this appears to apply to both residential and commercial evictions. The Proclamation states that the Governor "temporarily suspend[s] the regulatory provisions of Iowa Code §§ 562A.27, 562B.25, and 648.1(2)–(6)..." § 562A.27 provides the ability for a landlord to terminate a residential lease for non-payment other specific defaults. § 562B.25 does the same for mobile home leases. § 648.1(2)–(6) states the allowable reasons for an eviction, including non-payment of rent or for holding over. § 648.1 applies to all evictions, not just residential.

The Proclamation does nothing to address how it impacts the application of Iowa Code § 648.18. That section bars an eviction after thirty days peaceable possession. So, if a reason for eviction occurred in March, the landlord may lose the ability to evict if the Proclamation is not lifted before the expiration of the thirty days. It would be inequitable and unreasonable to punish a landlord for not complying with the thirty day peaceable possession rule in light of the Proclamation's attempt to preclude evictions. Yet, a landlord may nevertheless have to deal with this headache in the very near future.

Finally, it must be noted that the Governor's ability to preclude evictions as written in the Proclamation may not be lawful. The Governor has the power to suspend procedural provisions of statutes, but not substantive provisions. See Iowa Code § 29C.6(6) and 1979 Iowa Op. Att'y Gen. 349 (1979). § 648.1 and the other cited provisions are substantive, not procedural. Thus, arguably, the Proclamation does not even legally accomplish the goal that it attempts to achieve.

If you are a landlord or a renter and need legal advice on your specific situation, it is important to seek legal counsel from a seasoned real estate attorney. For more information, you can contact me here.


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