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'Every day is a struggle': Renters face federal eviction moratorium deadline

Iowa renters have several resources at their disposal to prevent them from getting evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) ban on evictions expires in a little over two weeks, a deadline many Iowans are dreading.

Some are left to choose whether to pay for rent or get groceries.

Jack Hatch is a landlord in the metro with more than 50 tenants that are unable to pay their rent. 

"They're embarrassed and they cry. These tenants have never been in this position before," Hatch said.

Hatch said the average rent in Iowa for a one-bedroom apartment is about $600 per month, and without a job, tenants are struggling to keep up. 

"Every day is a struggle," said Jessica Pardekooper, one of Hatch's tenants. "You're literally sitting there thinking, 'What am I doing? What can I do? Am I doing enough?' And when you think you've done everything you can you just pray. Because you've done it all and you've crossed all the bridges,"

"Thankfully everything fell through fine and I was able to find a place, but it was a real struggle. I had no idea where [I] and five kids were going to go."

Pardekooper is also an essential worker, meaning she is unable to take advantage of any of the aid that is available from the state. Even though her expenses have gotten greater, Pardekooper said there are still people like her who are struggling with little to no help. 

Here are some things you can do as a tenant:

  • Talk to your landlord about your situation
  • Check with all areas in your county or city that has assistance funds
  • If it comes to it, go to your eviction court case

J.B. Conlin, CEO of Conlin Properties, said going to your court hearing is extremely important. 

"That is where funds will be diverted," Conlin said. "If we can find any additional funds that's where they'll be available to you."

In Polk County, the money for financial assistance is dwindling, especially for the Polk County Housing Trust Fund. 

This organization typically provides help for those facing eviction, but they've seen an exponential increase for residents needing money since the start of the pandemic. 

"The monies available out there for tenants have almost dried up at this point. We're waiting for, hopefully, the federal government will take some additional actions," Conlin said. "I know Des Moines has graciously given lots of money to Polk County Housing Trust Fund, but there's just not enough funds out there that are available for tenants in need right now." 

Leaders with the trust fund are working hard to refill their coffers to assist these folks, but the public can also help by donating. 

Find out how to donate by clicking/tapping this link.

Another arm of the foundation is the Justice Center Project. This group was set up after Polk County supervisors learned nearly 100 evictions were taking place every day over the summer, according to trust fund director Eric Burmeister.

The Justice Center Project may be a renter's last line of defense before facing eviction court. 

Burmeister said the group will grab landlords and tenants prior to their court hearing to see if they can pay up the back rent for the landlord to dismiss the eviction. 

The project has paid out over $900,000 since Sept. 1 in rental assistance and is running out of funds. Burmeister said if renters are able to hold on until early next year to do so. That's when funds across the county will be replenished and help will be available once again.