War Eagle Vill. Apts. v. Plummer

775 N.W.2d 714 (Iowa 2009)

 

RULE:

Due process protections require that deprivation of interests in property by adjudication be preceded by notice and opportunity for hearing appropriate to the nature of the case. This right to be heard has little reality or worth unless one is informed that the matter is pending and can choose for himself whether to appear or default, acquiesce or contest. An elementary and fundamental requirement of due process in any proceeding which is to be accorded finality is notice reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections. The notice must be of such nature as reasonably to convey the required information, and it must afford a reasonable time for those interested to make their appearance. But when notice is a person's due, process which is a mere gesture is not due process. The means employed must be such as one desirous of actually informing the absentee might reasonably adopt to accomplish it.

FACTS:

Appellant was a tenant of appellee landlord’s apartment. Appellant was unable to pay rent. Appellee both mailed and had an employee personally deliver to appellant a notice that procedures to terminate her lease would commence in three days if the delinquent rent was not paid. Appellant claimed she never received the notice. Appellee commenced an action requesting the possession of the apartment. The district court issued execution for removal of appellant tenant in a forcible entry and detainer (FED). The original notice for FED was mailed to appellant by certified mail and hearing upon the FED action was set. No attempt at personal service on appellant was made. When appellant failed to appear at the hearing, a default judgment was entered, which ordered appellant to vacate the premises. Appellant petitioned for discretionary review. The state supreme court reversed the judgment.

ISSUE:

Was Iowa Code §§ 562A.29A(2), read in conjunction with § 562A.8, which provided that service of notice is deemed completed and received when mailed, unconstitutional for violating the right to due process?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Certified mail was the means chosen by appellee landlord to serve appellant tenant with the FED original notice. Because under Iowa Code § 562A.8, notice to a tenant was considered complete upon mailing of the original notice by certified mail, the landlord complied with Iowa Code § 648.5 despite the fact that the tenant had not received either the Form 3849 or the original notice prior to the scheduled hearing. Under Iowa Code §§ 562A.8 and 562A.29A(2), a signed receipt was not required in FED actions. The FED statutory scheme deemed notice complete upon mailing. Since § 562A.29A(2), read in conjunction with § 562A.8 and the seven-day hearing requirement, did not require service which was reasonably calculated to reach the intended recipient, the means chosen to provide notice in the FED action violated the due process clause of the Iowa Constitution, Iowa Const. art. I, § 9. Given the statutory requirement that a hearing be held no later than seven days from the order scheduling the hearing, Iowa Code § 562A.29A(2) was unconstitutional on its face.

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