COVID-19 has prompted a Colorado-wide stay-at-home order, the closures of venues and retail outlets, and layoffs at businesses of all sorts (including Westword). As a result, plenty of renters are worried about whether they'll soon lose their residence and wind up out on the street in the middle of a pandemic.
In an attempt to reduce such fears, the Colorado Apartment Association, the largest organization of its kind in the state, has issued a series of recommendations for rental housing providers that includes waiving late fees, delaying rent increases and forgoing evictions through April 30.
Some of the CAA's members are going even further. On March 25, Equity Residential put a ninety-day moratorium on evictions for those "who can document that they have been adversely financially impacted" by the outbreak, and will offer resident renewals with no increase, plus what are termed "flexible lease renewal options" for the same period. The Chicago-based firm has a big footprint along the Front Range: its properties include three sizable complexes in Denver (Radius Uptown Apartments, at 1935 Logan Street; Skyhouse Denver Apartments,1776 Broadway; and the Evita on Cherokee Apartments, 1250 Cherokee Street), plus the Brodie Apartments, 2311 Park Centre Drive in Westminster; and Venue at the Promenade, at 6200 Castlegate Drive in Castle Rock.
According to spokesperson Michelle Balch Lyng, the Colorado Apartment Association represents "some of the largest apartment management companies, and small mom-and-pop managers and owners as well." When the COVID-19 crisis struck full force, CAA put together "a task force of about 40 to 45 of our members that's been having telephone meetings every two or three days to talk about what we're doing."
Here are the group's main recommendations:
• Create payment plans for residents unable to pay rent because of virus-related loss of income
• Waive all late fees through April 30, 2020
• Refrain from enforcing eviction orders with move-outs through April 30, 2020
• Avoid rent increases
• Share the Colorado Housing Financial Assistance Programs and Apartment Association of Metro Denver’s list of resources for renters
• Limit entry to rental properties to only emergency maintenance response
• Follow HIPAA federal rules for resident and employee privacy if a community has a positive test
• Increase common area cleaning with the approved list of cleaning supplies from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control]
• Continue to follow the Governor’s mandate for reduced workplace staff and continue to follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing
• Maintain emergency maintenance needs for renters
These bullet points constitute advice, not edicts. The group has no authority to make the suggestions mandatory, Balch Lyng confirms: "At each apartment complex and each apartment community, they'll do what they can do based on their current financial situation. They're keeping in mind the health and wellness of residents, but there's financial health as well."
She points out that "we're all part of the same ecosystem, and when residents don't pay their rent, it's hard for housing providers to pay their employees, pay their vendors, pay their financial obligations, like loans and whatnot. This isn't easy for anyone. But we've taken the approach that we're all in this together, and together, we're going to try to figure it out."
Mayor Michael Hancock has made it clear where he stands on evictions in Denver. During his March 16 press conference announcing the end of on-site restaurant and bar service, Hancock said that "now is not the time to be evicting people from their housing." As a result, sheriff's deputies assigned to this duty have been redeployed "to other areas of need."
And during a March 20 press conference where he announced that he'd approved alcohol delivery by licensed restaurants in Colorado, Governor Jared Polis also pointed out that the federal government has put in place a sixty-day suspension of foreclosures and evictions for those with loans overseen by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Polis encouraged all lenders at the state level and the private sector to follow suit, and called on landlords to refrain from evictions or associated penalties at present.
Balch Lyng encourages renters to "keep the lines of communication open. If you feel you're at risk as a renter or a resident of not being able to pay your rent because of a layoff or, God forbid, an illness, the important thing to do is talk to your manager or your housing provider early. While we're recommending things to housing providers, we're also recommending that renters who are in that situation talk to their landlord or housing provider, because they may be able to put them in touch with resources" like the ones from the Colorado Housing Financial Assistance Programs and the Apartment Association of Metro Denver.
After all, she adds, "Landlords are people, too."
Do you know a landlord who's acting heroically in these tough times? If so, please let us know.