Eviction filings have been steadily increasing since Colorado’s statewide eviction moratorium expired on New Year's Day. So far this year, 6,124 evictions have been filed across the state. That number does not include evictions filed in Denver County, as that data is compiled separately. Some tenants are still protected under the federal eviction moratorium, which is set to expire at the end of June.
While eviction filings have steadily increased since Colorado’s moratorium expired, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs is working to get out as much rental assistance as possible. But the process has been slow.
“The good news is that we probably now have the money we need, or close to the money we need, to chase down a lot of the unpaid rental balances,” says Zach Neumann, co-founder and executive director of the Colorado-based COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.
“There’s the vaccine, people are beginning to go back to work. So it’s feeling like we’re starting to turn a corner,” Neumann adds. “I think the downside or the risk is that people are so anxious to return to normalcy that I think a lot of the protections that have been in place are perhaps lifting too quickly.”
Here’s what protections are still in place for renters in Colorado who are behind on rent or facing eviction:
If you’re behind on your rent in Colorado, you have thirty days — not ten — to get caught up before your landlord can file an eviction.
On April 20, Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order that gives tenants slightly more time to get caught up on rent before a landlord can file an eviction.
Tenants now have thirty days to pay back any owed rent. Previously, tenants only had ten days. Once an eviction has been filed with the courts, landlords are not required to accept owed rent under current law.
The order expires thirty days from April 20, but the governor has the authority to extend the order if he deems it necessary.
Landlords are still banned from charging rental late fees.
But that could change soon.
Landlords in Colorado are still banned from collecting late fees from residential and commercial tenants struggling to make their rental payments, but the order expires at the end of April. It’s unclear if Polis will renew the order.
Who is protected by the federal eviction moratorium?
To qualify for the federal protections, a single-person household must earn less than $99,000 and a couple must earn less than $198,000.
A person must declare that they can’t pay rent because of COVID-19 hardships, demonstrate they’ve sought government assistance to help pay rent, and attest that they are likely to become homeless if evicted. The federal ban does not protect renters on expiring or month-to-month leases.
The federal moratorium is set to expire at the end of June. On January 1, Colorado’s statewide eviction moratorium — which added protections for people with expired or month-to-month leases — expired, and it has not been renewed.
What to do if you get an eviction notice:
In order to be legally protected under the federal eviction moratorium, tenants must fill out a declaration form and submit it to their landlord. (The moratorium does not cover people with expired or month-to-month leases.) Tenants are also able to submit the form when they show up to court.
Here are some organizations that can help you navigate through the eviction process:
Colorado Legal Services provides free legal assistance and representation in eviction actions to low-income individuals and families and Coloradans over sixty years old.
The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project also provides free legal aid and representation to tenants facing eviction and other housing issues related to COVID-19 hardship, regardless of citizenship status. Start by filling out this form.
The nonprofits 9to5 Colorado and Colorado Poverty Law Project also provide legal support for housing issues.
How to apply for rental assistance, and how long to expect to wait:
The state is currently running two rental assistance programs for tenants. A household can apply for arrears back to April 2020, plus their current month’s rent and two future months, for a maximum of twelve months total, according to Brett McPherson, a spokesperson for the Department of Local Affairs.
Colorado’s Division of Housing is still trying to dig its way out of a massive backlog of rental assistance requests, which flooded its system throughout December, January and February. The state estimates that its turnaround time is between six and eight weeks, McPherson says. DOLA officials hope that once they get through their backlog of applications in the next few weeks, they can trim down their turnaround time to two weeks.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state’s two assistance programs for renters have received 18,011 applications from tenants totaling more than $95 million. Of the applications submitted, only 5,503 households — or 30 percent — had received payments as of April 21.
“They’re just unprecedented state and federal resources to pay these arrearages, and so while the wait times are long and the process is complicated, the number-one way to protect yourself from getting evicted is to pursue those resources and work with a lawyer to ensure you’re getting the benefit of those resources being paid on your behalf,” Neumann says.
Currently, eleven local jurisdictions are also distributing rental assistance funds, including Adams, Arapahoe, Aurora, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld.
Here’s how to check the status of your rental assistance application:
Call 1-888-480-0066 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
This piece originally ran in Colorado Newsline.