The ground is about to shift beneath renters and landlords in Colorado once again.
Protections for renters who have been struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic's financial strain may soon expire. That's especially tough for those also struggling with the state's new identification system for it's unemployment benefits, ID.me.
As the state continues it's return to normal, confusion is aplenty about what kind of support both renters and landlord will have going forward.
So from what aid is available to how an eviction can be carried out these days, here are the answers to the most common questions we’ve heard about evictions, housing assistance and more in Colorado.
Where can I get help with my rent or mortgage?
People facing eviction are eligible for financial help from the federal government. That money’s being distributed through the Colorado Emergency Rental Assistance Program for people who make less than 80% of the “area median income” where they live. (Check here.) ERAP can give people money for the rent they already owe, plus two future months.
The state programs can also offer help for homeowners, but that funding is currently paused.
If you need more guidance, contact the state-sponsored Housing Counseling Assistance Program at 844-926-6632 or at ColoradoHousingConnects.org.
Is legal aid available?
People facing evictions can ask for free legal help from an attorney through the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, a private community effort. Similar help is available through Colorado Legal Services, 9to5Colorado and the Colorado Poverty Law Project.
Various nonprofits and local governments offer different forms of help with rent and other bills. For example, Denver residents can apply for direct cash assistance from the city. The state has a map of eviction prevention programs across Colorado.
The website OnwardCO has a list of services that provide food, medical care and more. The state PEAK service can provide food, cash assistance and more. The state-run LEAP program offers help with energy bills during the winter. Mile High United Way also runs a 2-1-1 service to connect people with aid and assistance. The Family Resource Center Association has partners across Colorado that can help.
The GES Coalition has a Spanish and English-language guide to housing resources in Denver.
The Colorado Apartment Association has also been raising funds to assist tenants who fall behind on rent. Renters can apply for that help through the Resident Relief Foundation.
What can landlords do?
Landlords and other property owners may be able to seek forbearance from their mortgage lender. If the lender agrees, the landlord can delay their monthly mortgage payments. For federally backed loans — including those affiliated with the VA, USDA and HUD -- the deadline to apply is June 30. There is no current deadline to ask for forbearance on mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Here’s how to tell if your loan is federally backed.
Can landlords evict tenants in Colorado right now?
Yes. Landlords have been able to pursue evictions in Colorado during most of the pandemic. But tenants have had a variety of protections that can halt the process in certain cases.
Court documents show that there have been waves of attempted evictions throughout the last year. Landlords have filed about 17,000 eviction cases since April 2020, a far lower rate than the state saw before the pandemic.
But filings alone don’t reflect the actual number of removals. In some cases, people may leave their home to avoid the court battle — an “informal” eviction. In others, a judge may stop the eviction.
For example, landlords have filed more than 3,000 eviction cases in Denver in the last year, which has resulted in about 700 removals by sheriff’s deputies. In Jefferson County, about 1,500 eviction filings resulted in about 380 removals during the pandemic.
Is the CDC evictions moratorium still in effect in Colorado?
Yes, for now. But the order is set to expire nationwide on June 30, and court challenges could end it sooner. And there are exceptions.
The federal moratorium on evictions has been one of the strongest protections for renters in Colorado and across the country. It was created by the Centers for Disease Control on Sept. 4, 2020. The moratorium says that landlords can’t remove certain people from housing for non-payment.
What about the legal challenges to the eviction moratorium?
The CDC moratorium is supposed to be in effect through June 30, 2021 — but it is on shaky ground.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., recently declared that the national policy was invalid and should be struck down. But that ruling didn’t go into effect yet. There is a pause on the ruling because the U.S. Department of Justice is appealing the case to a higher court.
The final outcome of that case — whenever it comes — could result in the ban being struck down nationally, attorneys said.
“It very well could have legal consequences here in Colorado,” said Jack Regenbogen, senior attorney for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.
It’s also possible that the moratorium will be in place past June 30. To last longer, it would have to survive the court challenge and President Joe Biden would have to extend it.
What do tenants have to do to get the protection of the CDC moratorium in Colorado?
The moratorium is not a universal rule.
It only applies for tenants who can’t make rent payments — not for eviction cases that list other reasons. And the rules say it’s only for people who:
- Have tried to obtain “all available government assistance”
- Made less than $99,000 in 2020-21, or $198,000 for a couple
- Can’t make rent due to lost income or extraordinary medical expenses
If you want the protection of the moratorium, fill out the CDC’s declaration form and give it to your landlord. (If you can’t print the form, you can provide any written document, as long as it covers the same information.) More information is available through the federal housing department or at 800-569-4287.
Renters should be prepared to go to court, even if they think they are covered by the moratorium. In some cases, a judge will determine whether or not someone qualifies.
“If I had a client, I would advise them to have any paperwork that might be necessary to demonstrate their eligibility under the declaration forms,” Regenbogen said.
How are evictions allowed to happen right now in Colorado?
There are many exceptions to the evictions moratorium in Colorado. First, the moratorium only protects people from eviction for non-payment of rent. Landlords can still try to evict people for issues such as damage to property or lease violations.
“For cases not involving non-payment, those can be filed freely,” Regenbogen said.
People can also be evicted if their lease has expired. For example, a landlord could simply refuse to extend a month-to-month lease. Since the pandemic has been happening for more than a year, an increasing number of people’s leases have expired and are vulnerable under that provision.
In other cases, people are leaving their homes because they don’t know whether they are protected.
“I’ve long seen confusion, generally, about this moratorium and properly availing yourself of it,” said Jason Legg, an attorney working with 9to5 Colorado. One of his clients, he said, left her home as soon as she received the initial rent notice — when she still had time to fight back.
Do renters still have to pay rent in Colorado?
Yes. The CDC moratorium says that renters must keep making their best efforts to pay rent.
Failure to pay rent also means that the tenant is building up a debt to their landlord. That debt could be grounds for eviction if and when the moratorium expires. And that debt can follow renters even after they leave a property. Some landlords will send rental debt to collections agencies, which can damage renters’ credit and hurt their ability to find new housing or take on other debt.
Can I be charged late fees in Colorado?
Yes. For a while, the state banned landlords from charging late fees. But it has been allowed again since late April because Governor Jared Polis let an order lapse. Late fees can be assessed for any month going forward, but they cannot be issued retroactively for earlier months. Some large apartment buildings have begun warning that they will issue late fees again.
How can I tell if I’m facing eviction?
If you’re unsure whether your landlord is pursuing eviction, you could ask them whether they have posted a demand for rent. You should also call your county court to check whether the landlord has filed an eviction against you. A list of county courts and contact information is available online. If you’re not sure what county you live in, check online.
What is the eviction process right now?
First, a landlord has to give a printed notice to the tenant that outlines a demand for payment, and instructs the tenant that they must pay or leave the property by a certain date. It can also outline other reasons for eviction.
The tenant then has 30 days to pay or otherwise “cure” the problem. (This period is usually only 10 days, but Gov. Polis recently ordered a longer repayment period. That longer period will be in effect until June 2, unless Polis extends the order.)
If the tenant hasn’t cured the problem by the end of the notice period, then the landlord can file a case in court. At this point, it becomes much more difficult for a tenant to avoid eviction.
A hearing will likely be scheduled before a judge, who will consider and decide on the case. If the tenant fails to appear, they may automatically lose the case.
If the judge decides that the renter can be evicted, the case then goes to the local sheriff’s department. After 48 hours have passed, the judge can issue a writ, which allows law enforcement to take action. Deputies from the sheriff’s department can then forcibly remove a person at any time, although the timelines can vary a lot.
Evictions and eviction court cases can remain on a person’s record, making it more difficult to rent future housing.