Statewide eviction moratorium ordered by Gov. Polis

Colorado move mirrors CDC’s, which halted or delayed some, but not all, eviction proceedings

By: - October 21, 2020 3:28 pm

Gov. Jared Polis gives an update on the extent of the coronavirus pandemic and the state’s wildfires on Aug. 18, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday issued an executive order establishing a 30-day statewide eviction moratorium after months of pressure from housing advocates and in response to recommendations put forth by his own Special Eviction Prevention Task Force.

The order reaffirms and clarifies a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium. The state had previously instituted its own eviction moratorium, which expired in mid-June.

Beatriz Gonzalez, a member of Polis’ task force and a business development officer for Bank of the West, applauded the governor for issuing the statewide eviction moratorium, but encouraged him to extend the order until the end of the pandemic. “This isn’t going away,” she said. 

Under Colorado law, Polis can issue emergency executive orders in 30-day increments, which can be extended when deemed necessary. In a press release related to the order issued on Wednesday, the governor committed to keeping the executive orders in place through the end of the year. He also encouraged state lawmakers and Congress to take additional steps to provide relief to Colorado renters and small businesses.

Though the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium — which went into effect on Sept. 4 and is set to expire on Dec. 31 — has halted and delayed many eviction proceedings in the state, some have continued to move through the state’s court system.

Between the months of June and September, when there were no eviction moratoriums in place, 2,914 evictions were filed throughout Colorado, according to court data that Newsline obtained from the Colorado Judicial Branch. Of those filed, 2,281 resulted in an eviction. 

The statewide eviction ban is only for people who are unable to pay because of “financial hardship due to COVID-19.”

To prove this, a person must be using “best efforts” to obtain government housing assistance; expecting to earn no more than $99,000 in income in 2020, or $198,000 for joint filers; be unable to make rent due to loss of job or wages; be making their best effort to pay as much rent as possible; and/or likely facing homelessness.

Task force recommended a statewide eviction moratorium

The statewide eviction moratorium was put forth as a recommendation by the governor’s 10-person task force to mirror the CDC order, in the event that it gets struck down in court.

A rental unit in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Aug. 7, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

The National Apartment Association, a trade group that represents landlords and property owners, joined a federal lawsuit in September against the CDC and the Trump administration over what they consider an unconstitutional national eviction moratorium, according to a report by MarketWatch.

Drew Hamrick, senior vice president of government affairs for the Colorado Apartment Association, said he was disappointed to hear about the statewide eviction moratorium. He said that preventing property owners from filing evictions presents “First Amendment problems.” 

“These broad moratoriums of preventing people from enforcing their contracts is not the way to approach it,” Hamrick said, adding that he wants more focus on sustained financial relief for renters and landlords. 

Ultimately, he said the best thing the state could do to support renters and landlords is to “stop changing the rules.”

“You just can’t have this system where every time somebody comes up with a different way to skin the cat, they change the playing field for 30 days,” Hamrick said. “The market requires stability.”

Suspension of ‘assessment and accumulation’ of late fees and interest

Last week, Polis signed another executive order that included recommendations from the task force. Those actions include: 

  • Continuation of the CDC notice requirement, including in Spanish, with Department of Local Affairs’ notice template 
  • Suspension of the assessment and accumulation of late fees and interest until Dec. 31 
  • Continuation of the 30-day extended period to cure for both commercial and residential evictions 
  • Directs DOLA to continue working with landlords to implement model rent repayment agreements to assist individuals who are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19
  • Encourages, but does not mandate, municipalities to remove limits on the number of unrelated people who can live in a single household and on the number of days that hotel rooms may be occupied

The task force convened four times in September and October to establish short-term and long-term policy recommendations to address increasing housing instability throughout the state. Some of the recommendations put forth in the 17-page report will require legislative action.

“My fear is that we’re going to have a ton of families being displaced and, more importantly, homeless,” said Gonzalez, who has lived in Colorado most of her life and is a first-generation Mexican-American. “We’re already looking at these tent villages that are all across our city. I mean I can’t even imagine what it’s gonna look like.”

As of September, 95% of renters paid their rent on time, according to the task force’s report. But to do so, renters have had to cut back on other expenses, go more into debt or rely on friends and family for financial support.

“Once you’re behind, you’re never going to catch up,” said Gonzalez, who would like to see housing assistance programs marketed in more languages. “So even though maybe the data says that there’s not this massive eviction flood yet, what, are we just going to wait for it to happen? I just know that there’s so much more that can be done.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 5:22 p.m. to add that Gov. Jared Polis has committed to keeping the executive orders in place until Dec. 31.

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Moe Clark
Moe Clark

Moe Clark is a former Colorado Newsline reporter that covered criminal justice, housing and homelessness, and other social issues.