Colorado’s eviction ban expires, but some renters remain protected under federal moratorium

Gov. Polis extends ban on rental late fees for another month; renters with month-to-month or expiring leases now vulnerable to eviction

By: - January 1, 2021 11:11 am

An apartment building in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Dec. 10, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado’s statewide eviction moratorium quietly expired on New Year’s Day with no indication from the governor’s office if or when it will be renewed.

Some renters will still have temporary protections through January under the federal eviction moratorium, which was recently extended by Congress alongside the latest infusion of relief funds. On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis extended his executive order that bans landlords from charging late fees or other penalties for missed or late rent through January.

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The statewide ban on evictions was established in mid-October to mirror the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium and close loopholes to protect more Colorado renters from being displaced. The biggest difference between the state and federal policies: Colorado’s temporarily shielded financially-affected renters with month-to-month or expiring leases from being evicted. The CDC’s does not. 

“The guiding principle in all of this should be rooted in public health,” said Javier Mabrey, a volunteer attorney with the Colorado COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. “Evictions are always tragic and they always have lasting consequences, but it’s particularly important to stop evictions through COVID-19 so that people can have homes to socially distance.”

Polis initially indicated that he would follow the lead of the federal government when it came to renewing his ban on evictions. “We do plan to track closely with what the federal government is doing to avoid any confusion for landlords and tenants,” Polis said during a media briefing on Dec. 11.

But with the recent infusion of funds from Congress and Colorado’s Legislature, it appears the governor’s office has changed course.

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“We are reviewing whether any further administrative actions are necessary,” said Victoria Graham, a spokesperson for Polis, in a written statement. “Ultimately, the most important thing is for people to be able to keep up with their bills to stay in their homes, and this infusion of resources will assist renters and homeowners.”

The amount of relief funds available for renters and homeowners has increased significantly over the last month. In early December, Colorado state lawmakers approved approximately $54 million for rent and mortgage relief to be distributed through existing state programs. President Donald Trump on Dec. 27 signed the latest COVID relief package that funnels $25 billion to states to help renters and homeowners catch up on their payments and stay afloat another month. Colorado will receive an estimated $383.3 million, according to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition

But housing advocates worry that renters could lose their housing while waiting to be approved for the new assistance funds.

“In order for the rent relief funds that Congress has allocated and that the state Legislature has allocated to work, you need a strong eviction moratorium in place,” Mabrey said. “What we need is time for tenants to access that money and an incentive for landlords to accept those rent relief funds rather than going through the eviction court process.”

Though eviction cases filed in county courts slowed significantly during the first few months of the pandemic, cases spiked again during the summer months when no eviction moratoriums were in place. Between March 1 and Dec. 11, nearly 11,000 evictions were filed throughout Colorado, according to state data, which is significantly lower than previous years.

Approximately 35.6% of Colorado adults are currently living in households that are not current on their rent or mortgage payments and where eviction or foreclosure in the next two months is either very likely or somewhat likely, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse survey. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a patchwork of state and federal protections has shielded thousands of Colorado renters who were unable to pay their rent due to the pandemic from being displaced from their homes. But the protections — such as the state and federal eviction moratoriums, housing assistance programs and bolstered unemployment benefits — have provided only temporary relief.

Here is a look back at temporary protections put in place since March to keep Coloradans housed during the pandemic.

March 25

CARES Act passes, includes 120-day eviction moratorium and stimulus: Congress passed the CARES Act, which provided a 120-day eviction moratorium for those in federal housing assistance programs or who have a federally-backed mortgage. The eviction ban expired on July 24. A statewide moratorium in Colorado expired in mid-June, and eviction cases started to creep back up.

Sept. 4

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announces federal eviction moratorium: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a federal eviction moratorium for those making less than $99,000 a year (or $198,000 if filing taxes jointly) who have been financially-affected by the pandemic. On Sept. 22, Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order requiring landlords to inform tenants of the CDC eviction moratorium and provide a tenant declaration form before initiating the eviction process.

Oct. 9

Special Eviction Prevention Task Force releases report: Immediate policy recommendations included establishing a statewide eviction moratorium and banning landlords from issuing rental late fees for the duration of the pandemic. Other recommendations included imposing a statutory limit on late fees/interest and issuing grace periods; creating a landlord tax credit for rent and late fee/interest forgiveness; strengthening statewide eviction response tools for renters and landlords; lengthening the writ or restitution (the time a tenant has to vacate a home after an eviction is issued) beyond 48 hours; and developing a program to repurpose hotels/motels into transitional housing and creating a tailored counseling and “good tenant program.”

Oct. 15

Colorado issues a ban on rental late fees: Polis banned forthcoming and accumulated late fees for Colorado renters through the end of the year. Any fee or penalty assessed on or after Jan. 1 are allowed.

Oct. 21

Statewide eviction ban issued: Polis issues 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 the task force. The state had previously instituted its own eviction moratorium, which expired in mid-June. The latest order was extended to Dec. 31, when it expired.

Dec. 3

Colorado lawmakers approve $54 million for rent and mortgage relief: State lawmakers approved approximately $54 million for rent and mortgage relief during a special legislative session. The housing funds are being distributed through existing state programs. Five million dollars is dedicated to a new Emergency Direct Assistance Grant Program to provide financial support to undocumented people living in Colorado who have been unable to access other assistance programs. 

Dec. 27

Congress approves latest stimulus package: The bill, which was signed into law on Dec. 27 by President Donald Trump, funnels $25 billion to states to help renters and homeowners catch up on their payments and stay afloat another month. Colorado will receive an estimated $383.3 million, according to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The bill also expanded the federal eviction moratorium until the end of January. 

Dec. 31

State eviction moratorium expires: Colorado’s statewide eviction moratorium expired; Polis extended ban on rental late fees.

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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.

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