Colorado Judicial Branch seeks applications for Eviction Legal Defense Fund grants

By: - June 24, 2021 1:18 pm

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

The Colorado Judicial Branch is seeking applications for its Eviction Legal Defense Fund grant program.

To be eligible for the program, an organization must be a nonprofit currently providing legal services for low-income tenants in Colorado and receiving more than 20% of its funding from sources other than the Eviction Legal Defense Fund, according to the application.

Tenants, especially low-income renters, are rarely able to obtain legal representation during eviction proceedings due to the cost. A snapshot of data compiled by the Denver County Courts shows that of the 500 eviction cases filed between Sept. 4 and Oct. 19, 2020, 498 landlords had representation while only 24 tenants had a lawyer present. Of the 1,083 evictions filed during the same period in 2019, 1,081 landlords had legal representation while only 23 tenants in those same cases did.

Grants will be awarded based on the number of clients served in the past year by the organization and the location of service. In 2022, $1.55 million will be awarded through the program. The funds will likely only cover a small fraction of the statewide need. 

For example, Melissa Thate, Denver’s housing stability director, estimated in February that a $1.1 million contract would provide eviction legal assistance to 1,800 Denver households over a period of three years. In 2019, 45,670 evictions were filed across the state, according to data requested from the Denver County Court and the Colorado Judicial Branch.

Each grantee is required to provide semi-annual financial/program reports to the State Court Administrator’s Office, as well as a detailed annual report. 

The state court administrator is required to evaluate the use of grants from the fund every five years and submit that evaluation to the General Assembly. The Eviction Legal Defense Fund was established by state lawmakers in 2019 to expand the availability of legal assistance to help low-income people who are experiencing an eviction or are at immediate risk of an eviction.

Applications, which can be found on the Judicial Branch website, must be submitted by email to [email protected] by 5 p.m. on July 30.

Editor’s Note: This brief was updated at 1:52 p.m., July 15, 2021, to note that the deadline to apply was extended.

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Moe Clark
Moe Clark

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