UPDATE: The CDC announced on June 24 that the federal eviction moratorium has been extended to July 31.
On June 30, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions — which Denver has been following — will expire.
The national moratorium protected certain renters, including those who earned less than $99,000 a year, whose income took a substantial financial hit because of COVID or who were laid off, or if an eviction would have caused a renter to be homeless. Once the moratorium ends, Denver’s protections will end, too. And Mike Strott, a spokesperson with Mayor Michael Hancock’s office, said the city doesn’t technically have the legal ability to set its own eviction moratorium. The city could direct the Department of Safety to deprioritize eviction enforcement, which is handled by the Denver Sheriff Department. That’s what Mayor Michael Hancock did last March, as the pandemic took hold of the city and state and thousands of people faced job loss and housing insecurity. That directive ended in June 2020 after the city said it needed to consider the rights of property owners.
In a statement, Strott said the city would follow the state and federal government’s lead once the CDC moratorium ends.
“We will continue to support tenants in our community who need financial assistance particularly in response to the pandemic, and we are encouraged by the Governor’s willingness to allow federal funds to work by extending the 30 day notice to cure to allow time to process applications and for landlords to be paid,” Strott said in a statement to Denverite, referring to mortgage and eviction defense assistance and the 30-day grace period giving tenants more time to pay or “cure” issues with nonpayment.
Evictions have continued in Denver despite the national moratorium.
Data provided by the Denver Sheriff Department show that this year through May 4, the agency has completed 340 evictions, while 2,014 eviction filings have been submitted to Denver County Court as of June 15 of this year. The department carried out 817 evictions last year, when 3,912 requests for evictions were filed. In 2019, 9,249 requests were submitted to Denver County Court.
Without more federal protections, some fear there will be a huge jump in eviction filings in Denver.
“If local leaders don’t step in, that’s what we have to fear,” said University of Denver Sturm College of Law professor Nantiya Ruan, who said she and other advocates have been fearing an “eviction tsunami” facing renters once the nationwide protections lapse.
Colorado Legal Services staff attorney Jana Happel represents people facing eviction in Denver. Her organization has partnered with the city to provide legal assistance for eviction defense. She said the CDC moratorium has given people more time to apply for rental assistance, which can help keep them housed.
Meanwhile, rent collections are very strong, according to the Colorado Apartment Association.
According to the association, the percentage of rent paid across the state in May was 97.9%, 1.1 percent higher than rent collections from May 2020. (CAA didn’t have specific figures for Denver.) The rate for rental payments across the country was 96.8%, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker.
Mark Williams, executive vice president of the Colorado Apartment Association, said in a statement that the strong collection rate suggests residents have pursued rental assistance and worked with rental housing providers.
“With the May 2021 rent collection rate higher than May 2020, it looks like Colorado’s rental housing industry and economy are moving towards recovery,” he said.
Evictions are nowhere near their pre-pandemic levels. Denver figures show a pretty big difference between January 2020 and January 2021, for example. Last January, there were 920 eviction filings. This January, there were 661. In February 2020, 819 were filed, while 239 were file this February.
There are some resources available for people facing evictions.
A city pilot program provides free legal help for low-income renters, including an attorney during eviction proceedings. City Council voted to make that program permanent this month. Providing legal representation is key to helping people stay housed and one of the reasons Councilmember Candi CdeBaca said she introduced the bill, arguing it would “plug the hole in the pipeline to homelessness.”
Out of the more than 2,000 eviction requests filed in Denver so far this year, 1,144 filers were represented by an attorney, according to data from Denver County Court. Meanwhile, only 33 people facing eviction had legal representation, according to data provided by the county court.
You can also apply for some federal rental assistance money that Denver got this year (while the city got the money directly, it wants you to apply at the state level to get the benefits). The money is only available for individuals or families who earn up to 80 percent of the area median income.
The Resident Relief Foundation is also providing rental assistance.
Are you facing eviction in Denver? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in speaking about your experience for a story.