Denver’s on track to have its highest number of eviction cases on record

“The resources that are available are stretched thin. It can lead to a lot of anxiety for folks who are fighting to keep their homes.”
4 min. read
Information on eviction support inside Denver’s City and County Building. July 25, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denver is investing tens of millions in eviction prevention, and even so, the number of new eviction court filings keeps rising.

Denver County Court has already had 5,613 eviction cases filed in 2024. That's a 75% increase from this point in 2019, when the number was at a pre-pandemic norm.

The cost of living and rents have risen in recent years, population has increased, and there isn't enough housing stock to meet the demand. In the ten years before the pandemic, the average annual number of eviction cases was 8,999 .

If eviction cases continue on pace, this year will far exceed last year's record-breaking eviction case numbers.

April alone saw 1,669 eviction cases filed in Denver County Court. That´s the highest documented monthly number on record.

“April was a really busy month in Denver County,” said Zach Neumann, head of the Community Economic Defense Project, one of the organizations that contract with the city on eviction prevention and legal assistance. “We saw record highs come into the clinics.”

Sometimes hundreds of people come in for assistance on any given day, he said. 

“Those days are really scary, because you don't know if you're gonna get to everybody,” Neumann said. “The disproportionate number of people who have been scheduled on that day mean that the resources that are available are stretched thin. It can lead to a lot of anxiety for folks who are fighting to keep their homes.”

What do those numbers mean? 

In Denver, landlords are required to give tenants ample warning before filing eviction papers in court, starting a process that could end in a sheriff-led eviction.

These court cases represent a fraction of the people who leave their homes at first threat of eviction, Neumann.

A court case also doesn’t mean that a person will be evicted by the sheriff. 

Many people leave their homes before the sheriffs are ordered to remove them. Some tenants manage to strike a deal with their landlord to pay back owed rent or to leave without an eviction case going on their records. 

The data tracked about case outcomes is fuzzy because of all the variables, but Princeton University's Eviction Lab has documented that even the threat of eviction puts a person's mental and physical health at risk and increases their chance of homelessness.  

Eviction is not an inevitability. 

During the pandemic, federal, city and state supports and two eviction moratoriums dropped the number of annual eviction cases. 

In the first four months of 2020, there were just 2,250 cases. In the same period in 2021, there were 1,528 cases.   

Because Denver housing supply is low, demand is high, and landlords have plenty of people eager to rent, evicting tenants for no payment and other reasons resumed. 

State lawmakers have been debating laws that would protect renters, including Just Cause for Eviction legislation that prevents landlords from evicting tenants without cause.

The city has implemented costly eviction prevention methods that the Department of Housing Stability says are working. 

The percentage of evictions carried out by the Denver Sheriff’s Department has dropped from 75% from 2001 to 2017 to 31% in 2023, Melissa Thate, the Housing Stability Director told City Council on Wednesday.

Nearly $30 million city, state and federal dollars are used to help tenants make rent when they’re facing eviction. And the city has devoted nearly $30 million dollars to legal defense for tenants facing eviction. 

Demand for help has soared.

Already this year, more than 8,000 people have applied for rental assistance through the city, and just under 800 have been served, Thate said.

It’s been easier to apply this year because the application process was made available online. 

“We expected a high volume but I’d say not this high of a volume,” Thate said. “It was more than we can handle.”

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