Denver City Council approves moratorium on rent despite having no legal authority to carry it out

Posted at 7:01 AM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 09:01:21-04

Denver City Council on Monday night approved a moratorium on rent/mortgages for anyone financially affected by COVID-19, but the proclamation cannot legally be enforced.

The proclamation calls on Governor Jared Polis to "use the full legal extent of his emergency powers to impose an immediate moratorium on residential and small business commercial rent payments for those unable to pay due to COVID-19 and Public Health Orders". The council also calls for President Donald Trump and members of Congress to do the same.

A spokesperson for Governor Polis told Denver7 in a statement: “Of course the Governor does not have any legal ability to suspend rent or evictions outright, as these are private contracts between individuals and institutions and suspending the sanctity of contract is not within the emergency powers of any governor or President."

It continued, "The Governor has taken some of the strongest steps of any Governor in the nation on using his legal authority on behalf of renters and encourages the council members to join with the state in making rental assistance more widely available during this time. The Governor has issued an executive order directing DOLA to work with property owners and landlords to avoid removing or executing eviction procedures against tenants or mobile homeowners without cause or as a result of late or nonpayment of rent, and directed law enforcement to not evict during this time. He has also worked closely with utilities to prevent shutoffs for late or non-payment, and made $3 million available through DOLA for rent support for hardworking people struggling to keep up with their bills. The Governor is strongly encouraging landlords and financial institutions not to proceed with evictions, doing what he can within his power to prevent evictions from happening including not allowing state resources to be used for that purpose.”

The proclamation doesn't give a timeline of when the moratorium would end. It also doesn't allow for debt or interest to be accrued while payments are not being made.

The Colorado Apartment Association said in a statement: "We understand this is a really challenging time for everyone. For those residents who are able to pay rent, we ask that they do to ensure that financial assistance is prioritized to help those in dire financial situations. It’s important to know that rent payments go beyond just the mortgage payment, rent payments also are used for payroll, maintenance, taxes, insurance, and continue operation of their rental facilities.”