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Landlords say CDC moratorium on evictions is hurting them financially

Mark Skinner
Posted at 7:05 AM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 09:05:25-04

DENVER -- Some landlords say it's time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's temporary moratorium on evictions comes to an end.

The CDC first instituted the moratorium in September 2020. Since then, it's been renewed and extended three times.

The moratorium is aimed at helping tenants avoid becoming homeless because they're unable to pay their rent due to the ongoing pandemic.

But landlords say they've suffered, too, and are looking for help.

Mark Skinner, for example, has a lot of repairs to make after tenants left his place at the Chestnut Condos in southwestern Denver a nightmare.

"I was never able to get in the place. Every time I tried, it was just, you know, 'We have COVID,' [or], 'There's nothing, no problem,' and stuff like that. It just went on and on and on," he said.

The young couple staying in his two-bedroom condo wasn't a problem the first year of the lease. They paid their rent on time, and they allowed him to fix whatever needed fixing. Then, the pandemic hit, and the couple lost their jobs.

"So I thought, 'OK, that's fine,' and I gave them a free month's rent, you know, to help them out and stuff like that," Skinner said.

The husband found employment elsewhere, which helped pay the rent. But in the fall, things took a turn.

"I was notified by the husband that the wife is drinking excessively and destroying the place," Skinner said.

That included damaged walls, carpet, cabinets, appliances, and even the toilet. At that point, Skinner says the couple stopped paying the rent.

"The husband just said, 'Look, she's spending all of the money on alcohol, so she's taken the assistance and gone into the liquor store right over here,'" Skinner recalls. "At that point, [the husband] is like, 'I can't afford to do this. I got to go buy food and all this other stuff.'"

He wanted to evict them, but he says he couldn't because of the CDC moratorium.

"Commonly, people think that the moratorium actually prevents all evictions. That's not exactly true. The moratorium prevents evictions for failure to pay rent," Don Eby, managing partner at Robinson & Henry, P.C., said.

Eby says the law office he works at gets at least 40 calls a week from landlords in situations similar to Skinner's. And in some cases, they are able to move forward with eviction.

"There's many, many reasons that a landlord may contend that the lease has been violated or breached and therefore the landlord has the right to initiate the eviction process," Eby said.

Skinner learned this recently and filed for eviction because of the damage the couple caused, not because of the missed rent payments. He ended up filing to dismiss the eviction Monday morning because the couple left on their own in March.

"It's going to be a bit of a hit. I'm hoping not completely, but yeah, it's going to take a while to bounce back from this," Skinner said.

Repairs will take him well into May. Then, he says, the places goes up for sale, and his days of being a landlord are over.

"This is it. I'm 61 now. I have had it," he said.

The CDC moratorium is in place until the end of June. It's unclear whether it'll be extended a fourth time.

Deena McDonald, property manager with Oneida Management, which oversees several low-income housing properties, thinks it's time the moratorium expires or is, at the very least, modified.

"The moratorium doesn't allow us to evict people who owe rent. It also does not allow us to challenge any declaration that they may have filled out," she said. "People lie and, you know, even though we know they're lying or at least stretching the truth, perhaps we're not able to challenge that and then file an eviction against them."

She has at least two residents who owe thousands of dollars in rent. Yet, she says, they don't apply for rental assistance.

"They, for whatever reason, probably because they're still working ... don't apply for it," McDonald said. "We still have to pay all of our bills. We still have to pay all of our mortgage payments and our insurance, our light bills, because their utilities are included."

McDonald is thankful the moratorium and rental assistance programs exist to help tenants who truly need some assistance, but she wishes landlords still had some sort of power.

"The governor needs to revisit and perhaps put in some provisions. Let us challenge these declarations," she said. "Let us challenge when people say, 'Oh, I'm not working anymore.' Let me investigate that. Let me challenge that."