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New renters' rights go into effect as Governor Polis ends temporary protections tied to pandemic

SB21-173 establishes a handful of new rights for renters
New renters' rights go into effect as Governor Polis ends temporary protections tied to pandemic
Posted at 2:45 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 16:45:55-04

SOUTHERN COLORADO — An executive order from Governor Jared Polis on Sunday officially ended the remaining temporary protections granted to renters at risk of eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Polis did not renew a provision which extended the right to cure from 10 days to 30 days for people with a pending application for rental assistance. The decision was made because the Division of Housing has made "significant progress clearing the backlog of requests for rental assistance," according to the governor's office.

Governor Jared Polis Executive Order
Governor Jared Polis has officially ended the rental protections connected to the COVID-19 pandemic for those facing eviction.

An eviction moratorium has not been in place in Colorado for several months.

News5 received the following statement from the Colorado Apartment Association:

Ending the temporary requirement of a 30-day rent demand was the right course of action for the Governor. It will make it much easier for housing providers to take on the risk of accepting residents with weak applications. Since the eviction process takes about three months in Colorado, even a modest extension of the length of the required rent demand made it extremely difficult to rent to people with poor credit histories.

The order had been previously scaled back several times (so that by the last Executive Order, it only impacted those persons who claimed to have filed for rental assistance but not yet received it). However, the Governor’s Order was still being misinterpreted by many local judges and anti-housing advocates. It’s been a month and half since the U.S. Supreme Court declared the CDC eviction moratorium unlawful and invalid. Eviction filings in Colorado remain at an all-time low (about ½ the normal number of cases were filed in September 2021). The Governor’s Order was the last step in returning Colorado’s housing markets to normal.

A law, which went into effect on October 1, establishes new rights for renters in Colorado. The rights under SB21-173 include:

  • Limits the amount a landlord can charge in late fees to $50 or 5% of the amount of past due rent, whichever is greater. Landlords cannot charge a late fee until seven days after the missed rental payment.
  • Prohibiting evictions against a tenant solely based on a result to pay one or more late fees.
  • Requires a trial date be set for seven to 10 days after an answer is filed, but allows the court to extend if they find good cause for an extension.
  • Requires both the tenant and landlord to provide relevant documents before the trial.
  • Prohibits one-way fee shifting in contracts and unreasonable liquidated damages.

CLICK HERE for a list of frequently asked questions from Governor Polis' office regarding rental assistance.

The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project is a non-profit offering free legal services to people risking eviction. The organization also manages Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) dollars, giving them to individuals trying to pay rent.

This feels like a step in the direction of sanity, and a step in the direction of really building a framework for a state that is increasingly facing an affordable housing crisis.
Zach Neumann

Zach Neumann is the executive director of the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. He called SB21-173 an ambitious long-term fix of laws regarding renters in Colorado. "We would love to see those protections continued. They help our clients. They give them more time. At the same time, SB21-173 will backfill that time. It won't be at the front of the process, it'll be further along in the process. And so, for that reason, I think we'll see roughly the same amount of time for tenants to go find those ERA dollars, pay and catch up," said Neumann.

Neumann said he is most excited about the new rule extending the cure period. "If you are behind on the rent, you don't just have those 10 days at the beginning of the process, you can make payment all the way through your day in court. So, you have a lot longer to go get those ERA dollars, and to make payment," explained Neumann.

Tony Gioia is a local landlord who rents out a Colorado Springs condo with his wife. He said SB21-173 just makes it more difficult for landlords to make a living. "They forget the other side of it. The landlords, we have mortgages to pay. If we can't pay our mortgage because the renters are given too many outs, then we lose the home and they lose a place to live after all," said Gioia.

Gioia said the new rights for renters will make the eviction process longer and more expensive. He said it could drive up rent prices, since landlords cannot absorb the price of not getting paid.

In addition, he believes it could make it more difficult for individuals with bad credit or an eviction in their past to find a place to live, if landlords are more wary of taking on the risk. "The great majority of homeowners who want to rent out, we are trying to help others as well, but the legislature is making it harder and harder to do that, which is really just self-defeating. They want to help renters, and by doing this, by hurting owners, they end up hurting renters," said Gioia.

Pikes Peak United Way can help both tenants and property owners apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.