Eviction concerns grow as state pandemic protections expire

Taylor Sienkiewicz, Summit Daily News

DILLON — Gov. Jared Polis’ eviction moratorium expired June 30, leaving the state of evictions uncertain for individuals and families still struggling to pay their rent amid the pandemic.

While Polis issued an executive order June 13 requiring landlords to provide tenants with 30 days notice — typically only 10 days are required — before initiating or filing action for an eviction, that order expires July 13, leaving some local tenants and organizations concerned. 

The Summit County Justice Center has eviction hearings scheduled as soon as July 13. Jack Regenbogen, senior attorney at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, said evictions already have begun and that he anticipates a large chunk of eviction cases to be filed when the notice order expires. The Colorado Center on Law and Policy was one of dozens of organizations that signed a letter to Polis on behalf of Colorado’s residential tenants.

The letter asks for protection against evictions to be extended and requests four policies to be put in place:

  • Landlords should be required to offer a reasonable repayment plan before attempting to collect or initiate an eviction.
  • Tenants should have the opportunity to pay overdue rent up until 48 hours after a judge issues a writ of restitution.
  • Information about telephonic participation must be included as an attachment to any court summons, and it must be made available in English and Spanish and accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Landlords must be required to include a CARES Act affidavit as an attachment to any eviction petition that will identify whether the property is covered by the act.

Regenbogen said the first of these policy requests is most important as it asks that landlords be required to offer a reasonable repayment plan before attempting to collect or initiate an eviction. Regenbogen said the requested policies provide a way to prevent displacement and allow both parties rights to be protected.

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As potential evictions are on the horizon, Summit Combined Housing Authority Executive Director Amy Priegel is facilitating the Housing and Public Health COVID Recovery Committee, which has determined that rental instability will be a priority moving forward. She said it is an area of particular concern because renters tend to be more vulnerable than homeowners, particularly in Summit County, and the committee is concerned that COVID-19 is worsening that vulnerability. 

“You have renters who can’t pay their landlords because they might not have been working,” Priegel said. “Maybe they had to quarantine, and they couldn’t go into work for 14 days and lost income there, etc., but then you also have the landlord side where they need to still be able to pay their mortgage to keep the unit going on their end as a rental.”

Priegel said one piece of good news for landlords is that some banks have been offering a temporary postponement of mortgage payments, which she said has been “a great help to the community.” She noted that on the tenant side, a lot of jurisdictions stepped up and donated money to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center to provide rental assistance to tenants, which she said went a long way to try to mitigate the problem. Priegel said the recovery committee and Housing Authority are working to compile resources for people, such as a template form released by the Colorado Division of Housing that can help create a payment agreement between a landlord and tenant.

“The last (committee) meeting on Monday was more focused on the rental eviction piece because we’re trying to see if we can’t get out ahead of that as much as we can,” Priegel said. “Will we be able to prevent every single eviction? Ideally we would love to, I don’t know if we could … but we’re certainly, certainly trying to get there.

“We also want to get out ahead of this because if there’s not another relief package, or unemployment starts to dwindle for folks, we want to make sure to the greatest extent possible we can get as many resources available on both the landlord side and the tenant side as we can.”

Family Resource Center Executive Director Brianne Snow said that while the organization has provided rental assistance money over the past several months, people are still struggling. She noted that while the community looks busy, many people are not working or aren’t making the same amount of money as they did before the pandemic, making it difficult to pay rent. 

“This is going to affect families, this is going to be yet another hurdle that they have to overcome and this one has some pretty significant impacts on their future of even being able to get into another rental, so we’re pretty worried,” Snow said about looming evictions.

Snow said the resource center gave out $1 million in rental assistance in a very short period of time and that she believes there is a lot more need that local governments might not be able keep up with. Snow said there are few affordable housing options in the county and that overcrowded apartments, which existed pre-COVID-19, are becoming a public health issue as people need to quarantine.

“We would really like families to be proactive,” Snow said. “If they think that they are going to be evicted from their home, we are really encouraging families to speak to their landlords and try to negotiate some sort of plan so that they can stay in their home. Or, of course, call us and see if we can help them connect to resources or help them with their budgets.”

Snow said the nonprofit can help with budgeting, advocacy and sometimes can offer financial assistance and utility payment assistance. Laurie Best, a community development planning manager for the town of Breckenridge, works with housing and said that although resources can help, preventing evictions ultimately is related to the town staying open.

“Ultimately, it’s about making sure the landlords can pay their mortgages so they are not placed in a situation where they’re in default because their tenants can’t pay,” Best said. “This concern with tenants not being able to pay is obviously related to the town staying open. The one thing we can all do is wear our masks and practice social distancing and try to ensure or work against a second wave or a peak.

“We need to keep people working, and so everybody needs to be very responsible and comply with the public health recommendations so that we can keep people working and keep Breck open and keep our tenants able to pay the rent, and therefore the landlord is able to pay the mortgages.”

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