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Fighting Evictions in Colorado

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in eviction filings across the nation as renters face financial uncertainty, increased medical costs, and disruptions in employment. The societal and public health implications of this crisis have been addressed by federal and state moratoriums on evictions, but some public officials are declining to extend these protections. Additionally, judges have interpreted eviction moratoriums in different ways, and renters often fall between the cracks of the protections due to ambiguity or loopholes in the language. It is important for Coloradans to know what eviction suspensions are in effect and how they can defend themselves against eviction proceedings.

COVID-19 Eviction Moratoriums

Governments have responded to the growing inability of renters to keep up with their rent obligations by enacting various protections against evictions.

In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis created a moratorium on evictions in the final months of 2020. However, he did not extend the measure past its expiration date, allowing it to lapse when the new year began.

The federal moratorium on evictions has been extended by President Joe Biden through March 31, 2021. Despite the protections, millions of Americans can still face eviction. To utilize the protections of the moratorium, which is detailed in the CDC order, renters would have to prove that:

  • They used their best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  • They expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income in 2021 ($198,000 if filing a joint tax return), were not required to report any income in 2020 to the IRS, or received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check);
  • They are unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to a substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  • They are using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as their circumstances permit; and
  • Eviction would likely render them homeless or force them to move into and live in close quarters in a new shared living setting due to no other available housing options.

To evoke the protection, a resident must provide a signed copy of a declaration of these requirements to their landlord, owner of the property, or other people with the ability to evict them.

Even if a resident successfully submits the declaration, it does not necessarily stop eviction proceedings. Some judges have interpreted the order to bar eviction filings, others allow a landlord to file an eviction but not remove the tenant.

Colorado Eviction Procedure

If a renter facing eviction in Colorado does not qualify for the federal eviction protection, they may still be able to delay or stop the eviction under state law.

If a landlord decides to evict a tenant, they will first deliver a written notice to the renter that includes the reason for the eviction and the time period in which the tenant will have to comply or vacate the property. The different types of notices are as follows:

  • Ten-day notice to cure or quit. This notice is used when the tenant has failed to pay rent or violated the lease agreement. This notice allows the tenant to remedy the violation before they are required to move out.
  • Three-day notice to quit. This notice is used when the tenant has committed a substantial violation and gives the tenant three days to vacate the property. The tenant is required to move out.
  • Ten-day notice to quit. This notice is used when the tenant was previously given a ten-day notice to cure or quit and they later violated the same condition of the lease. The tenant is required to move out.
  • 21-day notice to quit. This notice is used when the tenant has a month-to-month rental agreement that the landlord wishes to end. The tenant would have to move out after 21 days.

If the tenant receives an eviction notice, especially a notice to cure or quit, they should first discuss the issue with their landlord and attempt to remedy the situation. For example, the tenant could give the landlord unpaid rent that prompted the notice and avoid any court proceedings.

Once the time period identified in the notice ends, the landlord can file an eviction suit against the tenant in court. That does not necessarily mean the tenant needs to move out on the day the time period ends. An eviction suit would have to go to trial and be ruled on by a judge against the tenant before the renter would actually need to leave the unit. However, the renter would owe the landlord rent for every day they remain in the unit. A judgment against a tenant is followed by written notice and physical eviction by the local sheriff. If the tenant wins at trial, they still owe rent to the landlord for each day they live in the unit, but they will be allowed to stay on the property and will avoid any further implications of an eviction, such as a negative impact on their credit score

Defenses to Eviction

Renters facing an eviction notice should know that just because the landlord is attempting to remove them does not mean that the eviction is legally sound. There are several situations in which Colorado residents can fight the eviction in court.

Retaliation. A landlord may not threaten to evict or bring an eviction suit against a tenant in retaliation for complaining about a health and safety violation to the landlord or a governmental agency. It is also illegal to take eviction action because the tenant organizes or joins a tenants’ association.

Victim Status. A landlord may not evict a tenant solely because they are the victim of unlawful sexual behavior, stalking, domestic violence, or domestic abuse or if the tenant makes calls to the police or emergency assistance for domestic violence or similar situations.

Added Rules Not in Lease. A landlord may not evict a tenant for violating a rule concerning the conduct of the tenant and the use and enjoyment of the rental unit if it is a new rule the landlord tried to adopt without the tenant’s written consent.

Self-Help Eviction. A landlord may not use certain prohibited self-help measures like changing the locks on the property or interrupting the heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas, or other essential services in order to force the tenant out.

Improper Procedures. Landlords are required to adhere to state and local laws to evict a tenant. Courts will dismiss suits with procedural mistakes like improperly serving the notice to quit or errors in court filings.

Defenses are asserted in court in response to a summons and complaint filed against the tenant for failing to cure the violation or vacate the premises as required.

Justified Nonpayment

Failure to pay rent is typically a violation of the lease or rental agreement and is a valid reason to begin eviction proceedings. However, landlords may not be able to evict tenants if the landlord has breached the warranty of habitability.

Colorado requires landlords to provide habitable premises to their renters, meaning they must comply with requirements to support basic human needs like making sure the heat works in cold weather or allowing access to utilities. If the landlord fails to provide a habitable environment, a tenant may file a counterclaim to an eviction suit to offset the rent due to the landlord and fix the problem.

Do you need guidance or help with the eviction process?

It can be intimidating to negotiate with a landlord to avoid an eviction, identify legal defenses to evictions, file the correct forms, or navigate the relevant law that would allow a tenant to stay in their property and avoid eviction. The attorneys at Feldmann Nagle Cantafio & Song PLLC are well-equipped to assess a renter’s individual situation and recognize the best course of action to respond to an eviction notice.

To learn more about Colorado evictions, please contact us at (888) 458-0991 to schedule a free consultation!