Could Colorado see an eviction wave this summer and fall?

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DENVER (KDVR) — On June 13, Colorado landlords could give tenants 30 days official notice that they’re behind on rent, and begin the first steps of the eviction process since the pandemic began. 

Governor Polis let the moratorium on evictions expire, but extended the typical 10-day notice to give tenants more time. Come July 13, Colorado may see a backlog of evictions start trickling through an already busy court system, as renters struggle to make ends meet during the pandemic.

That struggle is what inspired lawyer Zach Neumann to post to Facebook when the shutdown began, asking if people were worried about making their rent payments for April.

“Send me a Facebook message, I’m happy to take your case for free,” Neumann said. “I ended up getting 500.”

The surprising number of people reaching out pushed Neumann to start the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project in Colorado. The group tries to connect tenants with volunteer lawyers, free of charge.  

Neumann worries with the moratorium ending, and federal unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the month, the numbers could be bad in Colorado come the Fall. 

“Without intervention from US Congress in the form of a CARES Act 2 or a HEROES Act, or something that puts more money in the pockets of tenants, here in Colorado we could see between 300,000 and 400,000 evictions,” Neumann said.

Those projections assume the unemployment rate for Colorado renters is between 20 percent to 30 percent. The latest numbers from the Department of Labor show Colorado’s unemployment rate sits at 10.2 percent, but Neumann argues the unemployment rate for renters is higher than Colorado workers as a whole.

“You would just start to see the beginning of these evictions file next week, but we really think this crisis will intensify over the summer,” Neumann said.

The Colorado Apartment Association isn’t as sure. In June, they say more than 95 percent of Colorado renters paid rent on time, which is only a slight dip compared to June 2019, where 96.1 percent of renters paid on time.

According to the CAA, only about three percent of renters in their network have set up payment plans. A spokesperson for the association says a recent National Apartment Association/Institute of Real Estate Management study shows 84 percent of respondents say the eviction rate would be between 0-10 percent if a moratorium subsides.

But according to US Census Bureau data Colorado renters needed help making those June payments. 29 percent had to use savings or revenue from sold assets to cover June rent, 21 percent used Economic Impact Payments, and 15 percent relied on loans to make ends meet last month. 

“The federal government may provide tenants who are unemployed with more financial resources, and if that happens I think the risk goes down dramatically,” Neumann said.

The CAA partnered with the Resident Relief Foundation, raising more than $120,000 in relief for renters.

The Problem Solvers asked the Governor’s Office if they would consider extending the 30-day notice period beyond July 13. A spokesperson said “The Governor and his team review each Executive Order as it approaches expiration.”

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