If you or someone you know is at risk of eviction in Denver, don’t panic! You might well have more options than you think.
As of August 26th, 2021 the Supreme Court has voided the new eviction moratorium, so there are no longer any current state or federal protections in place against eviction for nonpayment of rent. In their place, Colorado governor Jared Polis has instead extended an executive order giving tenants who have applied for rental assistance 30 days before eviction rather than the usual 10 (this is the time between steps 1 and 2 below). While this is a wildly insufficient protection for the current crisis, it can still help you, and as there are millions of dollars in federal rental assistance still available to anyone financially impacted by the pandemic, the first thing you may want to do is apply for it, which can be done here or by calling 311. While applications are being processed very slowly, you can also request help applying or speeding up the process from the Colorado Stability Fund.
Once you have applied for rental assistance or if you are not eligible, we highly recommend that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. Thanks to a city council initiative that we supported for a limited eviction defense program, passed by councilors CdeBaca and Sawyer this summer, there are now several potential providers for free legal services to households whose income is below 80% AMI (see this table for an explanation), all of which are listed below. Regardless of your income, you might still be able to obtain help for free or at low cost from some of these:
- The Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project (can also call 303-838-1200)
- Colorado Legal Services (can also call 303-837-1313)
- Colorado Affordable Legal Services (can also call 303-996-0010)
- The Colorado Poverty Law Project (can also call 720-772-9762)
Denver’s city government does also provide certain services to specific classes of low-income renters, and you can contact the Office of Financial Empowerment and Protection by calling 720-944-2498 or emailing FEC@denvergov.org to find help accessing them. You can find some additional local resources for free legal representation, court access information, and other financial assistance here, courtesy of the Denver Democratic Socialists Of America (DSA).
An overview of the eviction process in Denver:
- Tenants receive the first notice, a demand for payment or possession, on their door. This is not an eviction notice! This is the point at which the NEWR initiative would kick in to require tenants to be informed of their right to counsel, but they are not yet actually in the court system. This is because a mere threat of eviction is in practice often treated as an eviction and tenants who cannot pay frequently leave uncontested during this period out of fear. Don’t let your landlord bully you, you have rights!
- After at least 10 days (often 30), tenants can be given a second notice including a summons with a court date. This is the date by which they would need to file an Answer if they are intending to dispute the eviction. If you’re unable to pay your rent debt, we highly recommend that you seek legal representation as early as possible and file an Answer.
- If tenants don’t appear in court or file an Answer (which most don’t) the judge will automatically rule a default judgement in favor of the landlord at their first court date. If tenants do appear in court, they (or their attorney) will begin to negotiate with the landlord and the case may proceed to trial at a later date. Even in cases where the eviction is valid, a lawyer may still be able to negotiate an out of court settlement or nonjudgment stipulation. If the landlord wins the case in court however, the tenant will get an eviction on their record. This is what you want to avoid.
- To actually perform an eviction, the landlord still must then request a Writ Of Restitution from the court and deliver it to the County Sheriff’s Office. Then a representative of the Sheriff will set a date to arrive at the tenant’s residence with the landlord to physically evict them. This is the only time at which the landlord can legally force the tenant out or remove their property, but many instead count on the tenant’s ignorance of this process to attempt an illegal eviction well before this point. Knowing your rights and getting help could prevent an illegal eviction from happening!
If you have other questions, are afraid you might be the subject of an illegal eviction attempt, or need help finding the right resource, feel free to call the Denver Democratic Socialists Of America (DSA)’s eviction defense hotline @ 720-627-7732 from 8am-9pm. If you are located in the East Colfax neighbourhood, you can also utilize the East Colfax Community Collective‘s text hotline. Text “URGENT Eviction in Progress” to 720-295-0152 if you see an eviction. The collective also provides a monthly legal support clinic.
NO EVICTION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION BALLOT LANGUAGE
RIGHT TO COUNSEL NATIONWIDE
The Right to Counsel movement is nationwide. Groups from Boulder to San Francisco to New York City have fought for and won legal representation for tenants facing eviction. Read about their victories:
Securing Tenants’ Right to Counsel is Critical to Fighting Mass Evictions, Ian S. Thompson, American Civil Liberties Union
Facing Eviction Alone: A Study of Evictions in Denver, Colorado, Aubrey Hasvold, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless & Jack Regenbogen, Colorado Center on Law and Policy.
Right to Counsel and Stronger Rent Laws Helped Reduce Evictions in 2019, Oksana Mironova, Community Service Society
Why a Right, The Right to Counsel and the Ecology of Housing Justice, Andrew Scherer, Impact Center for Public Interest Law
The Fight for Justice in Housing Court, From the Bronx to A Right to Counsel for All New York City Tenants, Susanna Blankley, Community Action for Safe Apartments
$320 Million Saved Every Year: Highlights of SRR’sCost/Benefit Analysis for Intro 214-A, the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition