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 July 31st, 2021 the CDC order enacting a federal ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent has expired and will no longer protect you. In its place Colorado governor Jared Polis has enacted 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. As millions of dollars in federal rental assistance is still available, the first thing you may want to do is apply for it, which can be done here or by calling 311.
Once you have applied for rental assistance or if you are not eligible, we highly recommend that you seek legal representation, which you can do through the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project or Colorado Legal Services. You can find some additional local resources for free legal representation, court access information, and other financial assistance here.
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.
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