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What The CDC's Eviction Moratorium Means For Colorado Tenants

A car in Colorado shows some of the frustration residents are feeling regarding rent and evictions.
Christina Lafon
A car in Colorado shows some of the frustration residents are feeling regarding rent and evictions.

Gov. Jared Polis is extending an executive order set to expire this week that requires landlords to give tenants more notice before filing eviction proceedings.

This comes days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a national eviction moratorium, putting the brakes on evictions, at least for now.

Zach Neumann, the founder of the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, a legal project aimed at helping Coloradans who can’t pay rent at this time, joined KUNC’s Colorado Edition to discuss the impact of this measure.

Interview Highlights

These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Erin O’Toole: I’d like to start with some context, because it seems unusual for a hold on evictions to be called for by the Centers for Disease Control. What’s the thinking here?

Zach Neumann: I’m obviously not privy to the internal conversation there, but our impression from the public statements made by folks at the CDC is that the breadth of eviction risk around the country, both in terms of the impact and the human suffering it would cause, but also in terms of spreading the disease to others — obviously if you push people out of their homes, their likelihood of spreading the disease or receiving the disease goes up dramatically. I think the risk of those two things really pushed the CDC to extend a national eviction moratorium through the end of 2020.

I want to talk about these protections put in place for renters. KUNC reporters reached out to local sheriffs' offices who said they are still carrying out evictions despite the CDC order. Have you encountered this?

We have not. And I’d be curious to learn more about those cases. The CDC order didn’t go into effect until last Friday, so we’re really only on working day three of the order. And so I think everyone is kind of figuring it out.

Some courts seem to be dismissing cases as soon as the CDC affidavit is filed, others are waiting for answers to come in, still others are actually holding hearings and having tenants come in and discuss the CDC affidavit. But while that’s obviously stressful for tenants, I think it's part of the process here. Folks are working through how to handle this, how to interpret it. We also anticipate more legal challenges — there have already been several, against the order.

So I think courts are figuring out how to deal with this, as are sheriffs departments, and we'll know more in a few days about how to interpret this and how to use it going forward.

Is there any question of how this order applies to Colorado tenants?

No, I think there are questions practically around how it gets used.

And I mentioned those a moment ago. I think it’s things like do you need to file an answer that includes the affidavit? We think the answer to that one is yes. Will courts actually be holding hearings where you need to go in and discuss the affidavit with a judge? In some cases the answer to that thus far has been yes, and others no. But broadly if you can sign the affidavit and agree truly with the statements that are on it from the CDC, your landlord cannot evict you through the end of the year.

Does the responsibility to cite the moratorium lie with the tenants themselves?

It does. So on the CDC website, there is a form, it is listed as the CDC Affidavit. You go in, you fill it out, and you send it to your landlord. If your landlord still chooses to file an eviction once they receive that, then when you answer that filing on your answer date, you would want to include the affidavit that you've provided to your landlord, along with your answer, and that should mostly do it.

What about landlords or rental property owners? Does this order have any protections for them?

No, it doesn’t, and we’d like to see more there. Unfortunately, this does not protect against foreclosure. It does not address many of the financial and practical concerns that go into property ownership.

We at the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, and advocates around the country, have been calling for federal rent relief for a number of months now. And we’ve recently stepped up those efforts. We really believe Congress needs to step in here, include rent relief in the next wave of CARES Act funding, or in the HEROS Act, or whatever comes next, to ensure that tenants can pay their rents, but also that landlords can pay their mortgages, and maintain their properties, and pay state and local taxes.

It’s a hard time for mom and pop landlords, and so while this moratorium was a really important first step and went a long way in keeping people housed, it doesn’t solve all sides of the equation.

So our big push for the next few months is ensuring that these rental bills actually get paid, and we can forestall a wave of evictions in January.

This order lasts through December. What happens when it expires?

It’s not clear. If you were to see rental relief, and continued economic recovery as we learn more about COVID and get better at managing the disease, I think you would see the risk level go down really dramatically. People would be back to work, rental arrears would mostly be eliminated, people could pay rent starting December, January going forward, that’s the good scenario.

I think the bad scenario is that we see a really strong resurgence of COVID, or intensification of COVID that impacts rental activity through the winter, there’s not rent relief, and then suddenly in January you have a situation where a number of tenants in Colorado and around the country have insurmountable rental bills, they have a ton of back-rent, they’re not able to pay those rents, and for that reason they face eviction. And then you have landlords of course on the other side of the equation who are playing catch-up, they haven’t been able to pay their mortgages for a number of months, and so you can see this driving to a really challenging situation for a lot of people.

This conversation is from KUNC’s Colorado Edition from Sep. 9. You can find the full show here.

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