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Health

Evictions Continue In Colorado Despite CDC Order, Local Sheriffs Say

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Sheriff’s departments in Boulder, Denver, Larimer and Weld counties have continued to carry out court-ordered evictions despite recent action from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at stopping them.

Each of the four Front Range departments confirmed to KUNC they have carried out orders from local courts within the past week. But some law enforcement officials acknowledge the caseload could slow as local courts’ understanding of the new federal health order evolves.

“We still have our job to do in terms of enforcing evictions,” said Major Lanceford Alexander with the Denver Sheriff Department. “We still go out day to day to assist those that are being evicted, as well as the property owners themselves.”

The CDC order, which went into effect on Sept. 4, protects tenants experiencing financial hardship related to the coronavirus pandemic who are trying to make at least partial rent payments in good faith. According to the order, tenants must provide a copy of a special declaration form to their landlord while meeting a specific set of income, work and housing requirements. The order remains in effect through the end of 2020.

It does not, however, ban local law enforcement from carrying out evictions after a judge gives them the go-ahead. Sgt. Zach Vaughn, a supervisor with the Weld County Sheriff’s Office unit overseeing evictions, said the department has still been carrying out writs the judge issued prior to Sept. 4. Tenants who haven’t shown up to their eviction court date within the last week and presented the CDC’s declaration form have also been evicted.

“Our courts are now making sure the tenant who is being evicted has every last chance to follow through with the CDC process, get all their paperwork in order and then the courts will rule on that,” Vaughn said.

The CDC calls the eviction moratorium an “effective public health measure” because evictions can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 by forcing people to move during a pandemic, often into close quarters where the virus can be more easily transmitted.

The new eviction moratorium can be enforced by federal and state authorities with hefty fines or even jail time for landlords who don't comply. Under the moratorium, renters are still obligated to pay rent, as well as all charges and interest for late payments.

Zach Neumann, founder of the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, told KUNC the CDC order applies to all renters in Colorado, but Front Range communities have responded to the order in different ways.

“While that’s stressful for tenants, I think it’s part of the process,” he said. “I think courts are figuring out how to deal with this as are sheriff’s departments and we’ll know more in a few days about how to interpret this and how to use it going forward”

At the same time, evictions are down sharply from this time last year. The Denver Sheriff Department has carried out 47 evictions since Aug. 1, down from 430 evictions during the same time period last year. The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office evicted eight residences this past August. In 2019, that number was 47.

The Weld County Sheriff’s Office has also seen fewer evictions than normal. The agency has carried out 76 evictions since June 30.

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