A Colorado Tenant’s Guide to COVID-19

(Last updated: April 5, 2020, 10:30 PM)

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A Colorado Tenant’s Guide to COVID-19

COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on our state economy. Tens of thousands of Coloradoans have lost their jobs since early March with additional lay-offs and furloughs expected in the weeks and months ahead. The economic shutdown has caused many in our community to fall behind on bills and rent, generating considerable anxiety.

This guide is designed to help tenants navigate conversations with their landlords, respond to eviction proceedings, and seek out support in this challenging time. We are updating this document constantly, so please check back as the situation on the ground changes. Please note: this guide does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.

This guide uses some legal and other terms that may be confusing.  This link provides some definitions of words we’ve used throughout the guide.  

What happens if I can’t pay my rent?

First and foremost, you should know that you are not the only one!  Because of COVID-19, many Americans will struggle to pay rent in the months ahead. This problem will likely continue until the virus passes and people can return to work.

If you cannot pay your rent, there are several things you should know:

  1. There are eviction moratoria in place in many parts of the state: Evictions are temporarily suspended in many parts of Colorado. You can find more information at this link about the status of eviction procedures in your county. Further, Governor Polis has directed state agencies to work with landlords to develop measures to avoid removing or executing eviction procedures against tenants as a result of late or unpaid rent. This means that if you cannot pay your rent, your landlord cannot pursue an eviction until the various eviction moratoria expire, and right now, no one knows when that will be.

The CARES Act also includes a federally mandated eviction moratorium that halts new evictions for certain rental properties in Colorado through June 25, 2020, as well as the charging of late fees.  The covered rental property types include most federally assisted rental housing programs, low income tax credit housing, and housing with federally backed loans.  For more information, please see this summary prepared by the National Housing Law Project.

  1. If you are protected by a moratorium, your landlord cannot evict you until it expires: As mentioned above, landlords cannot pursue evictions until eviction moratoria expire. These deadlines vary by county (see list above) but may be extended as long as we have to social distance because of COVID-19. It is unclear when and how various district and county courts will reopen in the weeks and months ahead. You can find more information at this link about how your county is dealing with evictions. Because this information is subject to change and may become outdated, this link also includes a phone number for your county court, and you may consider calling to confirm information or to ask specific questions.
  2. These moratoria do not mean that you don’t have to pay rent: Even though bans on evictions exist across the state, you are still bound by your rental contract. This means that your landlord will seek payment under the terms of your lease and will likely expect you to pay. Additionally, despite the presence of eviction moratoria, your landlord may be able to sue you for unpaid rent when courts reopen.
  3. Even if you are protected by a moratorium now, your landlord may be able to evict you when the moratorium is lifted and pursue you for rental money in court: As discussed above, eviction moratoria issued at the federal, state, and local level have expiration dates. When these provisions expire, landlords may be able to immediately begin eviction proceedings while also suing for unpaid rent and possibly late fees.
  4. Landlords may still be able to assess late fees: The Governor has directed state agencies to work with landlords to not include  tenants and mobile home owners from fees or penalties for the late payment or nonpayment of rent until April 30, 2020. However, landlords may still be able to assess late fees on unpaid rent. Right now, the best advice is to discuss this issue with your landlord and attempt to reach an amicable resolution.
  5. It is important to notify your landlord as soon as possible if you’re unable to fully pay your rent: While it is often uncomfortable, it is important that you tell your landlord that you cannot pay rent, in writing, as soon as possible. Included at the end of this document is a draft letter/email that can be used when contacting your landlord about payment issues. It is a good idea to keep documentation readily available that shows how the COVID-19 crisis has made it difficult to pay rent (for example, emails/letters/texts canceling shifts, notifying you that your place of work will be closed, or suspending contract work may all be used as proof). It is possible that having this documentation handy will be helpful if the state changes the law, or in a worst case dispute with your landlord.
  6. Efforts are being made to find more complete and effective solutions  for renters who cannot pay, but it is unclear right now if and when they will become available: Advocacy efforts at the local, state, and federal level are asking for more support for renters who have lost work and are struggling to make payments to their landlord. Ideas like direct rent support to tenants, rent-forgiveness arrangements, and direct financial support to landlords are being requested. These and other proposals are in discussion and may not happen at all.

What should I say to my landlord?

You should let your landlord know that you’re unable to pay your monthly rent due to the negative effects of COVID-19 as soon as possible. It is important to do this in writing and by email (if possible) in this time of social distancing (though sending a certified letter also works well). Attached at the end of this document is some draft letter/email language when contacting your landlord about payment issues.

 Should I pay partial rent or try to strike a deal with my landlord?

Many landlords across the state are offering tenants payment agreements in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The terms of these agreements can be very different from each other and may or may not be good for  tenants. Some questions to ask yourself if your landlord offers a payment agreement include:

  1. Can I afford to pay this? Will deferred or altered payment arrangements make my rent too high in the future?
  2. Does this agreement change terms other than payment? Does the landlord expect me to move out at a different time? Does this impact other services or agreements?
  3. Does this agreement say that if I miss a future payment I give up other rights or benefits I’m entitled to or agreed to? Or does it say that the landlord is entitled to an order for possession from a court if I fail to make a payment as agreed? 
  4. Is the landlord threatening to evict me or not let me into the house or apartment I am renting if I don’t sign the proposed modification agreement?

If the answer to any of the questions above is yes, it may raise a red-flag about the fairness of the rental agreement. Before signing an agreement, please contact our team at covid.eviction.defense@gmail.com to get connected with a volunteer attorney who can review the document your landlord has provided. Colorado Legal Services is also a fantastic resource if you’re trying to understand a payment agreement, negotiate with your landlord, or respond to a legal document sent by your landlord. They have offices across Colorado that can be reached at the numbers listed on this website. The numbers for different Colorado Legal Services offices are also listed at the end of this document.

What can my landlord do if I don’t pay my rent?

If you do not pay rent, your landlord may do several things, including asking you to pay, posting a notice to vacate or a demand for possession on your door, and offering  payment agreements and other compromises.

Your landlord cannot deny you access to the premises, cut off utilities, engage in harassing behavior, evict you, or break the terms of your lease agreement.

 What will happen when eviction moratoria in place today expire or go away?

It’s not 100% clear. Presumably, when eviction bans are lifted, landlords will be able to pursue eviction cases in court and also sue tenants for unpaid rent. Right  now, there are no rules or regulations that prevent this from happening. There are some proposals that respond to these challenges, but none have been acted upon.

How can I get help to pay my rent?

There are a number of resources available and the list is growing daily. Options include:

  1. Stimulus funding: In the days and weeks, each U.S. taxpayer who earns less than $75,000 per year will receive a $1200 check from the federal government along with an additional $500 for each dependent child. (For example a family with two parents and three children under the age of 17 would receive $1200+$1200+$500+$500+$500 =$3900) More information is available at this link.
  2. Unemployment Insurance: The recently passed CARES Act increases  unemployment insurance dramatically. If you have been laid-off, furloughed, or face a work reduction as a contractor or gig economy employee, you may be eligible for benefits (in addition to receiving the stimulus funding above). You can submit an application here: Start a Claim
  3. Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance: In Denver County, residents may apply for TRUA benefits to support rental and utility payments. More information can be found by dialing 3-1-1 or visiting: Rent and Utility Help - Department of Housing Stability
  4. Other rental support: The State of Colorado is providing some rental support to tenants facing hardship as a result of COVID-19. Residents across the state can search for emergency rental assistance providers here: State of Colorado Eviction Prevention Programs. You may also call 2-1-1 or visit http://211.org/ 
  5. Energy Assistance: Apply for or find out information about the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) by calling the HEAT HELP Line (available 24/7) at 866-431-8435. Applications can take 30 days to process but can be quicker for emergencies like a shutoff notice.
  6. Food Assistance: There are many options available to you to apply for Food Assistance (SNAP) benefits. Try to provide as much information as you can on the application to make the process faster.
  1. By Phone: Outreach partners can help you apply by phone. Call Hunger Free Colorado Hotline at 1-855-855-4626 or Mile High United Way at 2-1-1
  2. Online: Visit the Colorado PEAK website at ​https://colorado.gov/PEAK​ from a computer or tablet to complete an application online.  
  3. Mobile App. Download the MyCOBenefits app to apply from a smartphone. If you are approved, you will be able to see benefit amounts.
  4. Paper. Paper applications are still available at your county office, even if it is closed.Once you complete your paper application, you can drop it off at the county office or send it in by mail, fax, or email.
  5. For other food assistance: You can also find food banks and pantries during the COVID-19 Outbreak. Visit this site for more information. If you have children under 18, some public schools are offering “grab and go” break snacks and lunches that you can pick up at any school that is near you. See this list for locations:
  1. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan: The SBA is offering economic injury disaster loans to small businesses, including sole-proprietors (businesses with no employees besides the owner) and contractors (ride-share drivers, etc.), whose income is reduced  by the Coronavirus crisis. The application is on-line and the SBA is trying to make  the processing of applying easier. For more information or to apply, visit this site.

How do I get more information about this document? 

This document was prepared by Zach Neumann at the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project (a project of The Community Firm) with critical input and feedback from Jack Regenbogen at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Jason Legg from 9to5 Colorado, and Jennie Rodgers from Enterprise Community Partners. Please contact Zach Neumann at 720-325-6558 or at covid.eviction.defense@gmail.com for further questions. Comments, feedback, and edits are welcome as we will keep this document up to date over the next several months as the COVID-19 crisis runs its course.

LANDLORD LETTER DRAFT TEXT

Dear [Insert Landlord or Company Name]-

I am writing in regards to my tenancy at [Insert address]. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, I am unable to make my rental payment for the month of [insert month] on [rental due date]. This is due to [select reason: being ill and unable to work / being laid-off from my work / being furloughed at work / facing reduced work hours / other ].

I hope to be able to make payments in the future. If you would like to discuss this more, please feel free to reach out.

Thank you,

[Signature]

CLS Offices

CLS offices and counties served by each office are listed below. Translators are available.

Alamosa (Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, Saguache)

603 Main St., Alamosa 81101

719-589-4993

Walk-In Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30-4:30 p.m., closed noon-1 p.m. for lunch

Boulder (Boulder)

315 West South Boulder Road, Suite 205, Louisville 80027

303-449-7575

Walk-In Hours: Monday-Friday 8-Noon and 1-5 p.m., closed Noon to 1 for lunch.

Colorado Springs (El Paso, Lincoln, Teller, Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Park county shared)

617 South Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs 80903

719-471-0380

Craig (Grand, Jackson, Mofffat, Rio Blanco and Routt)

50 College Drive, #111, Craig 81626 (call before visiting)

1-800-521-6968

Denver (Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Jefferson all ages; for Clear Creek & Gilpin seniors 60+ only)

1905 Sherman Street, Suite 400, Denver 80203

303-837-1313

Walk-In Hours: Daily Monday-Friday 8:30-11 a.m. and 1-2 p.m.; ID Wednesdays 8:30-11 a.m.

Dillon (Clear Creek, Eagle, Gunnison, Lake, Pitkin and Summit)

P.O. Box 1895 Dillon, CO 80435

1-800-521-6968

Durango (Archuleta, Dolores, Hinsdale, La Plata, Montezuma, Ouray, San Juan, San Miguel, Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute reservations)

835 East 2nd Avenue, #300, Durango 81301

1-888-298-8483

Ft. Collins (Larimer, Logan, Phillips, Sedgwick)

211 West Magnolia Street, Ft. Collins 80521

970-493-2891

Walk-In Hours: Mon-Fridays 8:30-Noon, 1-4:30 p.m.; ID project only - Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.

Grand Junction (Delta, Garfield, Mesa, Montrose)

422 White Avenue, Suite 300, Grand Junction 81501

970-243-7940

Greeley (Morgan, Washington, Weld, Yuma)

912 8th Avenue, Greeley 80631

970-353-7554

La Junta (Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, Huerfano, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Las Animas, Otero, Prowers)

10 West 3rd Street, La Junta 81050

1-888-805-5152

Migrant Farmworker Division (all counties)

1905 Sherman Street, Suite 400, Denver 80203

1-800-864-4330

Pueblo (Pueblo, Custer, Fremont shared w/ other offices)

1000 West 6th Street, Pueblo 81003

719-545-6708

Salida (Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Park county shared)

1604 H Street, Suite 201, Salida, 81201

719-539-4251

Definition of Terms Used in the Guide:

Moratoria:  a temporary ban of an activity

 Executing eviction procedures:  the eviction process is made up of a number of steps or procedures.  These procedures include providing official notice that an eviction has been filed, a court hearing and decision, and can include a sheriff removing someone from their home.  While the moratoria is in place these steps will not happen.

 The Cares Act:  Action taken by the Federal government to provide emergency relief to people affected by Covid-19

 Federally assisted housing programs, low income housing tax credit housing and housing with Federally backed loans:  these are the most common types of affordable housing

 Subject to change:  this information was published on 4/1/20.  State and local authorities may change it any time and likely will make changes as we know more about the effects of Covid-19

 Your landlord will seek payments under the terms of your rental agreement:  You have a written or verbal lease with your landlord and your agreement includes an amount you pay for your housing.  You still owe this money to your landlord.

 Exempt:  not include

 Amicable:  agreeable or friendly.  An agreement that both you and your landlord can accept.

 In writing:  you should have a copy of the conversation in case you ever need to prove it happened.  This could be a copy of an email.  A screen shot of a text could be ok too.

 Certified letter:  when you send someone a certified letter you get a receipt that proves you sent it.  You can also require that the person you send the letter to signs to receive the letter.  This gives you proof that they received it.

 Deferred:  put off to a later date.  If rent is deferred you will not have to pay right now but you will have to pay it some time in the future.

 Waive other rights:  give up other rights

 Order for possession from the courts:  final step in the eviction process that requires a tenant to move out of the house or apartment

 Make the premise inaccessible:  not let you in the house or apartment you are renting

 Red flag:  a concern you should pay attention to, but not necessarily a concern so big that you shouldn’t continue the conversation

 Deny access to the premises:  let you into the house or apartment you are renting

 Various moratoria are lifted:  eviction bans are in place today but they have end dates.  After the end date it will be lifted and your landlord will be able to evict you.

 Furloughed:  temporarily not working or working fewer hours and not getting paid for the hours you don’t work.

 Sole-proprietor:  a business owner who doesn’t have any employees