Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued Executive Order 012 on March 20 to temporarily limit evictions, foreclosures, and public utility disconnections to provide relief to Coloradans affected by COVID-19.
Polis’s order states that it is “providing support to unemployed Coloradans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am further mobilizing State resources to improve and expedite efforts to mitigate, respond to, and recover from the current economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This Executive Order will help protect the economic well-being of Colorado’s communities and businesses during the coming weeks and months.”
Susan Spaulding, Community Relations Specialist for City of Longmont, who leads the Landlord Training Alliance for area landlords, emailed information yesterday stating that Boulder County Courts will not hear any eviction cases until after May 31, 2020 (both residential and business evictions).
The eviction process in Colorado is already a long process for all parties–tenants and landlords–with mandated deadlines and steps that landlords and tenants must meet to have the case resolved in court. Several resources already exist to avoid or add steps in the legal process that are options outside of the eviction court proceedings (including some bills passed last year in the state legislature, as I have written about in previous columns).
Financial assistance and other help for both tenants and property owners affected by COVID-19
If their income is affected by the COVID-19 economic crisis, renters are encouraged to seek financial assistance to help them regain monthly income and to work out payment plans with their landlords if they don’t have enough to pay rent.
The Boulder County Resources for Those Affected by COVID-19 page advises both tenants and landlords: “Flexibility and compromise are essential right now. If you are a renter or mobile home owner and are concerned you will be unable to cover your rent due to the impacts of COVID-19, contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss a plan that can work for both of you. In some cases, payment plans or temporary rent reductions might be possible. Tenants may be eligible for unemployment benefits or may be able to get financial help depending on qualifications.” It directs tenants to the Financial Assistance section of the resources page.
For emergency rental assistance, the Boulder County resources page points to the OUR Center for housing and rental assistance available for residents of the St. Vrain Valley School District. “We recognize the ability for renters to cover the costs of their housing is a significant concern for many in our community at this moment. We are working closely with our partners at the federal, state, and local levels to determine how best to address the need and will share more information here when we have it.”
Landlords and homeowners might also be able to get a reprieve on their mortgages if their ability to pay is affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The Boulder County resources page states “Landlords/property owners impacted by COVID-19 should check with their mortgage lender to see if their mortgage payments can be or are suspended.” It also says “If your ability to pay your mortgage is impacted by COVID-19 and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be eligible to delay making your monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period during which you won’t incur late fees or have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus.”
And just as evictions are temporarily suspended in Colorado, so are foreclosures. The Boulder County resources pages states “Foreclosures and other legal proceedings are suspended during this time,” and points to the Coronavirus Assistance Information page of the Federal Housing Finance Agency website. “Contact your mortgage company as soon as possible to let them know about your current situation. Contact information for your mortgage company should be listed on your monthly statement.”
For both tenant and landlord issues, Boulder County Legal Services (303-449-7575) is offering appointments by phone for attorney guidance for low-income residents. Also, the Boulder County Bar Association has private attorneys available.
Spaulding’s email to landlords provided the following information, which is helpful for both landlords and tenants to know.
If a tenant is unable to pay rent due to a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic
Spaulding’s information states that tenants who are unexpectedly unemployed (both W-2 workers and non W-2 workers, or self-employed) might be eligible for unemployment benefits or able to get other financial help, depending on qualifications, as described earlier. She repeats the same advice from Boulder County that property owners should check with their mortgage lender to see if their mortgage payments are suspended.
“Housing providers will not be able to evict tenants for any reason, even for nonpayment of rent, until after May 31, 2020. Communicate early and often to discuss the financial realities and discuss an arrangement workable for both the housing provider and the tenant.” She said that some options could be payment plans, temporary rent reductions if possible, early termination of the lease without penalty, or substitute services for rent. “Document any agreement in writing and ensure that all parties sign (electronic signature acceptable). Be sure to discuss and include a contingency plan in case the original agreement can’t be kept.”
If a tenant has left town, abandoning the property
“The tenant remains responsible for rent until the property is re-rented or until the lease has expired,” Spaulding stated, “unless the housing provider and the tenant have agreed upon a different arrangement.” At the same time, the landlord/housing provider must make “a reasonable effort” to re-rent the property, she said. “It is important to check the lease to see who is responsible for re-renting the unit, and what criteria should be used to approve prospective new tenants.”