• Original Reporting
Original Reporting This article contains new, firsthand information uncovered by its reporter(s). This includes directly interviewing sources and research / analysis of primary source documents.
A for-lease sign sits along Del Mar Parkway in Aurora, Colorado, advertising vacancies in an apartment building on Jan. 27, 2021, (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

A day before the national eviction moratorium is set to end, Gov. Jared Polis gave struggling Colorado renters more time.

Polis extended an order requiring landlords to give some renters 30 days notice, instead of 10 days, before a landlord can file an eviction action in court. The revised order issued Friday only affects tenants who are still waiting for the state’s emergency rent assistance program to make payments.

The national moratorium, set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ends Saturday.

“The demand for this state and federal aid has been immense, and these programs need time to provide aid to tenants. This directive provides assistance to Colorado residential tenants at risk for eviction while state and federal funds are distributed,” Polis’ order reads.

The state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program offers struggling renters up to 15 months in past-due and future rent payments. But the program experienced delays since it launched in February. Part of the reason was the influx of applicants in January, after the state’s own moratorium ended, that overwhelmed the housing division. But new rules to implement the federal funds also meant the state had to update its rent aid program, which caused additional delays.

But tenants who applied later in the spring and learned they were approved for funding found themselves waiting for weeks and months, with limited communication from the Department of Local Affairs, which oversees the division of housing’s rent program. 

Jana Happel, a staff attorney at the nonprofit Colorado Legal Services helping tenants stay housed, said that some of her clients were waiting more than two months after getting approved. 

“The problem is that with all these people who’ve been approved, they can get evicted when the moratorium expires (even though) they’ve been waiting for the check to come,” Happel said in an earlier interview.

However, Happel said Friday that this isn’t a new eviction moratorium. It just provides a little more time for tenants to pay their rent.

“Having 30 days instead of 10 days is helpful,” she said, “but the problem is what was asked of Polis and what (President Joe) Biden has asked Congress to do is protect people from being evicted and neither Polis nor Congress has done that.”

Congress allocated $690 million to Colorado just for the rent assistance program through two relief acts passed in December and March. To date, less than 5% of those federal dollars have been paid to renters, according to DOLA data.

This week, officials with DOLA blamed the delays on fraud but declined to elaborate on the extent of the fraud or why those approved have not been paid.

Polis’ new order only helps residents who can demonstrate that they or their landlord have submitted an application for assistance.

“Both landlords and tenants should remain in close contact with (the division of housing) regarding their applications, and landlords should refrain from evicting their tenants for nonpayment while they are pursuing help,” Rick M. Garcia, DOLA’s executive director, said in a statement.

The state has so far paid or approved $121.7 million in housing assistance to 36,858 households, though most of the funds came from state coffers or last year’s federal CARES Act.

About 10,000 applicants were denied funds and another 10,000 have been submitted, are under review or are missing information, as of July 28, according to DOLA data.

CORRECTION: This story was updated on July 30, 2021, at 4 p.m. to clarify that Gov. Jared Polis did not ban evictions but he extended the order requiring landlords to give certain tenants 30 days notice that an eviction would begin.

Tamara Chuang writes about Colorado business and the local economy for The Colorado Sun, which she cofounded in 2018 with a mission to make sure quality local journalism is a sustainable business. Her focus on the economy during the pandemic...