Economic stability for Colorado families begins with access to safe and aﬀordable housing. Skyrocketing housing costs across the state directly threaten the safety and financial security of hundreds of thousands of families. Being displaced or evicted can be expensive, traumatic, and detrimental to the health of people already feeling the pressure of our statewide housing crisis.
In Colorado, the law permits landlords to remove tenants from their homes after the lease expires, even if the tenants continue to make rent payments. Known as an eviction for “holding over,” these lawsuits drag renters into court for the crime of having nowhere else to go.
In February, State Sen. Julie Gonzales and State Reps. Javier Mabrey and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez introduced just cause eviction legislation to protect thousands of otherwise lease-abiding Colorado renters from being forced out of their homes at the end of their contracts. Although not well known outside of housing policy circles, “just” or “good” cause eviction laws are based on a simple premise: if a tenant pays their rent and follows the rules outlined in their lease agreement, they should have the option to continue living in their home.
Landlords would be permitted to insist on their tenants’ departure if, for example, the landlord plans disruptive renovations, or needs the space for a family member to move in. Outside exceptions like these, however, they would be required to allow the tenants to keep paying rent and living on the premises.
The consequences of eviction are so dire that they’re grabbing the attention of the Biden White House. In January, the president released a national blueprint for a Renterʼs Bill of Rights highlighting Just Cause Eviction provisions as an essential tool to prevent eviction and improve housing stability. States as diverse as New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, and California have implemented their own versions of the policy.
Access to legal services and representation have had a meaningful impact on eviction rates in Colorado, but attorneys can only protect clients from eviction to the extent the law allows. Without a just cause eviction law, too many Colorado families — who teeter on the edge of financial stability — live in constant fear that they will have to move out of their homes. Denver County court eviction filing hit a four-year high in January, doubling the total number of filings from January 2022.
Uprooting a family through eviction or non-renewal of a lease agreement forces them to cover the cost of a new security deposit, the first and last monthʼs rent, and moving expenses. With Coloradoʼs fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment hovering at about $1,500 a month, a move can easily cost a family $6,000 or more. When families canʼt cover the cost of a new apartment, they risk facing first-time homelessness– losing their permanent housing and forcing them to move into a hotel, a vehicle, or a shelter.
And it doesnʼt end there. Families who can only aﬀord the moving costs for a place across town or even in a new city are forcibly displaced from their community, a trend in Denver that disproportionately impacts communities of color. An eviction or non-renewal at the end of a lease takes children out of their classrooms, disrupts their well-being and development, and forces parents to miss work and a dayʼs pay to house hunt. Perhaps worse, the looming threat of eviction leads tenants to accept unsanitary or dangerous living conditions out of fear that raising concerns may lead their landlord to evict them.
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As designed, the just cause eviction bill protects tenants from unnecessarily expensive and disruptive displacement from their homes, yet preserves flexibility for landlords. Property owners can still evict tenants who fail to pay rent. They can, with appropriate notice, require tenants to move out after the lease expires, to make way for renovations or the wrecking ball. They can evict tenants who refuse to sign a renewal under substantially similar terms, or who refuse to let the landlord onto the property.
As eviction and displacement continue to climb, these safeguards will keep families in their homes and take pressure off a homelessness prevention system that’s at a breaking point. Protecting renters and preserving communities today will complement the long-term investments the state is making to deliver affordable housing in the next five to ten years.
Colorado has the opportunity to do something meaningful to protect thousands of Colorado families’ health, safety, and well-being. The state legislature should pass HB23-1171 to protect the most vulnerable members of communities across our state from unjust evictions and non-renewals of a lease agreement and help keep thousands of Coloradans housed.
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