Weeks before the state eviction moratorium expires, Denver City Council passed an ordinance that allows income-earning residents free legal representation in eviction cases.
Starting September 1, tenants at risk of eviction and earning less than 80% of the region’s median income will be entitled to free legal representation. Landlords must also give tenants a copy of their rights and legal representation when they move in and when a landlord requests eviction.
Sponsored by council members Candi CdeBaca and Amanda Sawyer, this ordinance was passed unanimously without discussion during the city council meeting on Monday.
“The passage of this regulation is a win for tenants at a critical moment in which the pandemic protection is lifted,” said CdeBaca in a statement. “It will take much more to correct the power imbalance between landlords and tenants in this state, but this is” a first step in the right direction. “
This ordinance comes as the national eviction moratorium expires on June 30, paving the way for the eviction of tenants unable to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite federal and state eviction moratoriums, Denver had nearly 4,000 evictions filed in 2020, 90% of which resulted in the eviction of tenants. In those cases, 95% of landlords had legal counsel while only 1% of renters did, according to Denver County Court data.
The new plan builds on the pilot program launched in 2018 to clear Denver. The program has represented over 1,000 renters, 70% of whom moved out without making the eviction on record, and 28% of whom retained their home through methods such as setting up a payment schedule.
Javier Mabrey, an attorney for the Colorado Evacuation Defense Project, said on the committee that while tenants often have to move out, the proxy allows those facing an eviction to negotiate better outcomes.
“We offer a translation service where we navigate people through the system and avoid situations where people are signing documents that are guaranteed to be evicted for the next seven years,” said Mabrey.
The regulation will expand the pilot program by providing additional financial and human resources and increasing public knowledge of the representation resource and access to it.
The eviction lawsuit costs $ 4 million annually for 4,750 evictions, outreach, training and staff. However, Sawyer said the program would save the city money by preventing residents from becoming homeless.
According to 2012 city data, every homeless person in Denver costs the city $ 26,000 annually in aid programs and law enforcement actions. If 3 to 5% of tenants represented by the evictions avoid homelessness, the city would save nearly $ 12 million each year.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Denver was already in the midst of a housing crisis, with a record 4,000 homeless in the city and others hit by high rents, according to the city.
Black and Latino people are significantly more likely to be evicted, with black tenants being asked to evacuate twice as often as white tenants. In Colorado, adults with children are also three times as likely to have rent arrears as those without children in September and October 2020.
Of the tenants represented by the existing Denver Defense Pilot Program, 41% were black, 40% had a disability, and 31% were families with children, according to Denver County Court data.