The Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC understands that, during the current COVID-19 pandemic many Landlords and Tenants alike have several questions about evictions. With so much information online, in the news, and laws changing monthly, it is hard to keep track of the current regulations regarding evictions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order on September 4, 2020, in the interest of the public health, suspending evictions for non-payment of rent for individuals who are affected by COVID-19. The Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19 order cites the importance of decreasing evictions during a pandemic to reduce homeless causing individuals to finding housing, live in shelters, or remain unsheltered. Tenants must invoke the protections provided by the CDC order and submit a copy of the attached declaration in order to qualify for the eviction exemption, but, as a landlord there is a substantial risk of criminal sanctions and fines up to $500,000 that are associated with violating the CDC order. Additionally, Governor Polis has extended his order that tenants must be given 30-day notice for non-payment of rent until October 8, 2020 rather than a 10-day notice.
So where does this leave property managers and landlords?
Orders issued by the local and federal government place landlords in precarious positions. While the CARES Act provides relief for landlords to request a forbearance if the home(s) is/are backed by a federally funded mortgage for cases of non-payment from tenants, landlords are still being faced with the tough reality that the pandemic has brought upon many Americans. While Landlords cannot have tenants physically removed from the property until at least January 1, 2021 for non-payment, the El Paso county courts will allow for Judgments of Possession to enter and stay the Writ of Restitution (the mechanism for the sheriff to move the tenants out) until after the CDC order expires. As a Property Manager, you are still allowed to charge non-paying tenants fees, penalties, or interest as allowed under your lease. The CDC encourages landlords to work with tenants and set up payment plans if possible.
How do I evict non-paying tenants?
While the CDC prohibits most evictions for non-payment, it does not completely eliminate Landlord rights. As mentioned above, it’s the duty of the Tenant to complete the Declaration form and provide it to the landlord, however, as there are strict penalties on landlords for violating the CDC order, you may consider requesting tenants to fill out the form in advance of any eviction action for non-payment. Each adult resident is required to fill out declarations under penalty of perjury to enjoy these eviction protections. Once tenants complete their declaration, the CDC protections automatically apply. Landlords are left to challenge the declaration and a Judge would have to rule that the tenants are not protected, or the landlord is subject to penalty. Additionally, it creates the necessity for the landlord to investigate whether the declarations are truthful. There are alternatives to evicting tenants for reasons other than non-payment of rent, such as, a non-renewal of the lease at the end of the term, eviction for the tenant failing to move out at the end of the lease as agreed, for violation to the terms of the lease, and for substantial violations of the lease (keep in mind non-payment of rent is not considered a substantial violation). If a tenant is found able to pay rent but refuses to, you may be able evict provided the tenant does not qualify for all possible exemptions listed by federal and state laws.
What obligations do I have to my tenants before filing for eviction?
Landlords are still required to notify tenants of the CARES Act Moratorium, the CDC protections, and a 30-day Notice to Quit, even if the orders won’t apply, before a Judge will even consider evicting the tenants. Failure to complete these steps could result in a dismissal of the eviction case and require you re-serve the Notice to Quit and re-file the eviction with the court. Given all the moving parts with evictions these days, it is important to make sure that you or your representative are staying on top of the changes in the law. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Clifton Black regularly research and stay up to date on eviction laws.
Need more information?
Call the Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC today to set a one-hour initial consultation at a discounted rate of $175.00 or book an appointment online. You can expect to receive a fully informative meeting with a Colorado Springs attorney, receiving guidance, legal advice, and confidence knowing your rights as a Landlord in Colorado.