Imagine if you only had three days to settle an issue with your landlord or you would lose your home. Would that seem like a reasonable time frame? We don’t think so, but under current Colorado law, a landlord is only required to give tenants three days’ notice to cure a minor lease violation or pay any unpaid rent. If the tenant fails to do so, the landlord may file an eviction action to force the tenant out of the property.
Generally speaking, three days is not enough time to get rental assistance, relocate a pet, transfer children to a new school, make up for a delayed paycheck or negotiate a remedy that could reverse the eviction process. So in many cases, once the petition is filed, a forced move will follow even though the tenant may have been able to address the problem if given more time.
Forced moves stemming from an eviction process have a domino effect on individuals, families and communities that often leads to job loss, poverty and homelessness. For children, housing instability means immediately losing connections with teachers, friends and classmates. The trauma of eviction makes it more likely these children will suffer from homelessness, behavioral problems, substance abuse and poor academic performance later in life.
Sadly, evictions in Colorado and throughout America are becoming all-too-common these days. Sociologist Matthew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” estimates that 2.3 million evictions were filed in the U.S. in 2016 — a rate of four every minute. That same year, there were nearly 45,000 evictions in Colorado, according to “Facing Evictions Alone,” a study compiled by Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH).
“Eviction isn’t just a condition of poverty, it’s a cause of poverty,” Desmond told National Public Radio’s Terry Gross last April. “Eviction is a direct cause of homelessness, but it is (also) a cause of residential instability, school instability (and) community instability.”
Fortunately, for Colorado families that could face eviction in the future, CCLP and CCH have developed House Bill 1118, which extends the notice required before a landlord can file an eviction petition for a non-substantial lease violation – including unpaid rent – from three to 14 days. This extension ensures that Colorado tenants would have more wiggle room to address a landlord’s complaint before they would lose their homes.
Sponsored by Rep. Dominique Jackson, Rep. Rochelle Galindo and Sen. Angela Williams, the legislation gives tenants sufficient time to access and utilize available rental assistance programs, secure funds to get current on a lease or vacate the property if all else fails. The bill does not change the eviction process when a tenant’s behavior endangers the safety of the property, another tenant or the landlord, or when a tenant is committing a criminal offense. It also would not preclude a landlord from charging and collecting late fees for overdue rent.
While HB 1118 would be a major improvement over existing Colorado law, it’s not a giant leap when compared to other states. Indeed, 28 states give more notice before eviction than Colorado in the case of unpaid rent, and 14 days’ notice has been adopted in model legislation published by the Uniform Law Commission. In a time when more and more Coloradans are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of housing, we urge the General Assembly to approve this reasonable bill that will give thousands of Colorado families a chance to avoid the devastating effects of a forced move.
Jack Regenbogen is a family economic security attorney and policy advocate for Colorado Center on Law and Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that researches, develops and advocates for policies that improve family economic security and health care for all Coloradans.