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EDGEWATER, Colo. — During the COVID-19 pandemic much of the discussion around housing has been focused on eviction moratoriums and programs to help tenants stay in their homes but frustration is mounting as landlords stare down mounting debt from unpaid rent.
Property manager and owner, Bill Bivens, said his aggravation stems from the Colorado Emergency Rental Assistance Program or ERAP. He says 80 tenants in his 400 unit complex are utilizing that program, but he hasn't been paid since early this year.
"We did everything we were supposed to do and now we’re sitting there in February, March, April, May and now heading into June we haven’t gotten paid on anybody except one tenant out of 80," Bivens said.
Bivens realizes landlords haven't had the best reputation during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he says he went out of his way to help tenants. During the onset of the pandemic he says he gave tenants a 30% discount. He used a PPP loan to help offset the cost and that's on top of agreeing not to take a salary until the rental market stabilizes.
"The ramifications of not helping these people out is very huge," said Bivens. "Then the dominoes start to fall which is they can’t pay their rent, I send them to collections, they also then probably have to file bankruptcy if they can’t afford to pay it."
Bivens said the last thing he wants to do is evict someone, he just wants the state's Department of Local Affairs to ensure ERAP will be able to cover the rent that he's owed.
"They’ve signed a contact to agree to pay these rents and if they’re not getting assistance, I don’t want to evict them, I want to pay the bills and pay my mortgage," Bivens said.
The Colorado Apartment Association's General Counsel said he's heard several similar complaints from other members but couldn't say how widespread the issue is.
“I do think they need to focus on creating a helpline or communications when there’s a problem with files and I do think relaxing the paperwork and documentation that has to come from the residents on these files would be helpful," said Drew Hamrick with the Colorado Apartment Association.
A spokesperson for the Department of Local Affairs released the following statement:
We can see that this property owner has diligently uploaded requests for numerous tenants. However, the federal guidelines for this program also require significant information from the tenants themselves, including income documentation and a description of how they were financially impacted by COVID-19. As soon as a tenant submits their side of the application, we review it so they are currently in various stages of approval. Some have been approved for payment, some had to be sent back to the tenant or landlord for more information, and some have not been started by the tenant at all.
We recognize that this is a complicated application process and we are doing what we can to make it simpler, within the guidelines that the federal government has provided to us. We have heard from several property owners that they would like to take a more proactive role with the tenant component of the application, so we are working on creating an option where the property owner can collect all of the documents and upload them on behalf of the tenant.