DENVER — Across the country, millions could soon be getting kicked out of their homes as federal and state COVID-19 eviction moratoriums are set to end June 30. In Denver, more help is on the way for those who could be finding themselves without a place to live.
Denver City Council passed a resolution on Monday that would give those being evicted free access to a lawyer. Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer co-sponsored the measure as she saw an alarming trend.
"The average is 8,800 evictions a year in the city of Denver but the trend has gone up significantly. So, the numbers in 2015 were much less than the numbers in 2019," said Sawyer.
To be eligible for free legal advice, a one-person household must make less than $55,000 per year and for two people, just under $63,000.
"The purpose of it is to negotiate better outcomes for tenants. We don’t want necessarily for people to stay in their homes, particularly if they’re not paying the rent. But, if we can negotiate for them not to have their eviction on their credit report for seven years, that eviction on the credit report is extremely destabilizing for a future housing opportunity," explains Sawyer.
Sawyer believes it works out for the landlords too, who also haven't had it easy since the pandemic began.
The Colorado Landlords Association tells us “COLA has no objection to low-income tenants receiving free legal assistance.” But question if landlords will receive the same free legal advice. Sawyer says that would bankrupt the program.
"Our data shows that 90% of the landlord show up in court with representation already, as opposed to 1% of renters. So that disparity is extreme," explains Sawyer on why landlords will not receive the same free legal services.
COVID-19-related evictions could add to the court backlogs across Colorado. The hope is that by providing legal help, most of those cases will never make it to court.