Eviction cases piling up amid Colorado's housing crisis

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DENVER — The Denver metro area’s ever-growing cost of living, stagnant wages and lack of affordable housing is filling up the dockets at eviction courts across the region and state.

Colorado Center on Law and Policy, which advocates for tenant rights, says the Denver metro area is in the midst of an eviction crisis.

Approximately 27 percent of all civil cases filed in Colorado in 2017 were evictions, which represents 45,000 cases.

In Denver alone, there were more than 8,000 eviction cases last year. Arapahoe County saw the highest number of eviction cases, at nearly 10,000 in 2017. 

But Jack Regenbogan, who is with the Colorado center on Law and Policy, says it’s not always a fair fight. Tenants are vastly underrepresented in eviction court cases.

Regenbogan says roughly 90 percent of landlords are represented by legal counsel during eviction proceedings, but only less than one percent of tenants have the equivalent legal assistance.

Having a lawyer greatly increases a person’s chances of staying in their home, according to a recent study from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Colorado Center for Law and Policy.

The study found that in Denver Housing Authority eviction cases, tenants who had lawyers were able to avoid eviction about 80 percent of the time. In private cases, that number was 94 percent.

“Traditionally, Colorado has been a very friendly state towards landlords. We really need our policymakers to begin investing meaningful resources to address this issue,” said Regenbogan. 

And with more than 50 percent of Coloradans renting, court dockets are quickly filling up with evictions.

The recent eviction defense pilot program launched by the city offering tenants a few lawyers to represent them. But Regenbogan says that’s not enough to deal with the issue, and more tenant rights bills need to be passed.

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