Denver Democrats Vie to Bring Back Pandemic-Era Rental Protections

Rental Protections and tenants rights

Colorado Democrats are introducing six pro-tenant bills in response to the surge in evictions, reaching a record-high of 13,000 in Denver alone in 2023. The proposed legislation includes measures such as requiring landlords to prove “just cause” for eviction, waiving application fees for renters with portable screening reports, advocating for rent control, preventing harmful clauses in leases, prohibiting pet deposits, and giving government-assisted renters the right to mediation before eviction filings, aiming to address the increasing homelessness crisis.

Will This Action Be Enough to Stave Off Evictions and Reduce Colorado’s Boom of Homelessness?

A group of Colorado democrats opened the legislative session with six new pro-tenant bill proposals. The move comes on the heels of a record-high eviction rate that rocked the region in 2023 when a jaw-dropping 13,000 evictions were filed in Denver alone, a 45% increase compared to the previous year.

“The minute you say the word eviction, it’s like, oh, no, never mind. We can’t do anything,” explained an innominate, unhoused man hailing from the Denver area.

In a recent interview with Denver7 News, the disabled 44-year-old explained how difficult it is to escape homelessness with an eviction on his record, even after seeking advice from various legal institutions specializing in finding housing for formerly evicted renters. In the end, he shook his head in silence and sighed, “It’s gonna be the streets,” he shrugged.

Cases like these have inspired some local lawmakers to try and change things on a legislative level by drafting laws that protect tenants and ultimately prevent eviction. But the question remains: will these proposals become law? Furthermore, will this delayed legislative reaction be enough to end the avalanche of homelessness that looms as an ever-present threat?

“If some of those pandemic-era laws can be implemented at the size and scale that’s needed and that we saw during the pandemic, then we could start preventing homelessness,” explained Eric Tars, the Legal Director for the National Homelessness Law Center. “Doing that would allow the homelessness system to deal with the number of people who are already on the streets. And we would, in turn, start seeing a reduction in the number of people experiencing street homelessness.”

From Pet Fee Reduction to Just Cause Clauses: Here’s a Rundown of the 6 Latest Propositions

To address and reduce homelessness by way of eviction, several Colorado representatives have proposed the following pieces of tentative legislation:

  • Bill HB23-1171, “Just Cause Requirement Eviction of Residential Tenant,” requires the landlord to prove a “just cause” before filing an eviction.
  • Bill HB23-1099, “Portable Screening Report For Residential Leases,” waves application fees for prospective renters willing to provide a portable tenant screening report, potentially saving them hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fees during the apartment hunting process.
  • Bill HB23-115, “Repeal Prohibition Local Residential Rent Control,” advocates for rent control in private residential properties and housing units.
  • Bill HB23-1095, “Prohibited Provisions In Rental Agreements,” prevents landlords from working harmful clauses into the fine print of their leases that take advantage of the renter.
  • Bill HB23-1068, “Pet Animal Ownership In Housing,” prohibits pet deposits and the additional rents that sometimes occur due to pet ownership.
  • Bill HB23-1120, “Concerning Eviction Protections For Residential Tenants Who Receive Public Assistance,” gives renters receiving government financial assistance the right to mediation before eviction filings.

The Loss of Pandemic-Era Protections is Attributed to Recent Booms in Homelessness

Many of these newly proposed bills mimic the protections put in place during the international shutdowns of 2020. According to experts, those temporary adjustments helped stave off millions of evictions. However, this latest batch of proposals does not suggest reviving the eviction moratoriums, which were the hallmark of preventing COVID-era homelessness.

“The silver lining of the pandemic was really that we saw the success of many of these eviction protection programs in action,” Eric explained. “Had those programs and policies not been in place, we would be facing tens of millions of Americans on the streets. Right now, the fact that we aren’t, you know, as many people as are homeless is obviously still a tragedy, but it could have been so much worse.”

“We saw a real proof of concept for programs like eviction protection, prevention, the monthly refundable child tax credit going into people’s bank accounts, eviction moratoria obviously, as well as getting people into motels and hotels through programs like Project Room Key,” Eric said.

“So, all those theoretical ideas were tested in the real world and with astoundingly optimistic results,” he continued. “There are many ways those programs could have been improved since they were set up under duress. Instead, they simply dissipated. We were pushing for their extension, expansion, and continuation in The Build Back Better Act, but that didn’t pass.”

“Now, we’ve kind of gone back to the pre-pandemic normal, a scenario where homelessness was continuing to get worse each year. If we could get that level of resources going back to people again, that could help us stop the inflow into homelessness and then enable the homelessness systems to get people out and ultimately reduce the number of people we see on the streets.”

These New Proposals Are a Far Cry from the Rental Protections Brought on by Eviction Moratoriums. Still, They Are a Start.

Introducing half a dozen new bills to protect renters from eviction is undoubtedly a foot in the right direction. As time passes, things like application and pet fees may become a thing of the past.

The prospect of rent control shows real promise, and we should also remember what has worked. In the past, we prevented millions of evictions by making it illegal to throw people out on the streets. This gesture could also be accomplished by making housing a human right.

Tell Your Representatives to Support Legislation that Gives Everyone the Human Right to Adequate Housing

Bills that protect renters are not just in Colorado. They could find their way to your local legislator if you tell them that’s what your vote is hinged on.

Talk to your local representatives about taking a cue from Colorado and drafting more laws that protect renters from eviction, especially laws that make housing a human right.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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