Mar 22, 2023

Charles serves as CCLP's Income and Housing Policy Director using data and research to support our efforts to stand with diverse communities across Colorado in the fight against poverty. Staff page ›

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

A Summary of Pro-Tenant Bills in the 2023 Legislative Session, Part 1

by | Mar 22, 2023

Protections for renters are important for Colorado. Pro-tenant policies lead to greater housing stability, particularly for our lowest income households. They also can help prevent displacement and the process of gentrification – changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of new and affluent tenants, typically displacing the current inhabitants in the process. Keeping Coloradans housed is also the most effective way of preventing homelessness. While advocates in Colorado, including Colorado Center on Law and Policy, have expanded the protections available to tenants in our state, renters need more protections to ensure that the balance of power between them and their landlord is equitable, and that tenants feel safe and secure their homes. Legislators have introduced many pro-tenant bills during the 2023 session of Colorado’s General Assembly that will continue to move the needle towards balance between landlords and renters in our state. 

This is the first of two articles related to the Pro-Tenant Bills in the 2023 Legislative Session. 

 

Evictions 

There are few options for a person or family to stay in their home once they receive an eviction notice. Tenants often go up against landlords who are far more likely to have the time and legal representation needed to prevail in court, unlike tenants—even in instances where the facts of the case are in the tenant’s favor. We know from our own research, and a recent report from our partners at Enterprise Community Partners and the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University, that few renters have legal representation in eviction cases in Colorado. Yet, outcomes for renters were more likely to be in their favor when represented by a lawyer. Tenants do not have a right to an attorney in eviction cases, which is why communities like Boulder have asked voters to approve programs that ensure all tenants have a right to legal representation (the No Eviction Without Representation or NEWR effort succeeded in Boulder but failed in Denver last November).  

According to a report from the City of Boulder on their Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Services (EPRAS) program, only 20 of the city’s 88 eviction cases in 2021 resulted in an eviction. The evictions that did occur did so because the tenant either did not respond to the City’s attempt to contact them or the tenant failed to appear in court, resulting in a default eviction. The General Assembly is considering a bill that could reduce the rate of no-shows in eviction cases in Colorado. HB23-1186 Remote Participation in Residential Evictions would allow tenants and landlords to take part remotely in the proceedings. A similar policy implemented in Maricopa County, AZ lowered the failure to appear rate for eviction cases from between one-third to 40% of cases to 13%. According to a survey respondent quoted in the report, “Litigants like [being able to appear remotely] because it reduces cost for travel time and time off work. Attorneys like it because it reduces the problems associated with having to be in multiple courts on any given morning.” 

Another bill that would expand access to eviction protections for tenants in our state is HB23-1120 Eviction Protections for Residential Tenants. This bill would require landlords and tenants to participate in mediation prior to an eviction action if the tenant receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or cash assistance through Colorado’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Colorado Works. The bill also prevents law enforcement from executing an eviction for at least 30 days after a court authorizes one. This extra time is important for SSI or SSDI recipients who may have disabilities that make finding a suitable place to move more difficult (e.g., those with limited mobility may need a home with a no-step entry), not to mention the challenges that moving to a new home in the first place may present. 

Even with greater access to legal representation or mediation and the ability to appear remotely for an eviction proceeding, it is important to recognize that many evictions never make it to court. Tenants often choose to move out of their home immediately after receiving an eviction notice, even if there is no legal basis for the eviction in the first place. Tenants may be afraid to challenge the eviction or are unaware that they have a legal right to do so. Because of the power imbalance that exists between landlords and tenants, increasing the rights and protections available to tenants prior to an eviction notice will be necessary to ensure predatory landlords do not abuse their power over tenants, leading to situations where tenants might be afraid to exercise the rights they have under state law for fear of what their abusive landlord might do in retaliation, including serving them with an eviction notice.  

This is where another important bill under consideration by the General Assembly this year comes in. HB21-1171 Just Cause Requirement Eviction of Residential Tenant defines when a landlord would have “just cause” for an eviction. Under the bill, “just cause” exists only when the tenant fails to pay rent after proper noticing of nonpayment by the landlord, the tenant commits a substantial violation of the lease agreement and does not address it within 10 days after notice, the tenant refuses to allow the landlord entry to their property even after proper noticing, or the tenant refuses to renew a lease with terms that are substantially identical to the tenant’s current rental agreement. There are conditions where a no-fault eviction can take place, such as if the landlord wishes to demolish their property or convert it to a new use, to perform substantial repairs or renovations to the property, or to live in the property themselves. Landlords that proceed with a no-fault eviction must also provide the tenant relocation assistance in the amount of 2 months’ rent plus the amount of one additional month of rent if the tenant or their family includes an individual who is less than 18 years or 60 years and older, has a household income that is equal to or less than 80% of the area median income, or includes an individual with a disability. With these guardrails in place, tenants can feel more secure in their homes knowing that they can only be legally evicted under a specific set of circumstances and that their landlord cannot use the eviction process to intimidate or retaliate against them.

 

Part 2 is to come later this week.

Click here for the list of 2023 Tenant Protection Legislation.

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.