Jan 24, 2019

Jack Regenbogen previously served as Senior Attorney at Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

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Bill could help renters avoid eviction

by | Jan 24, 2019

Imagine if you only had three days to settle an issue with your landlord or you would lose your home. Would that seem like a reasonable timeframe? We don’t think so, but under current Colorado law, a landlord is only required to give tenants three days’ notice to cure a minor lease violation or pay any unpaid rent. If the tenant fails to do so, the landlord may file an eviction action to force the tenant out of the property.

Generally speaking, three days is not enough time to get rental assistance, relocate a pet, transfer children to a new school, make up for a delayed paycheck or negotiate a remedy that could reverse the eviction process. So in many cases, once the petition is filed, a forced move will follow even though the tenant may have been able to address the problem if given more time.

Forced moves stemming from an eviction process have a domino effect on individuals, families and communities that often leads to job loss, poverty and homelessness. For children, housing instability means immediately losing connections with teachers, friends and classmates. The trauma of eviction makes it more likely these children will suffer from homelessness, behavioral problems, substance abuse and poor academic performance later in life.

Sadly, evictions in Colorado and throughout America are becoming all-too-common these days. Sociologist Matthew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” estimates that 2.3 million evictions were filed in the U.S. in 2016 – a rate of four every minute. That same year, there were nearly 45,000 evictions in Colorado, according to “Facing Evictions Alone,” a study compiled by Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH).

“Eviction isn’t just a condition of poverty, it’s a cause of poverty,” Desmond told National Public Radio’s Terry Gross last April. “Eviction is a direct cause of homelessness, but it is [also] a cause of residential instability, school instability [and] community instability.”

Fortunately, for Colorado families that could face eviction in the future, CCLP and CCH have developed House Bill 1118, which extends the notice required before a landlord can file an eviction petition for a non-substantial lease violation – including unpaid rent – from three to 14 days. This extension ensures that Colorado tenants would have more wiggle room to address a landlord’s complaint before they would lose their homes.

Sponsored by Rep. Dominique Jackson, Rep. Rochelle Galindo and Sen. Angela Williams, the legislation gives tenants sufficient time to access and utilize available rental assistance programs, secure funds to get current on a lease or vacate the property if all else fails. The bill does not change the eviction process when a tenant’s behavior endangers the safety of the property, another tenant or the landlord, or when a tenant is committing a criminal offense. It also would not preclude a landlord from charging and collecting late fees for overdue rent.

While HB 1118 would be a major improvement over existing Colorado law, it’s not a giant leap when compared to other states. Indeed, 28 states give more notice before eviction than Colorado in the case of unpaid rent, and 14 days’ notice has been adopted in model legislation published by the Uniform Laws Commission.

HB 1118 is supported by a number of organizations, including AARP Colorado, Adams County, the Colorado Catholic Conference, Violence Free Colorado, the Colorado Council of Churches, Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, Enterprise Community Partners, The Denver Foundation and more. The bill, one of two eviction-related measures led by CCLP this session, will be heard by the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on Feb. 6.

You can support HB 1118 by contacting Jack Regenbogen at jregenbogen@copolicy.org.

– By Jack Regenbogen

Recent articles

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.