PROMO Miscellaneous - House Home Key Real Estate - iStock - BrianAJackson

Governor Polis signs ‘for cause’ eviction bill into law

© iStock - BrianAJackson
Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado landlords will now need a specific reason to evict or not offer a lease renewal to a tenant under a new law signed by Democratic Governor Jared Polis on Friday.

It is a victory for tenants-rights organizers and progressive legislators who seek to include renters in the conversation about how to address the state’s housing and affordability issues.

PROMO Politician - Colorado Governor Jared Polis

Colorado Governor Jared Polis

Colorado is the sixth state to enact such a policy.

“Everybody here wants to prevent unnecessary evictions and save families money. And House Bill 1098 does these things while placing no financial burdens on landlords. This is the right thing to do,” Representative Javier Mabrey, a Denver Democrat, said at the bill signing in the governor’s office, surrounded by a crowd of housing advocates.

The bill was backed by Mabrey, House Majority Leader Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge, Senator Julie Gonzales of Denver and Senator Nick Hinrichsen of Pueblo, all Democrats.

The new law codifies what is known as “for cause eviction,” meaning that a landlord cannot evict or decline to renew a tenant without a defined reason. That makes it easier for tenants to stay in their homes if they choose.

This is one of the biggest protections we can have to prevent displacement and to prevent discrimination for families.

– Cesiah Guadarrama Trejo, of Colorado Homes for All

Landlords can lawfully evict a tenant in the middle of the lease for nonpayment of rent, destruction of property, a substantial lease violation or interference with the quiet enjoyment of other tenants. The substantial part of the law is around non-renewals at the end of the lease term. A non-renewal is only allowed if the property is being sold, demolished, substantially renovated, turned into a short-term rental or the landlord’s family plans to move in.

Landlords need to give a 90-day notice for a so-called “no-fault eviction” in those cases.

In practice, the new law aims to prevent discriminatory or retaliatory evictions and non-renewals of tenants who raise issues about living conditions or cause other perceived problems, but still follow the rules of their lease.

“Imagine being a respectful neighbor, paying your rent on time and doing everything right. But your roof leaks and the landlord won’t fix it,” Hinrishsen said. That tenant could reach out to the local housing authority to put pressure on the landlord to make repairs, but that could create tension and lead to the landlord refusing to renew their lease. “Do you take that risk or do you just stay silent? That is not a choice that Coloradans should have to make. And under this bill, they will no longer have to make that choice.”

A shift toward renters

Opponents argue that the law will make it harder for landlords to operate in the state and disagree with the premise that a lease non-renewal is the same as an eviction. Supporters say, however, that the financial and emotional impact are the same.

A for-cause eviction bill died on the Senate calendar last year after the House passed it. Sponsors and advocates regrouped and came back this year with a more narrow version of the bill, and amended it further after negotiations with the governor’s office. The version signed into law, for example, does not require any relocation assistance from landlords, and the protections only kick in after someone has lived in their unit for a year.

Still, many of the introduced provisions stayed intact throughout the legislative process, said Cesiah Guadarrama Trejo, the co-chair for advocacy group Colorado Homes for All. The new law is proof that the conversation around housing has shifted towards renters.

“This is one of the biggest protections we can have to prevent displacement and to prevent discrimination for families,” she said. “We know this is just the beginning of long-term continued work that we have to do in housing.”

The coalition, she said, wants to see policies in the future that “hold corporate landlords accountable” and address rapidly increasing rent costs. The Legislature shot down a bill last year that would have let municipalities set rent control measures.

Polis signed another housing bill into law Monday that prohibits residential occupancy limits. That law takes effect in July.

The Legislature is still working through various land use bills with just over two weeks until the end of session. Last weekend, the House approved bills to allow accessory dwelling units and spur transit-oriented housingdevelopment in cities primarily along the Front Range.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.