With the COVID 19 pandemic and both Federal and State eviction moratoriums as part of a new reality for Colorado housing providers, the 2021 legislative session was one of the most challenging in many years for CLLC and other housing organizations. State and national policies around COVID 19 gave tenant rights activists and organizations a new opening arguing a national mandate for permanent changes to landlord tenant laws, lasting well beyond the pandemic.
With this legislative environment, there were an unprecedented number of bills affecting CLLC members where we engaged in major calls to action of our membership, along with our direct advocacy program at the Capitol with our members, leadership, and our contract lobbyist.
These were intensely hard fought battles around four major pieces of legislation that involved countless hours of stakeholder meetings, testimony, meetings with legislators, and legislative outreach from our lobbyist.
Early this legislative session, through the CLLC lobbyist, we reached out to legislators and housing organizations on both sides of the landlord/tenant issues to ensure CLLC was included as a stakeholder and at the table for important legislative negotiations. As the legislative session progressed, proposals from several drafts were combined into two major bills involving evictions and landlord/tenant legal process (HB 21-1121 and SB 21-173).
While we were not able to win every battle and stop every piece of legislation, we did have substantial victories. Most notable among them, proposed legislation extending the eviction moratorium until September 2021, with an additional period of regulated repayment and forbearance plans for landlords that would have lasted until January 2022, was NOT introduced! CLLC had many meetings with Rep. Woodrow and the other legislative proponents stressing the impacts such a moratorium would have on CLLC members, and this pressure from CLLC and coordinating with other housing provider organizations resulted in this bill being dropped from the 2021 legislative agenda – was NOT introduced nor considered during the session.
Proposed Eviction Moratorium Legislation
Continuing prohibitions & restrictions on evictions until 2022
Three other major pieces of legislation made it through the legislative session, one has been signed by the Governor with another two that have been sent to the Governor for his signature. These are:
CONCERNING PROTECTIONS FOR RESIDENTIAL TENANTS RELATED TO ACTIONS BY LANDLORDS.
Final version linked here:
As introduced, this bill included modified time periods for evictions and other legal procedures with unreasonable time frames and prohibitions on posted notices. These most problematic provisions were removed or limited through amendments adopted through an intense stakeholder, lobbying, testimony, and member outreach program. This bill was amended 5 times through the legislative process.
Later in the process, an additional amendment was added removing exceptions to some landlord/tenant laws for landlords who own five or fewer rental properties. This amendment was
stripped out, with the exemption restored by the Senate. You can see this amendment below for reference to the win involved in having this amendment removed:
Even though the legislation was improved through the process, the CLLC remained opposed due to the prohibition on rent increases, included below:
A LANDLORD SHALL NOT INCREASE RENT MORE THAN ONE TIME IN ANY TWELVE-MONTH PERIOD OF CONSECUTIVE OCCUPANCY BY THE TENANT, REGARDLESS OF: (a) WHETHER THERE IS A WRITTEN RENTAL AGREEMENT FOR THE TENANCY; (b) THE LENGTH OF THE TENANCY; AND (c) WHETHER THE TENANT’S RENTAL AGREEMENT IS FOR A FIXED TENANCY, A MONTH-TO-MONTH TENANCY, OR AN INDEFINITE TERM.
This bill is also expected to be signed by the Governor.
CONCERNING THE ABILITY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO PROMOTE THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS PURSUANT TO THEIR EXISTING AUTHORITY TO REGULATE LAND USE WITHIN THEIR TERRITORIAL BOUNDARIES.
Link to the final version included here:
This legislation involves “inclusionary-zoning”, which has been a long-sought goal of Colorado local governments to obtain legislative authorization to require a certain number of affordable units as part of local government land use approvals.
The CLLC opposed this legislation arguing it is de facto rent control and will increase housing prices for those who are not beneficiaries of the units designated affordable. While the legislation did pass and has been signed by the Governor, improvements were made to the bill – the first noting that the legislation would not overturn Colorado’s prohibition on rent-control, and the second a list of provisions a local government must initiate (such as higher-densities and reducing fees on developers), before they can impose affordable housing requirements.
Here are links to the amendments:
RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENT RIGHTS
Here is the final version of this bill that has now PASSED the legislature and has been sent to the Governor for his signature. He is expected to sign this legislation.
SB 21-173 was amended 27 times during its journey through the legislative process, with many of these either advocated by the CLLC or supported by the CLLC through the stakeholder process as most of these resulted in positive changes to the bill.
However, the CLLC continued to oppose the legislation based on two provisions that remained in the final version of the legislation. The first relates to the section on late fees which is included here, and the CLLC believes this is too much of a restriction on late fees and will make late fees basically ineffective as a tool to enforce on-time rental payments:
CHARGE A TENANT OR HOMEOWNER A LATE FEE UNLESS A RENT PAYMENT IS LATE BY AT LEAST SEVEN CALENDAR DAYS; (b) CHARGE A TENANT OR HOMEOWNER A LATE FEE IN AN AMOUNT THAT EXCEEDS THE GREATER OF: 2 (I) FIFTY DOLLARS; OR 3 (II) FIVE PERCENT OF THE AMOUNT OF THE PAST DUE RENT PAYMENT;
The other problematic section of the legislation involves bonds for warranty of habitability claims brought by tenants against landlords. The final version of the legislation includes exceptions for posting of the bonds if the tenant is indigent, and the indigent language is so broad as to allow those with higher rents and incomes to qualify as indigent.
While these will have negative consequences for Colorado landlords, the original version of SB 21-173 was much worse and included provisions such as trials by jury for evictions, private rights of action against landlords under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, and other very punitive changes for landlords. Due to the action of CLLC members and our lobbying program, these additional sections were removed from the legislation, leaving mainly these last two sections that were not amended to our satisfaction.
For the CLLC’s first active session at the Capitol, this was an extremely intense and busy session. We tracked 24 bills affecting CLLC members and investors and engaged in 7 bills. One issue we will continue to track over the legislative interim will be HB 21-1329 which includes a task force on affordable housing strategies.
American Rescue Plan Act Money to Invest Affordable Housing
We will be letting you know as the task force is appointed and will be actively engaging in their meetings.