BOULDER, Colo. — Next month, Denver voters will weigh in on a measure that Boulder voters approved two years ago: a fee on landlords that funds an eviction legal defense fund for the city’s tenants.
Boulder voters approved the measure in late 2020, clearing the way for the program to begin in 2021. In its first year, a report from Boulder’s Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Services Program (EPRAS) found it avoided eviction in about 63% of total cases, which represents nearly all cases in the city where a tenant appeared in court.
“We kind of built it from the ground up,” said Jay Allen, the EPRAS program coordinator. “It’s legal resources for anybody in the city facing eviction…which we rolled into an existing mediation program.”
“We bring attorneys every week with us to court and they’re offered for free to anybody there and they’ll provide representation if it’s necessary or just advice," he said.
Allen told 9NEWS his program has monitored about 1,300 eviction cases since its inception, with very few of them ending in an actual eviction, which can be a scarlet letter on someone’s record and could cause a struggle to find new housing.
“If you’re trying to apply for a new place to rent, or you’re trying to get into a new unit… a landlord can see it, and they’ll chose not to rent to you because of it,” Allen said.
Boulder’s legal team is available to offer anyone who shows up to court legal advice. In most cases, Allen said, tenants with assistance are able to work out an agreement with their landlord to avoid the eviction going to trial, which would likely lead to that eviction sticking on someone’s record.
“Eviction is a really scary time,” Allen said. “Most people don’t know what to do… they don’t know who to talk to...Our success rate is pretty high for people who come to court.”
Unique to Boulder’s initiative, the landlord fees also fund a rental assistance fund, which can also be useful in avoiding eviction proceedings. In 2021, EPRAS handed out more than $163,000 in rental assistance.
Denver’s initiative is solely written to provide legal defense in eviction cases.
Landlord groups opposed to the Denver measure have argued it will lead to higher costs for tenants, saying any fees charged to landlords will be passed on to their tenants. Allen said that’s already happening in Boulder.
“We have seen landlords apply that fee directly to their tenants,” he said. “When we’re talking about $75 a year…that’s negligible.”
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