The state of active landlord/tenant cases in Colorado due to COVID-19.
Our firm continues to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 virus and are committed to providing continued professional legal services during this uncertain time. As part of this commitment, we felt it prudent to provide you with the latest information regarding local court operations, particularly as to FED/eviction proceedings in light of recent state, local, and federal responses to the virus.
On March 16, the Colorado Supreme Court ordered the suspension of certain state court operations and directed judicial districts around the state to implement various restrictions on local court operations to deal only with emergency matters pertaining to public safety and criminal proceedings for which there is a constitutional mandate of a speedy trial.
In response, the Twenty-First Judicial District, which includes the Mesa County Court issued Administrative Order 2020-05 on March 18. The order reduces staff and restricts court operations to those that are considered public safety matters.
Importantly for purposes of FED actions, the court will continue to accept electronic filings for cases, but hearings related to non-public safety matters (including evictions) will be delayed until after May 1, 2020. Further, all appearances, hearings, and trials currently scheduled for any non-public safety matters between March 19 and May 1 have been vacated and continued until after that date. Although the Seventh Judicial District, covering the counties of Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray, and San Miguel, has not yet issued an order as expansive as that of the Twenty-First District, we expect that such an order will be coming within the next several days.
The practical effect of this order is that, while landlords are still able to file eviction actions with the court, the requisite hearings on these actions will not be held until at least May meaning landlords will be unable to obtain orders for possession until that time. It is important to also note that, because there are a large number of scheduled hearings that are also being pushed until that time, any new action filed will likely not receive a hearing date until well after May 4.
While the ramifications of this unprecedented change are yet unknown, it is important to clarify that, as of right now, tenant payment responsibilities have not been abrogated. In addition, the latest order allows a presiding judge to schedule hearings on matters not otherwise considered public safety matters if the situation presents a “substantial risk of imminent financial hardship, or imminent risk to the health, safety or welfare of an individual or members of the community.” This provision, while not directly addressing the applicability to eviction proceedings, would likely allow a hearing to be held if a tenant’s actions present an imminent risk to the health and safety of other tenants or members of the community. These exceptions are only to be made on a case-by-case basis, but we stand ready to advise you regarding any such situations you experience.
Finally, despite these interruptions, landlords can and should continue to address lease violations promptly and in compliance with Colorado statutes including continuing to serve of Demands for Compliance and Notices to Quit. While we typically recommend to our clients as a best practice that these notices be notarized once served, this is not a legal requirement under the law. Given the need for increasing social distancing, taking a picture or making some other record to verify the service of the notice is sufficient for the time being.
We understand that these new guidelines may create some degree of inconvenience and hardship for landlords, property managers, and rental property owners. We are committed to working with you to reduce confusion and uncertainty during this pandemic and we are making every effort to stay up to date on the latest developments, particularly as concerns the quickly changing rules and regulations in this area of law. We welcome any questions or concerns you may have and are available to help in any way we can along the way as your legal advocate.