Protecting Colorado’s Renters: 2019 Legislative Victories
It has been a momentous legislative session for renters across Colorado. The 2019 session established greater parity and fairness for tenants in the rental housing process.
The journey toward greater renter protections started in 2017 with the release of Protecting Colorado’s Renters: A Call for State & Local Policy Action, which Enterprise created with input from our partners at Mile High Connects, 9to5 Colorado and United for a New Economy. Protecting Colorado’s Renters was a comprehensive overview of best practice policies, informed by community members and experts from the legal, policy and housing fields, which addressed housing conditions, protections against unnecessary evictions, rental housing application processes and tenants’ rights.
Among the bills that improved conditions for renters was the Residential Tenants Health and Safety Act (Health and Safety Act). This bill, led by Representatives Jackson and Weissman and Senators Williams and Bridges and signed by Gov. Polis yesterday, sought to increase housing quality standards for tenants across the state.
From its conception, the Health and Safety Act was deeply rooted in the understanding that housing quality has a direct link to a family’s overall health and economic well-being. Study after study has shown that when a person is forced to live in subpar housing, they are more likely to have breathing issues, acute and chronic illnesses, and damage to their cognitive functions due to mental or physical stress. In addition, parents are more likely to miss work because of their own illnesses or from taking care of sick children.
Colorado’s previous housing quality standards policy gave tenants few options for compelling a landlord to make needed repairs in the event a housing quality issue arose, such as rodent infestation or mold. Now, with the passage of the Health and Safety Act, tenants may withhold their rent and make a repair, request to be moved to a safer unit, or end their lease if the condition continues unabated.
In addition to this victory, we have seen tremendous progress made with the policy recommendations outlined in Enterprise’s renters guide that cover each step of the rental process – from application, to lease-up and occupancy and eviction proceedings.
Listed below are recommendations from the action guide with reference to the relevant companion policy passed at the state and local levels.
- Recommendation: Establish a fair and equitable application process.
- Rental Application Fees: Prohibits Landlords from charging an application fee unless limited to the actual cost of running a criminal or credit background check. Prohibits charging different fees to different applicants and requires landlords to disclose costs, selection criteria, and if applicable, grounds of denial.
- Source of Income Discrimination: Denver has now joined 65 cities and counties plus 14 states in enacting source of income anti-discrimination protections.
- Recommendation: Ensure access to safe and well-maintained properties.
- Residential Tenant Health & Safety Act: Updates warranty of habitability to reduce response timeframes, includes electronic correspondence, and expands definition of uninhabitable conditions.
- Recommendation: Establish strong protections against unnecessary evictions.
- Time Period to Cure Lease Violations: Extends time period for tenants to cure non-payment of rent violations from three days to 10 days.
- Recommendation: Help tenants understand and defend their rights.
- Eviction Legal Defense Fund: Creates an eviction legal defense fund for low-income tenants.
In just two years since the Protecting Colorado’s Renters guide was created, there has been significant progress made in Colorado for tenant protections. These victories reflect not only the collective power of renters in our state, but a commitment to fairness and greater transparency in our landlord/tenant laws. Enterprise is proud to be one of the organizations leading the charge for real change in the lives of all Colorado residents, who deserve safe and healthy homes that are affordable and connected to opportunity.