Despite Denver’s deep economic slump, sheriff’s deputies have resumed enforcing evictions this month, with residents already in line to be kicked out of their homes.
Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson confirmed late Thursday that he issued the order to the Sheriff’s Department late last month and evictions resumed July 1. It is not yet clear how many evictions have already been carried out.
Robinson ordered a halt to evictions in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic hit Colorado, but he told The Denver Post that it’s important to resume to align with Gov. Jared Polis, who lifted the statewide moratorium on evictions last month.
“We’re hearing from people that have an issue with us not being able to provide the service of evictions, where people are staying on their properties without permission,” Robinson said.
About 300 evictions that had been ordered but not carried out at the time of the pause were effectively canceled, but the property owners can refile them, said Connie Coyle, chief of administration with the Denver Sheriff’s Department.
Now that enforcement is underway again, the department has received up to five new eviction notices, or writs, Coyle said.
Not all evictions, which are ordered by a judge, are related to the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, Robinson noted.
“Some people can’t pay rent and then there are some other issues that are underlying here that go beyond not being able to pay because of COVID,” Robinson said.
Indeed there are legitimate reasons to evict tenants, said Cathy Alderman of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. But the line was more easily blurred during the pandemic, and the city’s homelessness crisis already has been exacerbated by the coronavirus.
“I want to be hopeful that landlords are going to be reasonable and work with tenants, but then I think we should absolutely be prepared for a wave of newly homeless individuals, and I just don’t know where they’re going to go,” Alderman said.
Robinson pledged to have deputies move deliberately, rather than swiftly, through the evictions to minimize the number of people kicked out of their homes.
It’s unclear what that might look like in action, though. Coyle said deputies have no discretion when enforcing evictions, they just carry out a judge’s orders and offer connections to city services when possible.
The decision to resume the evictions came from Robinson, Mayor Michael Hancock and other city leaders, he said.
“It was a very tough call,” Robinson said. “At the end of the day it’s important to make sure that there’s a diversity of mechanisms in place that allow for property owners and homeowners to have rights. This is one of those mechanisms.”