Evictions in the Time of COVID-19

From all of us at Moye White, we hope that you and your colleagues, friends, and family are staying safe and healthy during these uncertain times. We understand that daily business conditions are changing rapidly as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and it is our goal to keep up with those changes to provide you up-to-date, practical guidance, tips, and answers.

One such change involves limitations on evictions at both the state and local levels. The City and County of Denver, along with other municipalities, has ordered the suspension of evictions. The Denver Sheriff interprets this order as applying to both residential and commercial evictions, and will not undertake such evictions. At the state level, Governor Jared Polis’ Executive Order D 2020 012 (March 20, 2020) has ordered state agencies to work with landlords to attempt to create a lawful measure to suspend evictions until the end of April 2020 for the non-payment of rent and minor tenancy violations. As the landlord of many properties across the State, we anticipate that you are wondering what this means for tenants who have defaulted or will default on their lease obligations while these orders are in effect.  

First and foremost, while we do not interpret these suspension orders as applying to commercial evictions, it appears that most, if not all, jurisdictions are taking that position. That said, even if a particular jurisdiction will enforce a commercial eviction, it is important to be aware of the optics of moving forward with such an eviction. Amid the outbreak, most, if not all, businesses are not currently operational, except for those providing essential services. We encourage you to weigh the possibility of negative optics in deciding whether to proceed with an eviction. We also anticipate many tenants may proactively open up a dialogue with you about how to proceed, including by seeking abatements or other concessions. We are standing by to help you in these discussions.

Second, the above orders are executive in nature and do not affect the operation of the court systems, which in large part continue to operate with limitations necessitated by the COVID-19 outbreak (such as telephonic hearings). In other words, nothing precludes a commercial landlord from filing a complaint to begin the eviction process. While under normal circumstances, eviction actions proceed more rapidly than other civil actions, we would advise you to be prepared for things to move more slowly under current conditions. Nonetheless, we are available to file and prosecute eviction actions on your behalf as the need arises and as courts allow.

Between the reluctance of local sheriffs and, potentially, judges to push forward with evictions, the expected inability of tenants to respond to complaints, and the likelihood of “Shelter-In-Place” or similar shutdown orders, the filing of a complaint may not go anywhere until such orders are lifted, and life begins to return to normal.

As with most other aspects of business and life during this time, things are uncertain. We are available to provide you with advice, guidance, and expertise to help you navigate the uncertainty and make the best decision for your business.  Please let us know how we can be of assistance. In the meantime, we ask that you stay safe, healthy, and optimistic. 

For more information about your rights and options as a landlord, please connect with Tom List, David Laird, Merc Pittinos, and Vika Chandrashekar

This article was originally published in the Colorado Real Estate Journal.