No Aurora area evictions for now as courts, sheriffs refuse to impose them

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AURORA | As Aurora City Council members and lawmakers scramble to protect cash-strapped residents, no eviction orders will be coming down the pike from district courts covering Aurora, and local sheriff’s departments say they will not be removing evicted residents from their homes during this time. 

The decisions came amid reports of unemployment claims surging as the novel coronavirus continues to spread and a blizzard descended on metro Denver. 

Courts in the 17th and 18th Judicial Districts will not be holding eviction hearings at least through April 3 as part of suspended court processes throughout the state, according to Jon Sarché, Deputy Public Information Officer for the Colorado Judicial Department. 

Spokespersons for the sheriff’s offices in Adams and Arapahoe counties said both departments will not remove evicted residents from their homes. Normally, Sheriff’s deputies enforce  evictions when residents lose an eviction court case but don’t leave their homes.

“We are not enforcing any of them during the pandemic,” said Deborah Sherman, a spokeswoman for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said of the eviction orders. “That is not a priority for us.” 

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock suspended evictions in Denver County on Monday. 

The decisions to follow suit for cases in Aurora were welcomed by City Councilmember Alison Coombs. She said she’s hearing from constituents who own small businesses but can’t pay their bills, or are self-employed and barely living paycheck-to-paycheck. 

“It’s not just the non-evictions that are important,” she said. “I think we need to suspend all rent and mortgages, because people aren’t at work. A lot of people are being laid off. And it always seems to fall to people and taxpayers to bail out the market. It’s time for banks to bail out the people and give us the relief we need.”

Coombs said she thinks there is political will on the City Council to pass a resolution asking commercial and residential landlords to waive payments. 

But measures like courts postponing eviction hearings come with a slew of unintended consequences, said Andrew Hamrick, Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the Colorado Apartment Association, which advocates for property owners. 

Hamrick said eviction processes usually take from 45 to 77 days in the courts and can already be a slow process without the court delays. He said Arapahoe County courts process evictions very slowly, up to two and a half months. That puts landlords in tough situations, he said, putting themselves at risk of foreclosing the property if tenants are able to continue living in apartments without paying rent. 

Hamrick said landlords across the state are waiving April rent for cash-strapped tenants or otherwise being flexible. 

“They are going to have lots of customers who will say, ‘The government made me not work in the month of March — I can’t pay my rent,’” Hamrick said of landlords. 

He didn’t say specifically which landlords had said that, but he said the apartment owners did not want to talk about the issue with the media.

State lawmakers are also working to keep money in the pockets of residents, including Aurora Rep. Dominique Jackson. 

She said she has joined other lawmakers asking creditors to stop asking residents for mandatory debt collection payments, including student loan payments. 

Jackson said Wednesday she was also finding out how to stop evictions statewide. 

“It’s certainly not just an Aurora issue, it is a Colorado issue,” she said. “We are not ignoring this situation.”