A national eviction ban will help Colorado renters stay housed until March 31, but there are asterisks

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Unable to pay his full rent on Jan. 1, Macolm Whitehead got a temporary reprieve from his landlord. He paid $300 on Jan. 11 and was given another 10 days to pay $300 more, or about one third of the rent for his one-bedroom apartment in Aurora. 

But Whitehead, who said he lost his job and is waiting for his unemployment benefits to restart, had no more money. On Monday, his landlord told him that if he didn’t pay by Jan. 27, the eviction process would begin — despite Whitehead signing a legal document protecting him from being evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“If you get hired for a job, within 10 days, you still won’t get a check,” said a despondent Whitehead, who stopped paying his cellphone bill and used Wi-Fi and a chat app to talk during an interview about the back-and-forth with his landlord. “I feel like you (are) trying to work with me, but at the same time, it’s like you want to see me out. Like you want to see me homeless. If you really could work with me, you would say, ‘Well, I understand what’s going on in a pandemic.’” 

Whitehead does have something going for him: a national eviction moratorium that prevents landlords from kicking tenants out for unpaid rent.

The order, in effect since Sept. 4, was extended last week to the end of March by President Joe Biden. Landlords say the national order is much more tolerable than Colorado’s, which mostly expired at the end of 2020. But tenant-rights advocates say it’s not enough. 

That’s because landlords can still evict a tenant under the national eviction moratorium if the lease expires and a property owner decides not to renew it. 

This story is being published partially online and in full in select print editions through an agreement with the Colorado Sun. Read the full story online at coloradosun.com.