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Longmont City Council has postponed consideration of any temporary local prohibition against landlords charging COVID-impacted tenants late rental fees.

Council members voted unanimously to table action on any ban on charging fees or other penalties to residents who can demonstrate that they’ve fallen behind on their rents because of financial hardships they’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely because of a statewide late-fees executive-order prohibition Gov. Jared Polis issued on Oct. 15.

Polis’ order lasts through at least Dec. 30, although the governor and the Colorado Department of Public Health could extend it beyond that date.

Longmont Council members agreed Tuesday to delay possible consideration of any COVID-related local late-rental-fees prohibition until the state order is about to expire.

Polis’ Oct. 15 executive order states that “no landlord, mobile home park owner, property management entity, or any individual or entity acting on behalf of a landlord, mobile home park owner, or property management entity shall charge a monetary sum, fee, or other penalty against a tenant or mobile home owner for failure to timely pay any portion of rent, beginning the day this executive order is executed.”

However, Polis also specified that “nothing in this executive order shall be construed as relieving an individual from their obligation to make rent payments” — leaving tenants with the legal obligation to make those payments at some point.

Longmont city staff reported to Council that before the governor’s executive order, staff had surveyed housing providers and tenants to get their direct input on the potential impacts of the proposed Longmont ordinance on prohibiting rental late fees.

Longmont got 133 responses from housing providers, staff reported in a memo for Tuesday’s meeting. It said key findings from the housing provider survey included:

  • COVID has affected 43% of housing providers.
  • Almost 45% of providers report charging late fees to tenants.
  • Of those that do charge late fees, more than 95% of them would not move forward with eviction proceedings based solely on unpaid late fees.
  • 56% of providers consider late fees as unpaid rent.
  • A moratorium on charging late fees would compel 67% of providers to change their business practices, such as by asking for a larger security deposit or two months’ rent upfront, practices city staff said would potentially make it more difficult for tenants to obtain housing.

City staff said it got 51 responses to a tenant survey it promoted on Twitter, Facebook, and Nextdoor, although about 10% of those responses were from tenants living outside Longmont. Key findings of the overall responses in that survey, staff said, were:

  • 42% of tenants reported being affected by COVID.
  • A majority of tenants reported that they have not been charged late fees during COVID.
  • A majority of tenants reported that late fees are not causing a financial hardship.
  • A majority of tenants reported having the ability to speak with their housing providers if they are having financial issues.
  • A majority of tenants were not aware of mediation and resource referral services available through the city, and most who were not aware said they would have accessed those services if they had known about them.

Longmont City Council has discussed the possibility of a temporary emergency local late-rental-fees ban in COVID-related situations several times since early September, when Councilwoman Polly Christensen raised the idea and noted that Broomfield had adopted such a prohibition in August.

Christensen made the motion Tuesday night to table consideration of the proposed Longmont ban at least until the governor’s order expires with the Council to decide whether to resurrect the idea of a local prohibition, “depending on what the circumstances are.”

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