Warranty of Habitability Legislation
The clinic was approached by a former state legislator to get involved in legislative advocacy to change the landlord/tenant code in Colorado. At the time, Colorado was one of only a few states in the country that did not have a state warranty of habitability, although one has subsequently been enacted. After working on various cases involving clients living in substandard housing, it became apparent that the need existed for a warranty of habitability. In recognition of this need, students worked with a former state legislator and a coalition formed by the then-Senate Majority Leader to propose and advocate for passage of a state warranty of habitability.
Students first surveyed each state to determine whether these states had a common law or a statutory warranty of habitability provision. This information was then compiled into a report that detailed the scope of each state’s warranty of habitability. Students then worked with coalition members on the best legislative strategy for introduction of the bill. Based on advice from the Senate Majority Leader, we waited until the end of the session to introduce the bill. After the bill was introduced, students met with lobbyists for the landlord association and tried to work out a compromise. A compromise was never reached. Students then testified on the bill when it was heard in committee. During the hearing each senator was presented with a copy of the students’ report. Despite these efforts, the legislation was voted down in committee.
Preservation of Affordable Housing Project
In the Denver metro area there is an increasing number of landlords who have long term renewable contracts with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide low income housing through a program known as Project-Based Section 8. The typical term for these renewable contacts with HUD is twenty-five years. In the last few years, a number of these contracts were scheduled to expire. At the expiration, landlords have the option of opting out of the HUD project-based program and putting the housing on the private market.
To address the potential loss of affordable housing, a coalition of community organizations and attorneys including the University of Denver Student Law Office, Save Our Section 8 Coalition, Community Resource Center, and Colorado Legal Services formed the Section 8 Preservation Project. The goal of the project was to preserve as many of the project-based units as possible to ensure the continuing availability of affordable housing for low income families.
In order to inform the group, we first met with groups of residents who were concerned about their landlord’s refusal to renew the HUD contract. Students then helped organize a training with a lawyer from the National Housing Law Center in California to educate our group and the tenants. We also went door to door at various impacted housing projects to talk to tenants about the problem. The group decided to focus part of its resources on one project-based unit in Adams County. We started by organizing a meeting with the head of the Regional HUD Office in Denver. At this meeting we attempted to persuade the agency to maintain the project based unit. When it became apparent that the owner and HUD were not going to renew the contract the students began to work on a variety of options including: the formation of a partnership between non-profit groups and private investors to purchase at risk properties; investigation of possible litigation strategies, and building relationships with legislators to lobby for policy changes.
Civil Access Pilot Project
In 2011, The Colorado Supreme Court Civil Rules Committee sought public comment on a pilot project that would greatly shorten the timelines of (and, in some ways, make more complicated) the rules of pleading and discovery, and they proposed to apply these new rules to all cases falling into two broad categories: medical malpractice torts, and breach of contract actions. As written, the proposed definitions of these two categories could be read to include employment cases, whether for wages, damages for discrimination, or contractual obligations. The proposed rules also presented potential difficulties for tenants facing eviction. Students in the Civil Litigation Clinic drafted proposed language for the proposed pilot project rules addressing these issues and submitted that language to the Colorado Supreme Court for consideration.