Here’s a primer on what you should know about your rights as a tenant in a Colorado rental home
Few relationships are more charged (and potentially contentious) than between a landlord and tenant. The majority of landlords are conscientious, respectful, and considerate of their tenants—they care about keeping their properties clean, habitable, and well-maintained. The majority of residential tenants pay their rent on time, handle small maintenance issues, and are clean and live peacefully.
But sometimes a landlord and tenants will be at odds over some housing-related issue, like payments, maintenance, noise, pets, other tenants, or other things. Both landlords and tenants have rights in Colorado, and it’s important to know the law around your rental if you want to know if you have recourse in a particular situation.
Basics of Colorado landlord/tenant law
Defining a lease
A lease is a contract between the landlord and tenant. It grants the tenant exclusive use of a property for a specific amount of time in exchange for an agreed-upon rent payment.
The landlord may set terms of the lease that include more than simply the amount of rent. There could be other rules that set forth policies for pets, use of utilities and parking, security deposit, who is responsible for repairs to the property and included appliances, services like snow removal and trash collection, prohibitions on noise or smoking, and other considerations.
The lease binds both the landlord and the tenant, and it’s important to read the lease carefully before you sign. There is no provision for rescinding a Colorado lease once you’ve signed.
Types of leases
A definite term lease is for a specific period of time, such as a year. The landlord must provide the tenant with the property for that period of time and for the agreed-upon amount of rent. The tenant must pay the rent and uphold the terms of the lease. When the lease expires, the parties may choose to negotiate a new lease or may transfer the lease to a month-to-month arrangement if both parties agree. There’s no need to provide notice of termination of a lease at the end of the term because it’s already been established by the original lease contract. You would need to provide notice if you intend to break the lease earlier than the lease period ends.
A month-to-month lease renews automatically each month until terminated by either party. A month-to-month lease is implied by law if there is no written lease and rent is paid monthly. This can happen in one of two ways:
- The tenant moves into the property and pays rent but does not sign a lease; or
- The tenant creates a holdover, which is when they stay in the property with the landlord’s consent but without negotiating a new lease at the end of the previous lease term. This arrangement would maintain the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant as agreed upon under the original lease.
However, since a month-to-month lease lacks a written contract, the landlord is permitted to raise the rent or change the agreement at the end of each month, with 10 days’ notice to the tenant. The tenant also may terminate the lease at the end of any month with 10 days’ notice to the landlord.
In most cases, a lease creates joint and several liability. If more than one tenant signs a lease, the landlord may hold either individually responsible for the rent or other issues (property damage, etc.). In other words, if one tenant leaves the premises, the remaining tenant could be held responsible for their share of the rent.
Colorado landlord’s obligation to provide safe and habitable living conditions
A landlord is responsible for maintaining safe, clean, and habitable living conditions.
“Habitable” means a rental unit must include:
- Waterproof roof
- Windows and doors that are not broken
- Plumbing and gas fixtures working properly
- Running water and a reasonable amount of hot water connected to the appropriate fixtures
- Heating and electrical appliances working properly
- Common areas kept clean
- Providing extermination services if there are reports of insects, rodents, etc.
- Trash disposal containers
- Good maintenance of floors, stairways, railings, and exterior light fixtures
- Exterior door locks and locks or other security devices on windows
Failure to maintain habitable premises by the landlord after notice by the tenant would permit the tenant to bill the tenant for repairs and deduct that cost from their rent. They may deduct up to $400 per month or $1,000 per 12 months.
A landlord can be held liable for any injuries that result from their negligence for failing to repair a dangerous condition on the premises.
A landlord must maintain a Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment, which means the tenant is entitled to peace and quiet in their home. The landlord is not permitted to enter the premises without advance and sufficient notice to the tenant and they cannot interfere with the tenant’s daily comfort.
If the tenant provides written notice to the landlord of a breach of habitability, the landlord must remedy the breach within five days. If the condition is not remedied in five days, the tenant can terminate their lease by leaving the property between 10 and 30 days after the notice. The tenant could also seek a court order that requires the landlord to remedy the habitability breach condition.
Colorado tenants’ rights and responsibilities
A Colorado tenant has certain rights, but also some obligations before and during a tenancy:
- A tenant should assess the property for damage or dangerous conditions before moving in.
- A tenant is responsible for reporting damage or dangerous conditions to the landlord. The landlord cannot be held responsible if they are not notified of the condition or hazard.
- The tenant should photograph the property or unit prior to moving in so that there is documentation of any damage. They should also make written requests for repairs if necessary.
- The tenant is responsible for paying rent on time.
- The tenant must maintain their space in a way that is clean and that avoids damage outside of normal wear and tear. They are responsible for disposing of their waste in a clean and safe way.
- The tenant must use facilities and appliances properly. This includes electric and plumbing, sanitary, heating and ventilation, kitchen appliances, and common areas.
- The tenant has a right to quiet enjoyment of their space, but also must avoid disturbing their neighbors or permitting their guests to disturb neighbors.
- The tenant must obey building, health and housing codes for health and safety.
- The tenant may not alter the space by painting or replacing fixtures without the landlord’s consent.
A Colorado tenant is permitted to change the locks on their unit if the landlord allows it in the lease agreement, but the tenant could be required to provide notice to the landlord. The landlord is not permitted to change the locks as retaliation to the tenant.
The tenant also may ask the landlord to install a security system if they feel it is necessary for safety. The landlord must respond within a few days of the request.
Colorado eviction laws
The most common reasons why a tenant could be evicted include:
- Breach of lease contract
- Criminal activity
- Failure to pay rent
The landlord must provide at least three days’ notice before evicting a tenant. If a tenant is being evicted at will, the landlord must provide at least one day of notice for a weekly lease and up to 91 days’ notice if the tenant has lived in the unit for more than a year.
The tenant has the right to terminate their lease without penalty for:
- Active military service
- Hazards or breach of warranty of habitability
- Domestic violence
- Other early termination classes set forth in the lease
New Colorado landlord/tenant laws in 2022
The Colorado legislature enacted or updated several laws relating to landlord/tenant issues.
Landlord cannot remove a tenant without a court order.
If a tenant is a victim of unlawful removal, they may sue their landlord for attorney fees and court costs, the tenant’s damages, to obtain a restraining order, and for either $5,000 or three times the rent (whichever is higher).
Process changes for an eviction action.
If a tenant receives an eviction action, it must include a blank form for the tenant to file their answer, and it must include a form allowing both parties to request relevant documents. It must also include a list of resources for a tenant to find legal aid or a landlord/tenant lawyer.
Once the tenant files an answer to the action, the court must schedule a hearing within seven to 10 days following the filing. If the eviction was for failure to pay rent, the landlord must accept funds if they are paid in full as listed in the action, and allow the renter to stay in the unit. The court dismisses the action.
Restrictions on rent increases.
A landlord now is restricted to one rent increase in a 12-month period. The landlord must provide 60 days’ notice to a residential tenant before increasing the rent, and the landlord is not permitted to terminate a tenancy in order to increase the rent.
A landlord also is no longer permitted to impose a late fee unless it’s provided for in the lease agreement and if the rent is at least seven days late. The landlord must provide written notice of late fee charges within 180 days after the due date. The late fee must be no more than $50 or 5% of the rent amount, and the landlord is not permitted to charge interest on late fees.
What to do in a landlord/tenant dispute
A landlord/tenant dispute can be difficult for everyone involved, and sometimes there’s not a solution that works for all parties.
Particularly as a tenant, if you feel that your rights to a safe, habitable, peaceful home are not being met, you can and do have recourse against an uncooperative landlord.