Understanding Colorado Rental Laws

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State Rules and Regulations for Colorado Rental Properties and Landlords 

Since landlord-tenant relationships are an area in which disputes can arise, each state has its own specific laws that govern that relationship. The law defines what landlords and tenants can and cannot do, as well as the obligations of each to the other. This article is designed to help both landlords and tenants understand their rights and obligations under state and federal law.

Housing Discrimination and Federal Law

Federal law prohibits landlords from discriminating on the basis of protected characteristics. For landlords, this means limiting the sort of questions they are allowed to ask on rental applications and accepting the first qualified applicant (emphasis on the word qualified). This ensures the landlord’s decision-making process is transparent and does not allow discriminatory rationale to enter into the choice.

Colorado landlords are allowed to reject applicants on the basis of:

  • Poor credit,
  • Bad references, and
  • Past behavior.

They are not, however, allowed to reject applicants on the basis of:

  • Race,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • Familial status, or
  • Disability.

To clarify, landlords may not reject tenants who have children or plan on having children simply because they have children. Any of these reasons would be prohibited by the Fair Housing Act and would subject the landlord to civil liability.

Housing Discrimination and Colorado Law

Colorado law includes all of the statutes that are present under the Fair Housing Act and extends them. Colorado landlords are not allowed to discriminate against an applicant on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (transgender status).

Those who feel they have been excluded from consideration on the basis of a protected characteristic have one year to file a grievance with the Colorado Civil Rights Division and two years to bring legal action against the landlord.

Examples of illegal practice include, but are not limited to:

  • Refusal to rent based on a protected characteristic,
  • Unequal terms and conditions based on discrimination,
  • Financing clauses that change for families with children,
  • Unwillingness to provide reasonable accommodation to a disabled person,
  • Refusing to sell to a person based on racial characteristics,
  • Retaliation against someone who has asserted housing rights.

One common dilemma that landlords find themselves in is renting to a disabled person who has a service animal when the landlord has a no-pets policy. Under the law, a service animal is not considered a “pet” and therefore, a no-pets policy would not apply. In addition, rejecting a disabled person with a service animal because of a no-pet policy is illegal.

Security Deposits and Colorado Regulations

Colorado has no statute concerning the minimum or maximum amount a security deposit can be. Likewise, there is no statute concerning the holding of a security deposit in a separate bank account. Landlords can charge tenants pet deposits or other additional fees so long as the animal is not a service animal. On the other hand, a landlord can ask for documentation that an animal is, in fact, a service animal.

Other statutes include:

  • Landlords are not allowed to ask their tenants for non-refundable security deposits (C.R.S. 38-12-103(1)).
  • Landlords must return the security deposit within one month unless otherwise agreed. Landlords cannot force a tenant to wait more than two months for a security deposit (C.R.S. 38-12-103).
  • If tenants are forced to vacate the premises due to hazardous conditions, the landlord has three business days to refund the security deposit (C.R.S. 38-12-104).

Furthermore, a landlord must provide a tenant with an itemized list of withholdings within the specified time limit (generally one month). If a landlord does not provide written notice within the time limit, the landlord will forfeit any claim to the security deposit. Wrongful withholding of the security deposit subjects the landlord to punitive damages in the amount of triple the value of the security deposit (C.R.S. 38-12-103(2)).

Lease and Fee Regulations in Colorado

There are no statutes in Colorado governing rent increases, late fees, or application fees. Additionally, there are no statutes governing how bounced checks should be handled. On the landlord side, these should all be addressed in the lease agreement.

Tenants can withhold rent to address issues of habitability. Residential properties are rented out with the implied warranty of habitability. Tenants are advised to hold rent in an escrow account until the habitability issue is addressed. If there is a breach in the warranty of habitability, tenant’s remedies can are addressed in C.R.S. 38-12-507.

In the event that a dispute occurs for unpaid rent, and the landlord must take the tenant to court, the landlord is entitled to sue for attorney’s fees. On the other hand, a landlord is under no obligation to mitigate damages to the tenant but is only entitled to recover for damages that place the property in the same position it would have been in had the tenant upheld his or her end of the lease.

Termination of Lease Notices in Colorado

Landlords are not required to notify tenants when a lease expires with a fixed end date. The length of time a landlord must give a tenant to vacate a residential property depends on the length of the lease:

  • If the lease is for one year or longer, landlords must give tenants 91 days to vacate upon terminating the lease.
  • If the lease is longer than six months but less than one year, the landlord must give the tenant 28 days.
  • If the lease is longer than one month but less than six months, the landlord must give the tenant seven days.
  • If the lease is longer than a week but less than a month, the landlord must give the tenant three days.
  • If the lease is less than a week, the landlord must give the tenant one day.

If the tenant fails to pay owed rent to the landlord, the landlord must issue a notice of nonpayment. The landlord must give the tenant three days to either remedy the situation or terminate the lease and be evicted (C.R.S. 13-40-104-1d). The same holds true for other lease violations, but if the tenant repeatedly violates terms of the lease, the landlord need not give any notice to terminate the lease and initiate eviction (C.R.S. 13-40-104-e.5).

Lockouts are expressly forbidden in Colorado. A tenant can sue for damages (C.R.S. 38-12-510). In addition, utility shut-offs are not allowed (C.R.S. 38-12-510).

Notices of Entry in Colorado

Colorado has no explicit statutes regarding notices of entry by a landlord onto a rented property.

Duty of Habitability in Colorado

Specific requirements governing the minimum standard of habitability can be found in C.R.S. 38-12-505.

A landlord must provide:

  • Weather protection in the form of a functioning roof and walls,
  • Functioning plumbing,
  • Running water and hot water connected to sewage fixtures,
  • Functioning heat and climate control facilities,
  • Functioning electricity,
  • Sanitary common areas,
  • Expedient extermination of pests,
  • Enough trash receptacles,
  • Floors, stairways, and railings in safe condition,
  • Locks on all exterior doors or windows.

A landlord must also comply with building, housing, and health codes.

For gas, electricity, and plumbing, landlords are expected to have conformed to applicable law at the time of the installation.

Other Colorado Statutes

In cases of domestic violence and sexual assault or abuse, a tenant is allowed to terminate a lease early. The landlord may charge the tenant for an extra month of rent (C.R.S. 38-12-402-2). The landlord is also allowed to require proof of status.

If the tenant makes a good faith complaint against a landlord, the landlord may not retaliate against him or her. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Raising rent,
  • Decreasing services, or
  • Threatening or taking legal action.

Business Licenses

There are no Colorado statutes governing the requirement for business licenses. There may, however, be local statutes requiring them.

Colorado State Associations and other Resources

This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

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