Breaking a Lease in Colorado

Breaking a Lease in Colorado

Last Updated: July 16, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

Find out when a tenant can legally break a lease in Colorado, when they can’t, and if a landlord is required by Colorado law to make reasonable effort to re-rent.

Before we address the lawful reasons to get out a lease early without penalty, it’s important to understand the notice requirements in Colorado to end a tenancy in general.

Ending a Periodic Lease in Colorado

In Colorado, a tenant is not required to provide notice for fixed end date leases, the lease simply expires on the last day of the lease. However, if a tenant wishes to terminate a periodic lease, they must give the following amounts of notice (C.R.S. 13-40-107-4):

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Needed
Less than 1 week 1 Day
1 week or less than 1 month 3 Days
1 month or less than 6 months 21 Days
6 months or less than 1 year 28 Days
1 year or longer 91 Days

There are several scenarios where a tenant can legally break a lease in Colorado without penalty. We’ll go through each of them below.

Questions? To chat with a Colorado landlord tenant attorney, click here

1. Early Termination Clause or Mutual Termination

Some leases may allow a tenant to terminate early in exchange for paying a penalty. Read over your lease and look for language that explains how to terminate a lease before the end of the fixed period, such as the penalty (i.e., 2 month’s rent) and the notice required (i.e., 30 days).

However, before taking this route and paying the penalty, make sure that no other conditions exist that would allow you to break the lease without paying a penalty.

In some instances, the landlord may agree to end the lease early. Such an arrangement can occur at any point during the lease, but only if both parties agree.  This agreement is called a “mutual termination.” Neither party is required to agree to a mutual termination. If both parties do agree, it is best to write down the terms of the mutual termination and have both parties sign the agreement.

2. Active Military Duty

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) helps protect active service members who are relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station. The protection begins on the date of entering duty and ends between 30-90 days after the date of discharge.

To break a lease in accordance with the relief act, a tenant must:

  • Prove the lease was signed before entering active duty.
  • Prove they will remain on active duty for at least the next 90 days.
  • Deliver a written notice to the landlord (example, page 2), accompanied by a copy of the orders to deploy / Permanent Change of Station (PCS) or a letter from their commanding officer stating their pending deployment.

With that said, the lease does not terminate immediately. Once the notice is delivered, the earliest the lease can terminate is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period. For example, if the notice was delivered on the 23rd of March, and the rent is due on the 1st of each month, the earliest the lease can terminate is May 1st therefore, rent is still due for the month of April.

note

In Colorado, the term “servicemember” means a member of the armed forces, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the activated National Guard. A tenant must give the landlord written notice of their intent to terminate your tenancy for military reasons. Once the notice is mailed or delivered, the tenancy will terminate 30 days after the date that rent is next due, even if that date is several months before the lease expires.

3. Unit is Uninhabitable

Colorado has specific health and safety codes that provide minimum standards for rental units. If those standards are not met, a tenant must notify the landlord about the issue.  If the landlord fails to make repairs within the allowable time period, a tenant may be able to vacate the lease.

According to C.R.S. 38-12-505, a dwelling shall be deemed uninhabitable if it substantially lacks any of the following:

  • Waterproofing and weather protection. The landlord must maintain the roof and exterior walls in good working order, including unbroken windows and doors.
  • Structure and Utilities. The landlord must maintain the plumbing, gas facilities, electrical lighting with wiring, electrical equipment, floors, stairways, and railings in good working order.
  • Water. The landlord must furnish running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times to appropriate fixtures and connected to a sewage disposal system approved under applicable law.
  • Heating. The landlord must maintain functioning heating facilities in good working order.
  • Common areas. Common areas and areas under the control of the landlord must be kept reasonably clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, and garbage and that have appropriate extermination in response to the infestation of rodents or vermin. Otherwise, no deficiency in the common is a reason to terminate a lease unless it materially and substantially limits the tenant’s use of the dwelling unit.
  • Appropriate Extermination. The landlord must have a prompt response to handling any infestation of rodents or vermin throughout a residential premise.
  • Exterior Receptacles for Garbage. The landlord must provide an adequate number of appropriate receptacles for garbage and rubbish, in good repair.
  • Locks On All Exterior Doors. Locks or security devices on windows designed to be opened that are maintained in good working order.
  • Compliance with All Applicable Building, Housing, and Health Codes. If violated would constitute a condition that is dangerous or hazardous to a tenant’s life, health, or safety.

For more information on habitability laws in Colorado, click here.

4. Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation

If a landlord seriously harasses, sexually harasses, or violates the privacy of a tenant, the tenant may be able to terminate their lease. Some examples of harassment are:

  • Landlord Entry. Colorado state law does not specify an amount of notice your landlord must give to enter a rental property; however, it is recommended to provide at least 24 hours’ notice. If your landlord repeatedly violates your rights to privacy a tenant may have grounds to terminate their lease.
  • Unlawful Removal. In Colorado, if the landlord changes the locks, removes windows or doors, or willfully shuts off utilities, the tenant may terminate the lease due to “constructive eviction.” (C.R.S. 38-12-510)

5. Domestic Violence

Colorado law provides tenants who are victims of domestic violence or domestic abuse with special rental provisions for their protection. If a tenant is the victim of  domestic violence and needs to move, they may terminate the lease, vacate the dwelling and avoid liability for future rent, aside from one month’s rent after termination. A landlord cannot terminate the lease of a victim of domestic violence (C.R.S. 13-40-107.5-c).  However, the landlord can require tenants to provide proof before releasing the tenant from the lease. (C.R.S. 38-12-402)

  • Early Termination.  A tenant may terminate the lease if the following events have occurred:
    • The tenant gives the landlord notice in writing;
    • The tenant gives the landlord a copy of a police report or legal order within 60 days of receiving one;
    • The tenant vacates the premise.

6. Gas-Related Hazards

If a tenant becomes aware of any hazardous condition of a gas appliance, piping, or other gas equipment, they are required under Colorado law to immediately inform the landlord or the landlord’s agent in writing of the existence of the hazard. The landlord then has 72 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) to have the condition repaired by a professional. If the landlord doesn’t make the repairs within 72 hours, and the building is still hazardous, a tenant can vacate the rental, and the lease becomes void. A tenant can also demand the return of their security deposit (minus any allowable deductions). (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-104(2).)

7. Other Reasons

A tenant may have alternative reasons to terminate a lease early.  For example, the following reasons may legally permit a tenant to terminate the lease early, but are not always automatic and must be determined by a court:

  • Violation of the Lease Agreement. If a landlord violates the terms of the lease agreement, it may be enough justification to break the lease and relieve the tenant from their own obligations (i.e. illegally raising the rent during the fixed period).
  • Illegal or Unenforceable Contract. In some scenarios, a lease agreement may be deemed illegal and as a result, is generally not enforceable. (i.e. contracting with a minor)
  • Mandatory Disclosures. Many state and local laws require landlords to disclose documentation, policies, or specific unit information to tenants prior to moving in. Disclosure laws typically impose heavy fines or legal ramifications to landlords if they are not followed, such as failure to disclose lead paint. In rare cases, they contain penalty provisions that may allow you to break your lease.
  • Senior Citizen or Health Issue. Some states offer age or health-related lease-breaking arrangements that permit early lease termination.  If a tenant has a qualified disability the tenant may request early termination as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Questions? To chat with a Colorado landlord tenant attorney, click here

Examples of Insufficient Justification for Lease Breaking in Colorado

The below reasons are generally not enough justification (on their own) to release a tenant from the lease, and as a result, provide no legal protection against penalties for not honoring the lease.

  • The tenant bought a house.
  • The tenant is relocating for a new job or school.
  • The tenant is upgrading or downgrading.
  • The tenant is moving in with a partner.
  • The tenant is moving to be closer to family.

Breaking a lease for any of the above reasons without court approval or in any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants.  If a tenant would like to break a lease for any of these reasons, the tenant should ask the landlord to agree to a mutual termination.

Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Colorado

If the lease does not prohibit subletting, then a landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent. However, subleases can happen only with a landlord’s permission.  To get landlord approval a tenant should send a letter to the landlord by certified mail, with a return receipt requested, outlining the terms of the sublet lease agreement.

The letter should include the following information:

  • Sublet term.
  • Name of proposed subtenant or assignee.
  • The permanent home address of proposed subtenant or assignee.
  • Your reason for subletting or leaving permanently.
  • Your new address during the sublease if applicable.
  • The written consent of any co‑tenant.
  • A copy of the proposed sublease.

If a landlord rejects the tenant’s request, know that they can only refuse the proposed subtenant based on legitimate factors.

Landlord’s Responsibility to Re-rent in Colorado

In Colorado, a landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent their unit instead of charging the tenant for the total remaining rent due under the lease. This is referred to as the landlord’s duty to “mitigate damages”. If the landlord re-rents the property quickly, the tenant will only be responsible for the amount of time the unit was vacant.

For more information and to get a FREE Colorado sublease agreement click here.

Additional Resources for Colorado Tenants & Landlords: