Breaking a Lease in Colorado

Last Updated: March 14, 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 legally acceptable 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.

Lease Termination Notice Requirements in Colorado

In Colorado, a tenant is not required to provide notice for fixed end date leases, the lease expires on the last day of the lease C.R.S. 13-40-107-4). All of the remaining lease terms require written notice based on their length:

  • Notice to terminate a 1 week or less lease. 1 day 
  • Notice to terminate a 1 week to 1-month lease. 3 days 
  • Notice to terminate a 1-6 month lease. 7 days 
  • Notice to terminate a 6-12 month lease. 28 days 
  • Notice to terminate a yearly lease with no end date. 91 days written notice. These do not have a fixed date, they renew yearly.

Delivering the Notice in Colorado

In the state of Colorado, tenants can deliver a termination notice by any of the following methods:

  • Delivering it to the landlord in person;
  • Posting the notice in a conspicuous place at business and mailing a copy to the landlord.

There are a handful of 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

Some modern lease agreements may provide specific terms that would allow a tenant to terminate a lease early in exchange for a penalty fee. Read over the lease and look for language that outlines agreed-upon terms for ending the lease before the end of the fixed period, such as the amount of the fee (i.e. equal to 2 month’s rent) and the amount of notice required (i.e. 30 days).

If a lease agreement contains an early termination clause, before executing it and paying the penalty fee, read further to learn about other conditions that, if met, would not require a penalty fee to be paid.

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

Most states have specific health and safety codes that provide minimum standards for rental units, and Colorado is no different.

If those standards are not met, proper notice is given by the tenant and the repairs are still not made within the allowable time period, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted”. As a result, the obligations of the tenant under the lease are no longer required, given that the landlord has not met their own responsibilities under the Colorado landlord-tenant law.

According to C.R.S. 38-12-505, landlord duties to provide habitable premises include the following:

  • Waterproofing and weather protection. Maintain the roof and exterior walls in good working order, including unbroken windows and doors.
  • Plumbing, Gas Facilities, Electrical Lighting, with Wiring, Electrical Equipment, Floors, Stairways, and Railings. Maintained in good working order.
  • Running Water and Reasonable Amounts of Hot Water. Water at all times must be furnished to appropriate fixtures and connected to a sewage disposal system approved under applicable law.
  • Functioning Heating Facilities. Maintained in good working order.
  • Common areas and areas under the control of the landlord that are 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
  • Appropriate Extermination. Prompt response to the infestation of rodents or vermin throughout a residential premise.
  • Exterior Receptables for Garbage. 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, which, 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 the action is serious enough, harassment by a landlord or their violation of a tenant’s privacy may be enough justification for relieving a tenant of their obligations of the lease.

  • 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.
  • Changing the Locks. In some states, if the locks are changed by a landlord without the tenant’s permission or without the protection of specific language in the lease agreement, this can qualify as being “constructively evicted”, and could relieve the tenant of their duties of the lease. In Colorado, lockouts are not allowed, and if a landlord changes the locks the tenant can sue for damages. (C.R.S. 38-12-510)

5. Domestic Violence

Colorado provides tenants who are victims of domestic violence with special rental provisions for their protection. If you are confronting a domestic violence situation (this can also be stalking), and want to move, check with local law enforcement regarding special state laws that may apply in domestic violence situations. Some statutes the state of Colorado provides for victims of domestic violence include:

  • Termination of Lease. A landlord cannot terminate the lease of a victim of domestic violence (C.R.S. 13-40-107.5-c).
  • Proof of Status. A landlord may require proof of domestic violence status  (C.R.S. 38-12-402-2).
  • Protection from Termination. A landlord shall not include in a residential rental agreement or lease agreement for housing a provision authorizing the landlord to terminate the agreement or to impose a penalty on a residential tenant for calls made by the residential tenant for peace officer assistance or other emergency assistance in response to a domestic violence or domestic abuse situation 

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).)

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 obligation of their lease term, and as a result, provide no legal protection against penalties for not honoring the lease.

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

Since state landlord-tenant laws vary, the following reasons may legally permit a tenant to terminate their tenancy early in other states but are not applicable in Colorado:

  • 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 Contract. In some scenarios, a lease agreement may be deemed illegal and as a result, is generally not enforceable.
  • 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. In rare cases, they contain penalty provisions and 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.

Breaking a lease for any of the above reasons or in any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants.

NOTE

Colorado state law does not require landlords to take reasonable steps to re-rent their unit when a tenant breaks their lease.

Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Colorado

If the lease does not prohibit subletting, then a tenant is in the clear to do so. However, a lease might contain a clause requiring a tenant to obtain the landlord’s approval prior to subletting. To get landlord approval a tenant will want to send them a letter through 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. The law says a landlord cannot unreasonably refuse to sublet.

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

Additional Resources for Colorado Tenants & Landlords: