In Colorado, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, Colorado varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Colorado law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Colorado
Landlord Responsibilities. Colorado bases its warrant of habitability upon certain amenities, each of which must be provided and maintained in “good working order” by a landlord operating in the state. These amenities include:
- Waterproofing on all roofs and exterior walls
- Plumbing or gas facilities
- Running water, including a “reasonable” amount of hot water
- Connections to a sewer disposal system
- Heating facilities
- Electrical features, including lights, outlets, and safe wiring
- “Reasonable” sanitation in all common areas
- Rodent or vermin extermination
- Adequate garbage receptacles
- Properly maintained stairs and railings
Tenants in Colorado are empowered to seek repairs for deficiencies in any of these enumerated amenities, as well as any other issues that “materially” affect their health or safety. In these cases, a Colorado landlord has 24 hours to respond to a formal request placed by a tenant, in writing or electronically. However, under recent legislation, landlords have 96 hours to respond to and address repair requests that include permission to enter that tenant’s residence.
Tenant Responsibilities. Under Colorado law, all tenants are responsible for paying rent on time. If a problem or delay in payment is warranted, a tenant in Colorado must communicate this issue to their landlord without delay.
Tenants in Colorado are also required to keep their premises clean and in compliance with all relevant health and safety codes. Because an infraction on this front would also constitute an infraction of their lease agreement, tenants who are informed of an issue with their unit’s habitability must resolve the issue in 3 days or face eviction.
Also, tenants in Colorado are required to make any and all repairs not assigned to their landlord, either by law or in the terms of their lease. These same tenants are given the power to repair and deduct the cost of a necessary repairs assigned to their landlord, as well as withhold rent entirely if their landlord does not act to resolve the requested issue within the statutory timeframe.
Evictions in Colorado
Colorado’s current laws empower landlords to evict their tenants under several circumstances. While other potential tenant actions may necessitate eviction, these following causing are explicitly allowed by state regulators:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant in Colorado fails to pay rent on time (including any grace period set forth in the lease agreement), their landlord must issue them a 3-day notice to pay. If rent is still not paid during this time, their landlord may continue with the formal eviction process using a Forced Entry Detainer and Summons.
- Violation of lease terms – A landlord in Colorado may inform their tenant of an infraction relating to their lease agreement via a Demand for Compliance or Right to Possession Notice. Tenants then have 3 days to comply with the terms for remedy set forth in that notice. If compliance is not reached, then the landlord may initiate eviction using a Forced Entry Detainer and Summons.
- Illegal Acts – Under Colorado law, several illegal acts may be used as justification if a landlord wishes to evict one of their tenants. Though not exhaustive, potential illegal acts that may warrant eviction include:
- Aggressive acts towards another person, including other tenants
- Acts that endanger the landlord’s possessions or property
- Felony acts, include those involving drugs or those of a violent nature
- Any criminal act that potentially carries a sentence of 180 or more days
If one or more of these illegal acts are brought to a landlord’s attention, they may notify their tenant of their intent to evict them with a 3-Day Notice to Quit. If the tenant does not vacate the premises in that timeframe, the landlord may forcibly evict them with a Forced Entry Detainer and Summons.
Evictions without a lease. In Colorado, landlords are required to provide varying amounts of advance notice of their intent to evict a tenant, based primarily on how long that tenant has been renting from the landlord in question. Those periods, which must always be initiated with a written notice, are as follows:
- Rented for 1 year or more – 91-day notice
- Rented for 6 months to 1 year – 28-day notice
- Rented for 1 to 6 months – 7-day notice
- Rented for 1 week to 1 month – 3-day notice
- Rented for 1 week or less – 1-day notice
Failure to vacate the premises after this period of time empowers a landlord in Colorado to seek a forced eviction by way of a Forced Entry Detainer and Summons.
Illegal Evictions. Landlords in Colorado may not seek to evict their tenants in retaliation for their choice to or intent to report a health or safety code violation to a government authority. These same landlords cannot evict their tenant with discriminatory intent, including against any of the several classes protected under Colorado civil rights laws.
Furthermore, Colorado landlords cannot evict tenants simply for possessing a therapy or service animal (even if their pet policy dictates otherwise). In the same vein, Colorado landlords cannot evict victims of domestic abuse/violence simply because they have disclosed proof of the same to their landlord.
Security Deposits in Colorado
Currently, Colorado maintains the following standards and rules relating to the acceptance, maintenance, and use of security deposits:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Currently, Colorado does not maintain a maximum or standard limit for any type of security deposit. However, landlords for mobile homes cannot charge more than 1 months’ rent in value as a security deposit.
- Time Limit for Return – After the termination or conclusion of a lease, landlords have 1 month to return any and all security deposits previously accepted from their tenant. However, this time period can be adjusted through the terms of a lease agreement. Colorado does not provide a different return time frame when deductions from the security deposit are necessary or warranted, however.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a tenant’s security deposit (or an itemized list describing deductions and the remaining deposit) are not returned within the 1 month timeframe, a landlord forfeits their right the deposit entirely. If it is found that the landlord made wrongful deductions or wrongfully withheld any part of the security deposit, they may be liable to pay up to 3 times the original deposit’s value as a penalty.
- Allowable Deductions – Colorado law allows landlords to make deductions from a tenant’s security deposit for any of the following reasons:
- Unpaid rent or utility bills
- Abandonment of premises
- Post move-out cleaning
- Payment for damages
- Any other breach of the lease that leads to a financial loss
Currently, Colorado law does not require landlords to maintain security deposits in a manner that incurs interest. In the same vein, any interest incurred on a security deposit while in a landlord’s possession need not be paid out to tenants at any time.
Lease Termination in Colorado
Notice Requirements. Tenants who have entered into a formal lease with a landlord are entitled to certain amounts of pre-termination notice based upon the length of their lease. Those notice periods, which must be initiated through a written notice, are as follows:
- Yearly lease without a set end date – 91-day notice
- 6-12 month lease – 28-day notice
- 1-6 month lease – 7-day notice
- 1 week to 1 month lease – 3-day notice
- Lease of 1 week or less – 1-day notice
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. To legally break a lease in Colorado, a tenant can usually evoke an early termination clause written into the terms of their lease. However, if a tenant lacks this option for any number of reasons (including a lack of such a provision entirely), they may use one of the following justifications to break their lease legally:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – If any of the requirements set forth in the Colorado warranty of habitability are not met by a landlord, their tenant may be considered “constructively evicted.” If the issue is not repaired in a timely manner as set forth in the lease agreement, the tenant’s obligations under the lease no longer apply. This, in turn, allows them to immediately end the lease, if desired.
- Landlord Harassment – If a Colorado landlord routinely enters their tenant’s unit without justifiable cause, their actions may constitute harassment that enables a tenant to immediately terminate their lease. This is also true of so-called “lockouts,” which are illegal in Colorado and may allow an effected tenant to sue for damages (if not end their lease outright).
- Gas Hazards – If a tenant detects a gas-related hazard in or near their unit, they must immediately inform their landlord of the issue. The landlord then has 72 hours to have the issue resolved or fixed by a professional. If they fail to do so, a tenant is able to immediately vacate the premises and consider their former lease agreement void.
If a tenant in Colorado moves out of their rented space before the end of their lease, they are still obligated to pay rent until the lease expires. However, a Colorado landlord must make a reasonable effort at this point to find a new tenant who is willing to sublease the space or begin a fresh lease.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Colorado
Rent control & increases. In Colorado, landlords are not statutorily required to provide any notice regarding an increase in rent rates. Similarly, no cities in Colorado or the state as a whole place a limit on the total value of per-period rent via a “rent control” statute. As such, landlords in Colorado are empowered to raise rent at any time and for any reason (other than those that may be considered discriminatory or retaliatory).
Rent related fees. Current Colorado law contains statutes neither limiting the value of nor clearly outlining the circumstances in which a landlord may charge a late fee or an application fee. However, both are still generally accepted as permissible, so long as the full amount of those fees is clearly outlined to the tenant in writing, either as part of a lease or a separate agreement.
Housing Discrimination in Colorado
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. Colorado provides a number of housing discrimination protections that exceed those set forth in the federal Fair Housing Act. Specifically, individuals may not be discriminated against based upon the following criteria under the Colorado Fair Housing Act:
- Marital status
- Owners of a service animal
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity (as it applies to individuals who are transgender)
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. Among other potentially discriminatory activities that can be perpetuated by Colorado landlords, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Civil Rights Division, outlines the following actions which may constitute discrimination under the state’s purview:
- Refusing to rent to a protected class
- Providing unequal leasing terms between protected and non-protected tenants
- Offering unequal financing options between protected and non-protected tenants
- Failing to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with a disability
- Retaliating in any way to a tenant exercising their fair housing and habitability rights
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Civil Rights Division, does not explicitly outline what types of punishments or penalties may be levied against discriminatory landlords. However, they do allow tenants to file discrimination charges online, which may be evaluated and addressed on a case by case basis.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Colorado
Colorado also maintains several other statutory standards which impact landlord-tenant relationships throughout the state. Listed below are several categorical standards which are relevant to landlords and tenants before, during, and after their leasing relationship.
Landlord Entry. In Colorado, landlords are theoretically allowed to enter a rented unit at any time (including in emergencies) because the state lacks any statutory standards limiting this right. The same is true when a landlord intends to make necessary repairs to a rented unit, as well as show the same unit to prospective renters. This unlimited entry right may be limited through a lease agreement, though, in which it is common for an advance notice standard to be established.
Small Claims Court. Landlord-tenant disputes in Colorado are often handled by the state’s small claims court system. This includes cases involving damages valued at no more than $7,500. However, eviction cases in Colorado are not handled through the small claims court system and instead are handled through standard civil courts.
Mandatory Disclosures. Currently, Colorado is one of only a handful of states that does not require its landlords to make any type of informational disclosures to tenants, either before or during the course of their lease. However, Colorado landlords are still required to make federally-mandated disclosures relating to lead-based paint in buildings built before 1978. More information on this type of disclosure can be found here.
Changing the Locks. Colorado expressly forbids landlords from performing “lockouts” on their tenants, even when they are in violation of their lease agreement. However, Colorado does not provide statutory guidance regarding when a landlord may change the locks on their rental units. This is also true of tenants (though they are usually forbidden from unilaterally changing their own locks without prior approval).
Local Landlord Tenant Laws in Colorado
Denver. Denver maintains several landlord-tenant laws that exceed the obligations place upon each party by regulatory authorities. For example, landlords in Denver must provide 21 days of advance notice before raising rent. Immigrants are also given special protections against housing discrimination in the Mile High City. More information about these additional laws can be found in the Denver Residential Landlord Tenant Guide.
Longmont. The city of Longmont maintains special jurisdiction over landlord-tenant laws within city limits due to its status as a “home rule” municipality. As such, it maintains many of the same statutory requirements as the state, though they are administered and regulated directly through the city government. More information about this city’s control over local landlord-tenant laws can be found on the City of Longmont, Department of Housing and Community Investment, website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a landlord enter without permission in Colorado?
Yes, a landlord in Colorado may enter without permission from their tenant, so long as rules limiting entry times and prior notice standards are set forth in the lease agreement. This freedom to enter also applies to emergency situations, as well as occasions where the landlord needs to make necessary repairs or show the unit to a prospective renter.
How much notice does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out in Colorado?
In all cases, a landlord must give notice if they intend for tenant to move out. However, the amount of notice differs based upon the length of the tenant’s lease agreement or based upon how long that tenant has rented from the landlord (when a lease agreement does not exist). These notice period must adhere to these following guidelines:
- Yearly lease without a set end date or an annual rental period – 91-day notice
- 6-12 month lease or rental period – 28-day notice
- 1-6 month lease or rental period – 7-day notice
- 1 week to 1 month lease or rental period – 3-day notice
- Lease or rental period of 1 week or less – 1-day notice
However, lease violations allow a landlord to modify the amount of advance notice given prior to eviction. Accordingly, tenants who are found to have violated their lease in any way must be given 3 days to remedy the issue or face eviction, regardless of their normal leasing or rental period.
Is Colorado a “landlord friendly” state?
Colorado is considered a “landlord friendly” state based upon several key metrics. This includes a fairly low effective property tax rate as well as a lack of limitations on rent and security deposit values. Landlords in Colorado can also enter their tenant’s unit at any time, unless their lease agreement says otherwise.
What are a tenants’ rights in Colorado?
Colorado tenants do have certain rights when operating in the rental property market. For example, they have the right to seek out and lease rental properties without facing discrimination based upon several state and federally protected characteristics. Tenants in Colorado also have the right to a habitable dwelling, as defined in the state’s warrant of habitability.
Can a tenant change the locks in Colorado?
Colorado law does not clearly state if a tenant can change their lock under any circumstances. Often, though, such a unilateral action cannot be taken without first receiving permission from their landlord.