Landlord and Tenant Rights

The rights and responsibility of landlords and their tenants are set forth in lease agreements and the Colorado Landlord-Tenant Laws. A federal law governs the rights of military personnel on active duty. The issues that may arise from renting residential property are complicated and often require legal guidance and representation to have them resolved. Before entering into a lease agreement a prospective tenant should obtain legal advice from an attorney regarding his or her rights and responsibilities. Likewise, landlords should obtain legal advice in the preparation of legal agreements.

The following issues may arise in the course of renting a residence:

  1. Security deposits: How much can a landlord demand? When must it be returned? What are the consequences of not returning the security deposit in a timely manner? Colorado state law does not limit how much landlords may charge for the security deposit. However, it does dictate when it must be returned usually within one month after a tenant moves, unless the lease specifies a longer period of time, not to exceed 60 days. Landlords have a shorter amount of time to return deposits in some circumstances, such as hazardous condition involving gas equipment that requires the tenant to move out. The state sets other restrictions on deposits.

  2. Repairs and Maintenance of the Property: Who is responsible for major and minor repairs? Usually the landlord is responsible for major repairs to the property such as plumbing failures or electrical problems. The tenant is responsible for everyday maintenance such as cleaning and trash removal. What is a warranty of habitability? It means that the property owner must:

    • keep basic structural elements of the building, including floors, stairs, walls, and roofs, safe and intact 

    • maintain all common areas, such as hallways and stairways, in a safe and clean condition

    • keep electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems and elevators operating safely

    • supply cold and hot water and heat in reasonable amounts at reasonable times

    • provide trash receptacles and arrange for trash pick-up

    • manage known environmental toxins such as lead paint dust and asbestos so that they don’t pose a significant danger

    • provide rental property that is reasonably safe from the threat of foreseeable criminal intrusions, and

    • exterminate infestations of rodents and other vermin.

  3. Rent: When can a tenant withhold rent? This will depend on:

    • the type of repair and habitability problems that qualify for rent withholding
    • the type of notice you must give the landlord and the amount of time the landlord has to fix the problem before you can withhold rent
    • the limit on how much rent you may withhold and how often you can use a particular remedy
    • any other conditions that apply before you can withhold rent, such as a requirement that you pay rent into an escrow account

    When can a landlord raise rent? Generally, at the expiration of a lease or after one month on a month-to-month tenancy. The landlord must give timely notice to the tenant before the rent can be raised. The landlord cannot raise the rent in retaliation for a valid complaint.

  4. Evictions: When can a landlord evict a tenant? For nonpayment of rent and for misconduct during the rental period. What procedures must be followed? Timely notice must be given that the landlord intends to evict through court proceedings.

  5. Military Tenants: What protections are you entitled to under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act? How do these differ from those involving civilian tenants? Military tenants may break leases if they are transferred pursuant to military orders. They must give proper notice and must meet other requirements contained in the lease agreement. A landlord who fails to comply with certain requirements of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act may face civil and criminal penalties.

  6. Court Action: What courts have jurisdiction over the foregoing issues? What does it cost to litigate? Can a party to a lease agreement be awarded costs and legal fees if they win in court? These are questions to ask your lawyer.

The foregoing list does not cover all of the issues that may arise from renting a residence.

Mr. Werner is able to assist you should any of these issues arise in the course of you renting a residence either as a landlord or tenant.