Landlord-Tenant Questions & Answers

Where Can I Find the Statutes that Control Colorado Landlord-Tenant Law

Most of Colorado’s landlord/tenant law is laid out in Titles 13 and 38 of the Revised Statutes:

May I Terminate my Lease Because of the Disaster?

Colorado law allows a landlord to terminate a lease if there is damage as a result of a catastrophe. C.R.S. 38-12-503(6)(a).

Tenants may be able to break their lease if the landlord fails to make repairs within a reasonable time. C.R.S. 38-12-507. However, tenants should exercise extreme caution and seek legal advice before pursuing this option, as this issue may have to be brought to court before a tenant is released from his/her lease obligation.

What if Repairs are not Being Made in a Timely Fashion?

The Warranty of Habitability provides protection to the tenant when living conditions in a rental property are deemed uninhabitable. A breach of the Warranty of Habitability exists when the following conditions occur:

  1. Conditions in the dwelling become materially dangerous or hazardous to a tenant’s life, health, or safety;
  2. The landlord has failed to cure within a reasonable time; and
  3. The landlord has received written notice of the condition by the tenant.

C.R.S. § 38-12-503(2).  Colorado law provides a list of when a residential dwelling is deemed uninhabitable. C.R.S. § 38-12-505.

What constitutes a reasonable time for making repairs is based on the surrounding facts and circumstances. In the current circumstances, where there is a high demand for repair/flood restoration services, it may take longer to get the repairs made. However, a landlord would be wise to keep a record of all attempts to contact contractors so that he/she can demonstrate his/her efforts.

Ideally, the landlord and tenant could negotiate between themselves and come up with an agreement on terminating the lease. This agreement should be in writing and signed by all parties. If negotiating is unsuccessful, mediation services are a good option for resolving the dispute. The following cities have community mediation services available to landlords and tenants:

How Will Repairs be Made and Who is Responsible?

First, you should always check your lease to determine if there is any applicable language regarding who is responsible for maintaining and repairing the premises. You should also check to see if there is flood insurance on the property, which may cover repairs.

The tenant should provide a written list of the needed repairs to the landlord, and request that the repairs be made by a certain date within a reasonable timeframe. Tenants should make an effort to cooperate with the completion of any repair work by allowing access to the property. If the tenant prevents repairs from being done, he/she may assume some responsibility for any damages that result.

Assistance for tenants is available through FEMA. Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary, and functional are available. See the FEMA section of this manual for more information.

During a flood cleanup, it is important to protect the indoor air quality by removing contaminated materials and reducing moisture and humidity. Standing water and wet materials are a breeding ground for microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and mold. They can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions, and continue to damage materials long after the flood is over. For Boulder-area resources about what to look for, how to clean up, and a list of professionals who can help, the Boulder County Flood site has a list of visit Indoor Air Quality resources.

If the Premises are Totally Unusable Because of the Disaster, do I Have to Permanently Move Out Even Though I Want to Stay?

If the dwelling unit is completely destroyed, the landlord may terminate the lease without further liability to the tenant. C.R.S. § 8-12-503(6)(a).

Security deposits must be returned within 30 days (60 days if specified in the lease), and must specify in writing any deductions from the deposit. If these requirements are not met, the landlord must return the entire deposit.  The landlord must provide the tenant with a written statement that lists the exact reasons for retention of any portion of the security deposit.  If a landlord willfully fails to provide such a statement, the landlord will be liable for triple the amount of the deposit, as long as the tenant has provided written notice seven days prior to filing an action for triple damages.

Who Pays for Alternate Housing if a Tenant is Displaced?

Colorado law does not adequately address who should pay for temporary housing. It is best for landlords and tenants to negotiate this issue between themselves. Mediation is also an option for settling a dispute on this issue. Seeking legal advice to resolve issues around alternate accommodations is another option.

FEMA may provide reimbursement for temporary housing. Renters can apply for assistance by calling 1-800-621-3362. See the FEMA section of this manual for more information.

What Kind of Federal Assistance is Available to Renters?

Rental payments for temporary housing is available for those whose homes are unlivable. Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters. Assistance may be extended, if requested, after the initial period, based on a review of the individual applicant’s requirements.

Grants are available for home repairs and replacement of essential household items that are not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary, and functional.

Grants are also available to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation, and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state, and charitable sources.

The Small Business Administration also has low-interest loans to help cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans are available for up to $200,000 for a primary residence and up to $40,000 for personal property (including renter’s losses). Loans of up to $2 million are also available for business property losses that are not fully compensated by insurance.

If the Dwelling is Partially Unusable Because of the Disaster and I Don’t Want to Permanently Move Out, Can my Rent be Partially Abated?

Colorado law does not explicitly permit an offset of rent for Warranty of Habitability issues. If the tenant does not pay rent, the landlord could move to terminate the lease for non-payment. If the tenant has provided written notice of issues to the landlord, the tenant may be able to raise Warranty of Habitability violations as a defense, but it would be up to the Court to determine fair market value of the property. C.R.S. § 38-12-507(c), (d).  The best course of action is to continue paying the full amount of your rent, and seek legal advice from an attorney.

If the dwelling is uninhabitable, neither a tenant nor a landlord is allowed to modify the warranty of habitability to allow a tenant to reside in an uninhabitable dwelling. C.R.S. § 8-12-503(5).

My Personal Belongings were Destroyed. What Kind of Help Can I Get?

It is the renter’s responsibility to maintain renter’s insurance for damage to personal property. If there is damage, the tenant should contact his/her insurance company. If there is no insurance coverage, a claim can be made with FEMA if the tenant is in a federal disaster county. You can find updated information on which counties are included in the disaster declaration at the FEMA website.

I am a Tenant in Public Housing. What are My Rights?

A tenant in public housing has the same basic rights as with a private landlord. However, if the property is condemned or not livable, the Housing Authority or Public Housing Agency may have a duty and responsibility to move the tenant to comparable housing at the PHA’s expense.

I am receiving a Section 8 Housing Voucher. What are My Rights?

A tenant who receives federal housing assistance under Section 8 has the same basic rights as tenants with a private landlord. However, the tenant should be in contact with his/her housing coordinator to ensure that the Section 8 voucher is transferred to a new property. If the existing lease is not rescinded, the tenant risks losing the housing voucher if he/she moves without rescinding the lease or getting approval from the Section 8 provider.

Do I Have to Keep Paying Rent to My Landlord While I am not Living at My House or Apartment?

If your lease sets out specific guidelines for rent abatement, you must abide by those terms. If your lease is silent on rent abatement, you should talk to your landlord to see if you can reach an agreement regarding partial abatement. If you do reach an agreement, be sure to get it in writing.

What Can Happen and What Should I Do if I Cannot Pay Rent on My Dwelling Because of Job or Salary Interruptions Following the Disaster?

First, check your lease. There may be a provision addressing this issue.

You can be evicted for not paying rent under Colorado’s Forcible Entry and Detainer statutes, located in Title 13, Article 40 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Such an eviction can harm both your credit rating and your future housing prospects.

You should first try to contact your landlord or property manager and let them know your situation. You may be able to work out a payment arrangement. If you are able to come to an agreement, be sure to get it in writing.

How Can I Pay Rent if I Wanted to?

Be sure to have your rent money saved up. If you cannot find your landlord then be sure not to spend your rent money on anything else.

Always be sure to obtain a rent receipt for each and every rent payment.

How Do I Contact My Landlord?

This depends. Cellular phone networks may go down in a disaster area.

If you and your landlord are in close proximity you may be able to walk or drive to your landlord.
People often have to leave a disaster area. If you cannot find your landlord then you may need to rely upon the landlord’s other tenants, friends and family for help in locating the landlord. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, may also help you locate your landlord.

Government agencies and charities, such as the Red Cross often maintain lists of people they have helped. You may be able to obtain contact information from, or arrange contact through, these organizations.

Can My Landlord Rent My Home or Apartment to Someone Else While I am Gone?

Usually not.

Colorado law does set out a procedure by which a landlord can establish that a tenant has abandoned the property. If the landlord follows the steps in the statute, the landlord may remove or exclude a tenant from the property. The tenant must have abandoned the property, as evidenced by one of the following: (1) returning the keys; (2) substantially removing the tenant’s personal property; (3) giving notice of abandonment; or (4) an extended absence of the tenant while rent remains unpaid. C.R.S. § 8-12-510. The actions of the tenant must have caused a reasonable person to believe that the tenant had permanently surrendered possession of the dwelling unit.

My Landlord Told Me to Move Out the Next Day Because He Wants the Dwelling for His Daughter Who Lost Her Home in the Disaster. He Told Me if I Didn’t Move Out, He Would Change the Locks. Do I Have to Move Out?

No. A disaster does not affect the termination of a lease. Additionally, a landlord may not remove a tenant from a dwelling without resorting to court process. C.R.S. § 38-12-510. If the landlord interferes with the tenant’s possession of the property by shutting off utility services, changing the locks, or forcibly removing the tenant from the property, a tenant may be able to sue the landlord under Colorado law. C.R.S. § 13-40-123.  The tenant may seek damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.

Colorado criminal law also prohibits landlords from interfering with a residential tenant’s utility service. C.R.S. § 18-4-505, 506. Local law enforcement is often reluctant to intervene in these sorts of situations. Local law enforcement may claim this is a civil matter and they cannot become involved. If they claim this, inform them of the criminal offenses of first and second-degree tampering. These offenses are listed in the C.R.S. § 18-4-505 and 506. These statutes consider utility interference a crime.

What Should I Do if I am Served with an Eviction Lawsuit?

There will be a date and time on the front page of the court papers. Be sure to appear in the court at that day and time. Do not take anyone’s word that the lawsuit will be dismissed; always go to every court appearance.

You may wish to consult a lawyer. You may not have much time between when you are served the court papers and when you are scheduled to go to court. If you are low-income, you may want to contact one of the nearby offices of Colorado Legal Services.

How Can I Recover My Personal Property from the Least Premises?

Government officials may seal off or limit access to disaster areas. Once access is permitted, law enforcement may set up one or more checkpoints to control entry. You may need to bring some form of identification or proof of residency with you to the checkpoint before law enforcement will permit you to enter.

May I Recover Damages Against My Landlord for Injuries or Property Damage I Suffered as a Result of the Disaster?

Usually not. Generally, your belongings are insured only if you have renter’s insurance. Contact your insurance company to file a claim. If you register with FEMA, some losses may be covered by FEMA’s Individual and Household Plan.

It is also important to read a prospective renter’s policy very carefully as they are all different in regard to what is and is not a covered loss. If you have a specific item of great value that you would want covered, it would be advisable to list that item specifically in the policy to be certain that it is covered in the event of loss or theft. It is also important to know if the renter’s policy will cover damage due to flood, or whether you may require an additional policy to cover such losses.

Depending on the landlord’s actions, you may have grounds to recover damages from your landlord.  C.R.S. § 13-40-123.

I Have Suffered Personal Injuries or Loss or Damage to My Personal Belongings from the Disaster. May I Recover Damages Against My Landlord or the Previous Homeowner if They Knew About the Possibility of Flooding and Failed to Inform Me?

No, it is your responsibility to protect yourself from any potential damage from flooding.

Can I Recover Damages Against My Landlord or the Previous Homeowner if They Didn’t Know About the Possibility of Flooding?

No. Again, it would be your duty to protect yourself from any potential damage from flooding.

All My Personal Belongings were Destroyed when the Roof Fell in on the Place I Rent. What Help Can I Get from My Insurance Company?

Contact your insurance agent. If you have notified your landlord of the damaged or defective roof prior to the roof falling in, and the landlord made no attempt to repair the damage, there may be a cause of action against the landlord for damages incurred by his/her failure to provide a secure premise.

What Should I Do if I Do not Have Insurance on My Personal Belongings?

You will have to replace your belongings yourself. You may be able to get assistance from voluntary organizations who are providing support services. Please contact your local emergency management office for more information on support services being provided. Contact information for your local Emergency Management Director in Colorado can be found at: http://www.coemergency.com/p/local-info-sources.html.

If My Personal Belongings are Lost or Damaged as a Result of the Flood, Can I Recover from My Landlord Under the Landlord’s Hazard Insurance Policy?

Not usually. Renter’s insurance costs about as much as basic cable and is a good investment for anyone who rents.

Is Flood Damage Covered Under My Insurance Policy?

Check your insurance policy or contact your insurance agent.

May I Sue the Local, State, or Federal Government for Damages Caused by the Disaster?

Usually not. Sovereign immunity protects federal, state and local governments from most such lawsuits.