This Rental Property Handbook is not presented as legal advice and is not a legal document, but rather is intended to serve as a general guide to Colorado landlord/tenant law. This Handbook is not intended to be used as a substitute for seeking advice from an attorney. It is presented as a summary of current State of Colorado and City of Longmont residential landlord/tenant law. When a specific Colorado law is cited, it is from the Colorado Revised Statutes, “C.R.S.” The most up-to-date latest version of the C.R.S. can be accessed at www.leg.state.co.us. The information contained in this Handbook may change at any time and there is no promise that this information is current.
If you can not afford legal counsel, the Boulder County Legal Services may be able to help you. Call 303-449-7575 for further information (you must qualify financially). If the problem is not of a legal nature, but a possible building code infraction, contact the Longmont Code Enforcement office at 303-651-8357.
For more information or questions please call Community and Neighborhood Resources at 303-651-8444.
Download the 2019 English Version of the Rental Property Handbook - Revised September 9, 2019.
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What is a lease?
A lease is a contract – that is, a legally binding agreement - between the landlord and tenant(s), granting the tenant exclusive use of the landlord’s property for a given period of time in exchange for rent.
A lease can either be written (written is always preferable) or can be implied by the actions of the parties. For example, if someone rents a house without executing a written lease with the landlord, the lease is implied by the landlord accepting rent and allowing the tenant to remain in the property, these actions implying that they have an agreement. The terms of that agreement are the laws, ordinances, and codes that apply to that relationship and that property. IT IS ALWAYS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF BOTH THE LANDLORD AND THE TENANT TO HAVE A WRITTEN LEASE.
What’s in a lease?
In a lease, a landlord and tenant agree to the terms, or rules, that will be in effect during the time that the tenant uses the landlord’s property. Such terms may include, for example, the amount of rent; the length of time the tenant can live in the landlord’s property (the “term of possession”); the amount of the security deposit; property maintenance responsibilities of the tenant and/or landlord; and other rules that describe the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant.
NOTE:Because a lease is typically written by the landlord, and the tenant typically must accept the terms of the lease as written by the landlord (that is, on a take-it-or-leave it basis, without the ability to negotiate terms), ambiguities in the lease, or provisions that are onerous or that unconscionably favor the landlord’s rights over the tenant’s, are usually construed by the courts in favor of the tenant.
For written leases, under Colorado law, within seven days of the date the tenant signs the lease the landlord must provide the tenant with a copy of the lease signed by both the landlord and the tenant, either electronically or, if requested by the tenant, in a paper copy. C.R.S. 38-12-801
What is a Security Deposit - Also called a damage deposit, a security deposit is a tenant’s advance payment of money to the landlord to secure against future lease violations by the tenant, including nonpayment of rent and property damage beyond ordinary wear and tear. The amount of the security deposit should be written into the lease. A landlord might also require a pet deposit if pets are allowed. When the term deposit is used, it always means that the amount of the deposit is refundable if no damages occur. Residential security deposits are regulated by C.R.S. §38-12-101 et seq. There is no statutory regulation of commercial security deposits.
Reasons to Withhold a Security Deposit
A landlord may keep all, or a portion, of the security deposit for any of the following reasons:
- Unpaid rent owed by the tenant
- Unpaid utility bills
- Cleaning required to restore the rental to the condition it was in when the tenant moved in
- Cleaning services such as a professional rug shampoo, agreed to under the lease
- Payment for damages to the rental beyond “normal wear and tear”
- Any other breach of the lease causing financial damage to the landlord
When repairs and/or maintenance are needed, the tenant should double check the lease to confirm whether it is the landlord or the tenant who is responsible for making those repairs or performing that maintenance.
If the lease does not address responsibility for repairs and maintenance, and the type of repairs or maintenance needed fall outside those duties required of the landlord by law, it is presumed that is the repairs and maintenance are the responsibility of the tenant.
If, under the lease, a binding agreement, or some other legal duty, the landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance, and a repair needs to be made, the tenant should first contact the landlord. If the landlord does not act promptly, the tenant should:
- Present a written list of the needed repairs to the landlord, requesting that they be made by a certain date;
- Offer to help accommodate the landlord’s schedule by arranging to be home when the repair person arrives;
- Keep a copy of any notes, letters or emails to or from the landlord;
- Follow up verbal agreements with the landlord with a letter or email confirming the agreement;
- Allow the landlord a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs; and
- Send the landlord a written reminder if the repairs are not made in a reasonable amount of time.
This section has been borrowed from a list of recommendations prepared by the City of Boulder Community Mediation Service. These suggestions are based on past experience and common sense and are not intended to substitute for legal advice.
Many roommates enter into their living-together relationships with high hopes and positive expectations. Especially if roommates are also friends, they may believe that everything will go smoothly and that all they need is "an understanding" between them. However, people change and circumstances change - best friends do not always make the best roommates.
It is wise to treat the mechanics of house sharing as a business relationship in order to protect the personal relationships between roommates.
Forming a New Household - Often, the basis of disputes is poor communication or a misunderstanding of mutual expectations between roommates. To minimize misconceptions and false expectations, we recommend:
Communication - Potential roommates should thoroughly discuss their needs, expectations and the general ground rules they each wish to establish in a shared household PRIOR to signing a lease and moving in together. This applies equally to a situation where a new roommate moves into an established household.
Contract - Roommates should draw up and sign a Roommate Agreement, which spells out their rights and obligations to each other, and including the following information: (See page 68 of this Handbook, Appendix H, for a sample Roommate Agreement)
- Date of agreement
- Names of roommates
- Address of rental property
- Amount or percentage of rent and utilities to be paid by each roommate
- Total amount of security deposit paid and portion of that deposit paid by each roommate
- Agreement that each roommate will pay for damages they cause or damages caused by their guests
- Agreement by all roommates that, if a roommate moves out prior to the end of the lease term, he or she will continue to pay their share of the rent for the lease term unless the landlord agrees to allow a replacement tenant
- Agreement about who will be responsible for finding, interviewing and deciding on new roommates
- Agreement that each roommate will pay a specific share of the cost of any repairs, improvements or other costs incurred in the operation of the household or due under the lease
- Other agreements the roommates think appropriate
- Signature of every roommate
What landlords need to know about Assistance Animals
The Federal Fair Housing Act and the American with Disabilities act requires that applicants and tenants with disabilities be allowed “reasonable accommodation” as needed to have full use and enjoyment of their house. Allowing tenants (and their guests who have disabilities) to be accompanied by their service animals is a reasonable accommodation to housing policy and practice.
What is an Assistance Animal?
There are two types of Assistance Animals: service animals, which perform a task for a disabled person, and emotional support animals (also called companion animals), which help a person with a disability enjoy their living environment in the same way a non-disabled person would. The most common
Service animals are dogs (miniature horses may also be service animals). A service dog may be any breed, any size, or any weight. Some - but not all - wear special collars and harnesses. Some - but not all - are licensed or certified and/or have ID papers. However, there is no legal requirement for assistance animals to be visibly identified or to have documentation.
Who needs an Assistance Animal?
Some disabled people require the assistance of an animal because of their disability. A person is considered to be disabled if he/she has a sensory, mental, or physical condition that memory that substantially limits one or more major life activities (i.e., walking seeing, working, etc.)
What do Assistant Animals do?
A service animal helps a person who has a mobility or health disability with specific tasks. Duties of a service dog may include carrying, fetching, opening doors, ringing doorbells, activating elevator buttons, steadying a person while walking etc. They may also assist a person with a seizure disorder or be used as travel tool by someone who is legally blind. A service animal can only be a dog or a miniature horse.
A companion animal, also known as an emotional support animal, assists people with psychological disabilities. Emotional support animals can help alleviate conditions such as anxiety, depression, stress, and difficulties with social interactions, thereby allowing tenants to live independently and fully use their living environment. An emotional support animal can be any species but usually is a cat or a dog. Emotional support animals are not always trained to perform tasks.
It is important for landlord to understand the rights of a disabled tenant to the help of a service or support animal. According to a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) annual report, the number one reason for complaints to HUD is disability issues, accounting for 58% of all complaints, with many of these complaints relating specifically to animals.
What is the difference between an Assistance Animal and a pet?
Assistance animals are not considered to be pets but are more analogous to a medical appliance. The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to modify “no pet policies” to permit the use of an assistance animal by an individual with a disability. Pet deposits, pet rent, or other pet fees cannot be charged for assistance animals. A landlord can charge a general security deposit, which is charged to ALL tenants. The tenant remains liable, though, for any damage actually caused by the assistance animal, in the same way that any tenant is liable for damage caused to a rental unit by residents or guests.
Pay Rent and Utility Bills on Time
A tenant has a responsibility to pay the rent and other bills, as agreed to in the lease, on time. Late rent payment, even if late by only a day, is grounds for eviction. Keep a record and get receipts from the landlord for any money paid, whether for rent, deposits, repairs, or for anything else. Never pay in cash when you can pay with a personal check or money order. If you must pay in cash, always get a receipt.
If you find that you will not be able to pay your rent or utility bills on time, immediately contact the landlord and/or the utility company and explain your situation. Communicate and try to work out a payment arrangement acceptable to everyone. However, never agree to a financial commitment if you know you will have a problem meeting the obligation. Once you agree to a payment arrangement, keep your word. Problems become compounded when a tenant does not communicate promptly with the landlord or utility company, allowing the rent or utility bills to accrue late payment penalties and interest and perhaps making it impossible for the tenant to catch up financially.
Comply with Terms of Lease
In signing the lease, you entered into a binding contract. If you do not comply with its terms you may be evicted. If you do have an unforeseen change in circumstances, discuss a possible lease modification rather than violate the lease and risk an angry landlord or eviction.
Responsibility to Repair and Maintain the Rental
Under Colorado law, a landlord has a responsibility to repair the rental property during the lease term under the following circumstances:
- The lease contains a specific agreement that specifies that the landlord is responsible for repairing or maintaining the rental
- A residential rental is uninhabitable or unfit for human habitation, (See C.R.S. §§38-12-503 (a)(I)).
- A residential rental is in a condition that materially interferes with the tenant’s life, health, or safety (See C.R.S. §§38-12-503(a)(II)).
- There is a hazardous condition caused by gas-burning equipment. (See C.R.S. §38-12-104).
- The repairs are needed in common areas of multi-unit properties, like parking lots, sidewalks, stairways and hallways, to keep them safe. A landlord must exercise reasonable care to protect against known dangers. (See C.R.S. §13-21-115).
- The repair or maintenance is required in order to conform to the City of Longmont Property Maintenance Code. (See following Handbook for more information).