A residential landlord in Colorado must follow the Colorado eviction process to expel a tenant for nonpayment of rent or for a material violation of the rental agreement. A landlord who engages in any conduct outside the judicial process such as locking out the tenant, terminating essential services or utilities, taking the tenant’s personal belongings or threatening the tenant may be liable to the tenant for any damages incurred.
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Reasons for Eviction
Unless the lease term has expired, the landlord needs a valid reason to evict the tenant. These include the following:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Substantial violation of a provison in the lease such as having unauthorized persons living on the premises or using the property for an unauthorized purpose
- Creating a chronic nuisance that affects the health and safety of other tenants or of other people in the community
- Committing criminal acts on the premises
The Colorado eviction process begins with an appropriate notice or demand to the tenant. A Colorado eviction notice is also referred to as a 3-Day Notice or Demand for Compliance or Right to Possession.
The Colorado eviction notice must state the specific reason for the eviction, the specific amount due if rent has not been paid, the date when compliance must be performed, and how service of the notice was achieved. The rental property’s address must be identified and the notice signed by the landlord or landlord’ s representative.
The Colorado eviction notice may only state that the tenant must vacate without the option of compliance by a certain date in situations where the tenant’s actions are criminal or have substantially affected the health and safety of others. Also, if the tenant was previously served with Demand for Compliance and complied but is being served again for the same breach or violation, the landlord need not offer compliance as an alternative to surrendering the property.
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Month-to Month Tenancy
Should the lease term expire in a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord must give 7 days notice to vacate before the end of the month and state that the tenancy expires no earlier than the final day of the rental month. This notice period used to be 10 days but has been shortened to 7 days as of the 2012 Colorado landlord tenant law changes.
If the lease expires pursuant to a specific termination date with no conditions for extending it or transforming it into a month-to-month lease, no notice need be given to the tenant.
Service of Notice
The Demand for Compliance must be served on the tenant in either of the following ways:
- Personal service on the tenant
- Personal service on the tenant’s family member who is at least 16 years of age
- Service at the tenant’s place of business or with the tenant’s secretary or assistant
- By leaving the notice in a conspicuous place and mailing it
If the notice needs to be left on the premises or posted on the front door, the notice period begins the day after the posting.
Summons and Complaint
Should the tenant refuse to comply, the next step according to Colorado eviction law is for the landlord to file and serve a Summons and Complaint in Forcible Entry and Detainer. A process server is required for this service. The summons will contain the date and time of a return hearing, usually 5 to 10 days after the filing. If service is by posting the summons and complaint, it must be accomplished at least 7 days before the date for the return hearing.
The tenant is advised in the summons that he or she must pay a filing fee and file an answer on or before the time of the return date or face a default judgment. The answer must be served on the landlord or landlord’s attorney, if any.
The tenant must specifically request a jury trial or a court trial will be scheduled. If the tenant alleges the landlord breached his or her obligations under the lease terms or state law as a defense to the nonpayment of rent, the tenant must deposit with the court the rent that is due less any costs associated with the landlord’s breach. An affidavit is also required to support the amount needed by the tenant to deposit.
The Return Date indicated on the summons is a device to speed the eviction process if the tenant fails to file an answer or to terminate the process if the landlord fails to appear. The judge may choose to conduct the eviction hearing at this time and to consider the arguments and evidence of both parties, but typically the court will set another date for trial within 5 days.
If the tenant does not appear or does not file an answer, the court can issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord and award possession.
If the tenant requested a jury trial, one will be held if the tenant deposited jury fees. Generally, a court trial is held since an attorney will need to be retained and especially if the issues are simple.
At the hearing, the landlord should provide copies of the rental agreement and evidence of nonpayment of the rent, material noncompliance with a lease provision, or that the tenant has committed criminal acts or created a substantial nuisance.
Defenses to a Colorado Eviction
There are a number of defenses available to a tenant in a Colorado eviction proceeding, which must be asserted in the written answer. These include the following:
- The landlord failed to repair a dangerous condition such as a defective electrical or gas system.
- The landlord breached the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment of the premises by damaging the property, allowing a nuisance created by another tenant to continue, oby partially obstructing access to the property or some other activity.
- Failure of the landlord to keep common areas safe.
- The eviction is in retaliation for complaining about the unit’s condition.
- The eviciton is based on a tenant’s legally protected status such as race, religion, national origin, creed, family status or disability.
If there is defective condition or some other repair that is making the premises unliveable, the landlord must have been given 72 hours to remedy the defect. If this is proved, the tenant is entitled to a full refund of the deposit and a rent rebate.
Writ of Restitution
If the landlord prevails or is given a default judgment, the landlord must request a Writ of Restitution, which can obtained the same day as the judgment and is given to the sheriff for service and execution. Depending on the county, the sheriff may or may not give the tenant 24-hour notice to vacate.