A Colorado residential lease agreement sets forth the rights, duties, notices, disclosure obligations and procedures in a landlord/tenant relationship. You will want your tenants to be fully aware of and to understand the terms of the lease and what is expected of you and of them. If your rental agreement is to be for 30 days or more, it must be in writing to be enforceable.
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All residential leases must contain some necessary provisions but you can also add your own discretionary terms so long as they do not alter or waive certain rights and obligations established by law or public policy.
As a landlord, you cannot refuse to rent to someone on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or familial status. Some local ordinances do allow you to refuse to rent based on marital status.
Landlords also may not undertake unilateral actions to force a tenant to vacate such as by changing the locks, failing to provide essential services, threatening the tenant or entering repeatedly without notice and without just cause.
All landlords must provide a fit and habitable residence under a warranty of habitability that applies to all leases. Inclusion of the following obligations in the lease are recommended:
- Running water including reasonable amounts of hot water
- Functioning sewer system
- Lighting and heating
- Secure windows and locks on exterior doors
- Gas and plumbing
- Trash receptacles
- Premises that is free of rodent infestation
- Common areas that are clean and free of trash
Tenants have a duty to:
- Comply with health, safety and housing codes
- Obey the law
- Keep premises clean and sanitary and perform minor repairs as needed
- Not damage or alter fixtures on any part of the premises
- Use all appliances reasonably
- Dispose of trash
- Refrain from disturbing other tenants
- Promptly notify landlord if premises becomes uninhabitable
Residential Lease Provisions
The following are required as well as suggested provisions for your Colorado residential lease agreement:
- Name of landlord and property manager who is authorized to manage the property, address where rent is to be paid as well as where notices and other legal documents may be served and where request for repairs are to be directed
- Names of the tenants and other occupants
- Description of the premises
- Term of the lease—weekly, monthly, yearly or other
- Amount of rent, due date, and grace period before a late fee may be imposed
- Returned check fees
- Security deposit—no limits, no interest required unless you are in certain cities, acknowledge receipt, return within 30 days of vacating unit or send written statement with specific reasons for withholding it—suggest you have a mutual inspection of the premises shortly after tenant vacates
- Signed, separate statement of the premises’ move-in condition including list of current damages to be given to tenant and signed by tenant after inspecting premises (not required but recommended)
- Obligations of landlord regarding repairs and maintenance and of services provided as indicated above
- Obligations of tenant including payment of expenses and attorney’s fees if landlord has to enforce provisions of this lease
- Responsibility for utilities
- Major appliances that are being provided
- No commercial, business or unlawful use of premises by tenant or conduct that constitutes a nuisance including use for purposes of prostitution, activity involving illegal drugs
- Pet clause—a deposit may be nonrefundable. No deposit is permitted for service animals with some exceptions
- Subletting clause
- Right of entry by landlord to make repairs, inspect and show to future tenants or purchasers or if the tenant has been causing a disturbance or is otherwise violating the lease—must be done by reasonable means and reasonable advance notice, though the landlord may enter immediately if it is an emergency that threatens the safety of tenants
- Notices regarding termination for nonpayment of rent, other lease violations
- Notice for increasing rent—30 days if a monthly (may not be for a discriminatory or retaliatory purpose)
- Disclosure of the presence of any lead-based paint or hazards on the property for rental property built before 1978—both landlord and tenant must sign an EPA-approved disclosure form and the tenant provided an EPA pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
- Automatic renewal provision unless tenant gives notice to vacate 30-days before the lease expires—notify tenant before the 30-days of the renewal provision and if the tenant wishes to remain
Prohibited Lease Terms
Standard lease agreements may not include some provisions that you will want to have or which more fully explain the obligations of your tenant. However, there are terms that are prohibited by law and can lead to your having to pay damages if you try to enforce them. Some prohibited lease terms include:
- Waiver of right to sue landlord for neglecting duties or obligations
- Taking a lien or security interest on the tenant’s personal property
- Allowing entry at any time without notice or prior arrangements
- Prohibition on joining a tenant’s union
- Terminating the lease without notice or without court order
- Waiver of any section of the law regarding security deposits
- Requiring tenant to vacate if a victim of domestic violence
Landlords may require a security deposit in whatever amount though most are one or two months’ rent. You do not have to deposit it in an interest bearing account where the interest is paid to the tenant but you may want to advise the tenant that any interest earned goes to the landlord. If you live in certain cities, however, such as Boulder, then you will have to pay interest to the tenant.
Although a security deposit is generally a safeguard to pay for damages caused by the tenant in excess of ordinary wear and tear, you may use the deposit for other matters including:
- Unpaid rent
- Cleaning that was the responsibility of tenant
- Unpaid utilities that was the responsibility of tenant
- Cost of re-letting if tenant vacated before expiration of lease or without giving notice
- Late charges
- Returned check fees if rent check was insufficient at any time during the tenancy and was unpaid
- Storing abandoned personal property of tenant
The security deposit is to be returned to the tenant within 30-days of vacating the unit unless you have a different time specified in the terms, but no more than 60-days. If any portion is to be withheld, then provide an itemized list of the damages and the costs of repair. It is recommended that you have a mutual inspection of the premises to review possible damages. If the damages or other expenses are not covered by the deposit, you can demand that the tenant cover the unpaid costs or bring court action to collect.
Fixed term leases expire naturally but may be renewed automatically if you have an automatic renewal provision or simply accept rent for the periods following the lease’s expiration. In a monthly lease, either tenant or landlord can give 10-days’ notice to end the lease for any or no cause. Most leases have a 30-day notice provision. If it is served improperly or is late, the tenancy holds over for another month.
If the tenant fails to pay rent on time, you can give a 3-Day Demand for Compliance or Possession, which begins the day after the notice is posted in a conspicuous place. A written eviction notice should be mailed to the tenant immediately. A 3-Day Notice to Quit is to follow. This notice may also be used for:
- Violation of a lease term
- Having unauthorized tenants or pets
- Subletting without consent
- Damage to the premises
- Illegal or unauthorized commercial activity on the premises
- Disturbing other tenants
Your 3-day notice can be conditional, meaning the tenant can cure or remedy the violation within this time or vacate the apartment. If the violation is a repeat one or involves serious violations of the law, then advise the tenant it is not a conditional notice and that the tenant must vacate within this time or face eviction proceedings.
Military Duty Exception
Under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, a tenant may break a lease so long as written notice of at least 30-days is given along with a copy of the deployment or service orders or a signed confirmation from the base commander or other authorized military officer.
Domestic Violence and Abuse Exception
A tenant or tenant’s child who is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault may vacate the leased unit before the expiration of the lease so long as an order of protection has been obtained or a police report of such an incident in the past 60-days, and there is an imminent threat to the tenant or child if the tenant remains on the premises from the person who is the subject of the order. Written notice must be given to you with the date the tenant wishes to vacate. The tenant is responsible for the rent owed the month when the tenancy ends that must be paid within 90 days and may not have the security deposit returned until the rent is totally paid. Any part or all of the deposit may be used for the unpaid rent amount if the tenant consents or does not pay within the 90-days.
No Withholding and Deducting by Tenant
Colorado law has no provisions allowing a tenant to withhold any portion of the rent if the landlord was requested in writing to make certain repairs and failed to do so after a reasonable time. The tenant may bring a court action to diminish the rent based on the current condition of the premises. The repairs to be made must be within the landlord’s obligation to perform or are in violation of the applicable housing or building codes.
For more severe repairs that are not being made, the tenant could contact a housing inspector and if the condition violates the housing code, the landlord must perform the repairs within a reasonable time or enforcement actions may be taken.
Colorado residential lease agreements should be thorough and include the notice requirements, procedures for termination and return of security deposits and other obligations mandated by law or that you wish to include that are not contrary to law. Be sure that your lease complies with all local ordinances as well that may deviate from the standard provisions found in other Colorado lease agreements.