information has been compiled to help landlord/tenants avoid or resolve
rental-housing issues. This information should not be substituted for legal
advice from an attorney.
The Lease | Written Leases | Verbal Leases | Joint & Several Liabilities | Roommate Problems |
Substantial Violations | Move-In Day | Termination of the Lease | The Eviction Process |
Security Deposits | Return of Security Deposits | Repairs and Maintenance | Landlord's Entry |
A lease (a written rental agreement)
is a legally binding contract between a landlord and tenant that grants a
tenant possession and use of the landlord’s property for a given period of
time. A lease is intended to protect both the landlord and the tenant. Leases
can be set for any length of time, but most are for six months or one year. The
lease sets forth provisions that may include but are not limited to some of the
following: identification of the leased property, number of persons who will
reside in the unit, security deposit, rent amount, rent due date, late penalty
fee, utility responsibilities, yard care, trash removal, repair responsibility,
subleasing, whether pets are allowed, and other rules governing tenancy. A
lease is the best evidence of the specific rights and responsibilities for both
the landlord and the tenant. A lease must be signed by both the landlord and
the tenant. If there is something in the lease that the landlord/tenant does
not understand or agree with, do not sign it until the issue is resolved. Once
a lease is signed, there is no grace period to back out of the lease and both
the landlord and tenant are bound to it. In order to avoid landlord/tenant
disputes, make sure that both parties have read and understand the lease
Be alert to clauses in a written
lease that require the tenant to give up certain rights:
• A clause that
would allow the landlord to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent without a
“three day notice”. Colorado law requires a “three day notice”; neither the
tenant or landlord can waive three day notices.
• Requirement that the
tenant give up the security deposit automatically.
• A statement that the
tenant will not hold the landlord responsible for anything, including the
landlord’s acts of gross negligence.
• A provision allowing the landlord
to evict the tenant and sell the tenant’s property without going through the
• A waiver of the right to appeal a trial court’s decision
Oral leases for one year or less are
binding and enforceable. Oral agreements must be treated as a written lease
once a tenant has moved in or the exchange and acceptance of payment have been
made. Oral leases are harder to prove but they will stand up in a court of law.
Leases longer than one calendar year must be in writing to be enforced by the
More Than One Tenant: Joint and Several Liabilities
When more than one tenant signs a
lease for a particular residence, each tenant is responsible for all of the
conditions of that lease. This is called “joint and several liability.” If one
person does not pay the rent, the other tenants are liable for payment of that
person’s share or they are all subject to eviction for non-payment of rent. It
is up to the other tenants, not the landlord, to collect money from a
non-paying tenant. On the same note, if one tenant damages the premises, the
landlord may deduct the damages from all the tenants’ deposits or may choose to
deduct only from the tenant responsible for the damages. For self-protection,
joint tenants may execute a “Roommate Agreement” which will outline tenants’
obligations to each other which may include, but are not limited to, portion of
rent, responsibility for damages, division of payment for utilities, duration
of the rental period, responsibility for finding a replacement tenant upon
early termination and payment of rent until a replacement is found. A roommate
agreement is not binding on the landlord.
When problems arise in a roommate
situation where all tenants have signed the lease, eviction of one or more
roommates can only be done legally by the landlord. The landlord can serve the
tenant a “three day notice” and start the eviction procedures. If confusion
exists regarding legal rights and responsibilities by any of the roommates,
tenants should seek legal advice.
Colorado Law provides that every
lease contains an implied term that the tenant shall not commit a “substantial
violation” while in possession of the premises. A “substantial violation” means
any act that endangers the person or willfully and substantially endangers the
property of the landlord, any joint tenant or any other person living on or
near the property, or occurs on or near the premises and constitutes a violent
or drug-related felony. The commission of a substantial violation is a breach
of the lease and subjects the tenant to eviction.
Conditions on Move-in Day
Prior to moving in to the rental
property, a list of all existing damages and necessary cleaning should be
prepared and signed by both landlord and tenant. If either party is unavailable
or unwilling to do this, an uninvolved third party should witness the inventory
list and sign it. A copy should be provided to the missing landlord/tenant.
Accurate documentation and photographs of individual rooms and specific items
addressed should be kept for personal record.
Upon moving out, the tenant should
make an appointment with the landlord to accompany the landlord on a tour of
the premises, listing damages or necessary cleaning. The tenant and the
landlord should sign both copies of the list and keep a copy for their
records. (Return to top)
Termination of the Lease
Termination is the end of a tenancy
and occurs at the end of the lease term, or after a mutual agreement to
terminate prior to the end of the lease term.
Termination of a Six Month or Year Lease
If a lease has a date of termination
or a definite term and there is no mention of a requirement to give notice of
termination, the lease will expire and the tenant is responsible for complying
on the date stated. A landlord is under no obligation to automatically renew a
lease. If a lease states that notice must be given prior to the expiration,
notice must be given before the tenant is free from his/her obligations.
Many leases contain hold-over
clauses that allow the tenant to continue tenancy on a month-to-month basis,
following the expiration of the initial lease term. In a written lease, it is
possible that a landlord may require a certain number of days for notice. In
that case, that period would have to be complied with. Common practice requires
a thirty day notice; failure by either party may obligate both parties to
another month’s rent.
Termination of a Month-to-Month Lease
A month-to-month lease is a rental
agreement for a period of one month. Month-to-month agreements are
automatically renewed each month until otherwise terminated by the landlord or
the tenant. If a tenant was previously in a long term lease agreement and
remained a renter, then the lease would roll over to a month-to-month lease.
The terms and conditions of the long term lease may still be applicable on the
month-to-month unless written communication is signed by all parties. A tenant
may give written notice of intent to terminate any lease by mailing or
hand-delivering a copy to the landlord. A month-to-month written termination
must be given at least 10 days prior to the last day of the rental month which
has already been paid.There is an implied agreement in every lease of real
property that the landlord will refrain from acts that interfere with the
tenant’s rights for peaceful enjoyment of the premises.If the landlord breaches
that agreement by either action or the premises becoming legally uninhabitable,
the tenant may vacate the premises, terminate the lease, and owe no further
rent. Before the tenant moves out, the landlord must be given notice of the
problem and have reasonable time to remedy the situation. A tenant should get
legal advice from an attorney prior to vacating the lease. This should never be
attempted without first talking to an attorney.
The Eviction Process
An eviction occurs when the court
enters an order for the tenant to vacate the property. This order is
enforceable only by the Sheriff. It allows the Sheriff to monitor the removal
of the tenant, his/her property from the premises, and keep the peace. It is
never legal for a landlord to evict a tenant without a court order.
The proper eviction procedures are
1st Step Notice (Demand) to Vacate:
General eviction begins when the landlord gives a written demand to the tenant
to vacate (13-40-106). The written notice must be served upon the tenant three
days before the landlord can seek additional remedy in the courts, 13-40-104
(1)(d)-(e). Three days continually run and include Saturdays, Sundays, and
Holidays. It is not possible for a waiver of the three day notice to be
included in any written agreement 13-40-104(1) (d). The written notice to
vacate is used only when a tenant has failed to meet the obligation of the
The notice must contain:
• Specific grounds for the
landlord’s right to possession of the premises.
• Description of the
• Specific time to deliver
• Signature of the landlord, agent,
• Alternative acceptance of
rent payment (if applicable).
In the case of mobile home eviction
from a mobile home park for nonpayment of rent, 38-12-204(1) allows the tenant
five days to remove the mobile home after the written notice is served or
posted; there are no express requirements for the contents of this notice.
2nd Step Summons and Complaint in
Forcible Entry and Detainer: If the tenant has not vacated within three days,
the landlord can file with the court a Summons and Complaint in Forcible Entry
and Detainer (S.C.F.E.D.). Depending upon which court has jurisdiction and the
applicable statutes, it will either be District or County Court. At the time of
filing a (S.C.F.E.D.), the court will request a copy of the three day notice
(13-40-108/110/111). Service of the (S.C.F.E.D.) may be completed by either the
Sheriff’s Office or by a disinterested third party over the age of 18 years.
“Personal” service as outlined in Rule 4 of the Colorado Rules of Civil
Procedure is required if you are seeking a money judgment along with the actual
eviction. A copy of the complaint must be served with the summons (13-40-12).
If no money judgment is sought, or the tenant is avoiding service, the summons
and complaint may be served by posting in a conspicuous place upon the premises
after diligent effort to make “Personal” service (38-40-112). When service by
posting is complete, a copy must be sent by certified mail the next day. Both
types of service must be completed at least five working days, not including
Sundays and Holidays, before the court day. Evidence must be produced
(completion of the return of service) and supplied to the court (13-40-113).
The landlord may not lock the tenant
out of the property, shut off utilities or forcibly move the tenant or his/her
possessions out. Lock outs are not permissible; actions of physical contact or
intimidation should be immediately reported to local law enforcement. If a
tenant is locked out, he/she should seek legal advice prior to attempting a forced
entry. By state law, the prevailing party in a S.C.F.E.D suit is entitled to an
award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred.
3rd Step Writ of Restitution: A Writ
of Restitution is entered when judgment of the (S.C.F.E.D.) is awarded to the landlord.
Only Sheriff’s Deputies can execute a Writ of Restitution. Two copies of the
Writ of Restitution need to be supplied for service. The issuing court must
wait 48 hours after entry of a judgment before issuing a Writ of Restitution.
(If they fail to do so, the Sheriff will wait the 48 hours before serving or
posting), 13-40-122. The Sheriff’s Office will post the Writ of Restitution and
Notice of Judgment (when applicable) with a date approximately 48 hours from
the time of posting to return for eviction. Mileage is charged for each round
trip to the premises and a service fee is charged for the completion of the
Writ of Restitution. Special circumstances or concerns (including concerns
about anticipated tenant’s reactions to being evicted) should be directed to
the Civil Department prior to service or eviction by removal.
Sheriff’s Office Requirements:
• The Sheriff’s Office requires the
landlord to hire and be responsible for all necessary movers, towers, and
• The Landlord must be present at the
scheduled time of eviction.
• If the landlord or agent fails to
arrive, the eviction may be cancelled.
• The landlord is required to
provide enough manpower to remove all belongings within one hour (when
possible) at his/her expense. The Civil Officer will stand by to keep the peace
while the premise is cleared.
regulates security deposits. A security deposit may also be called a damage
deposit; it is any advance or deposit of money that is used to secure the
lease. The deposit may be retained by the landlord for the following: any
unpaid rent or utility bills owed by the tenant, payment for damages to the
premises beyond “normal wear and tear”, any cleanings outlined in the lease,
and any other breach of the lease causing financial damage to the landlord’s
property. “Normal wear and tear” is defined by Colorado statute to mean “that
deterioration which occurs based upon the use for which the rental unit is
intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises
or equipment or chattel by the tenant or members of his/her household or their
Return of Security Deposits
If the tenant has fulfilled all the
terms of the lease, the tenant is entitled to a full return of the security
deposit. The tenant should collect the security deposit in person or leave a
forwarding address with the landlord so that he/she can return the
deposit. Colorado law requires the landlord return the security deposit or
an itemized statement of the deductions and balance, if any, to the tenant
within 30 days after termination of the lease or the surrender and acceptance
of the premises, whichever occurs last. This time period may be extended up to
60 days if specified in the lease. The landlord must either deliver or mail the
full deposit or a statement of deductions and the balance of the deposit to the
last known address of the tenant. If the landlord fails to provide a written
statement of deductions and the balance of the deposit in full within the
specified time, the landlord forfeits his right to withhold any portion of the
security deposit. The landlord has the right to pursue damages by counter-claim
against the tenant in a civil lawsuit for unpaid rent or any other charges,
deductions from the deposit damage to the property, or any other financial
obligation owed to the landlord. Treble damages may be brought against the
landlord in a lawsuit for a security deposit not returned with-in the stated
time frame. (Return to top)
Repairs and Maintenance
A tenant who withholds rent until
repairs are made can be legally evicted for nonpayment of rent. Colorado law
does not allow a tenant to make any repairs and use them as a deduction from
the rent. Except for common areas and multi-unit properties, the landlord
is required to repair and maintain the premises only if:
• The lease specifies that a
landlord is responsible for repairing and maintaining the premises.
• There is a specific
agreement between the landlord and the tenant that the landlord will make
specific repairs such as an attachment or a letter of promise.
What a Tenant May Do When Repairs are Required
A tenant should refer to the lease
to determine responsibility for repairs. If the landlord is responsible, the
tenant should first contact the landlord. If the landlord refuses to comply
with the request, the tenant may try the following:
• Present a written list of the
repairs requested with a defined time limit.
• Be cooperative, be available and
offer to be present when a repair person arrives. The tenant should:
• Keep copies of correspondence to
and from the landlord
• Follow-up on any agreement, both
written and verbal, given by the landlord.
• Give reasonable time frames for
repairs to be made.
• Follow-up with written reminders
for outstanding repairs.
• If the landlord still remains
delinquent in completion of repairs, the tenant should contact an
Landlord’s Entry to a Rental Property
The landlord may enter into a rental
property at a reasonable time and manner without force or physical threats in
the following situations.
• The tenant has given
• There is an emergency such as
fire, flood, or gas leak
• The landlord is asserting a valid,
legal landlord’s lien
• The landlord enters to make
repairs ordered by health, building, fire or other code inspections The
landlord may enter at other times only if the tenant has given permission,
verbally or written. A Realtor’s lock box may be placed on the unit’s door and
the landlord may show the property to new tenants or prospective purchasers
only with the tenant’s permission.
Landlord’s Unwelcome Unannounced Entry to Rental Property
If the landlord enters the unit
without permission or without proper authorization, the tenant may consider
taking the following steps:
• Send a written complaint to the
landlord documenting the landlord’s actions, keeping a copy of the complaint
for tenant’s records, requesting that the actions stop immediately.
• If the landlord’s invasion of
privacy continues, document the landlord’s disregard of the last letter by
sending another letter, stating that tenant intends to exercise his/her legal
• Change the locks and do not
provide the landlord with a key. Remember, that a tenant would assume future
liability in case of an emergency and must reinstall the original locks before
moving out. Send a letter advising the landlord that the locks have been
changed due to the landlord’s invasion of privacy and that the landlord should
contact the tenant to gain entry to the unit in the future.
• Subject the landlord to arrest for
breaking and entering by calling the local Law Enforcement Agency (Police or
Sheriff’s Department) when the landlord has entered into the property
improperly. Report all threats, intimidation, defamation of character, and
physical attacks to Law Enforcement immediately. Be sure to keep copies of any
complaints filed with Law Enforcement.
The landlord is not responsible for
damage to the tenant’s personal property, unless such damage was a direct
result of his/her negligence. A tenant should carry renter’s insurance for
his/her own protection.
Colorado law provides that in some
cases, a landlord may lien some of the tenant’s personal property for past due
rent. Prior to a lien, the landlord should seek legal advice. If property has
been seized, the tenant should document, in writing, the property taken. When
involved in landlord lien, tenant/landlord should seek legal services. If a
lien is improperly executed, the landlord could be liable to the tenant for
If a lease specifies the rent
amount, it cannot be increased during the lease period. Once a lease has
expired, a new lease may have an increased rent amount. Colorado law currently
has no rent control.
Subleases and Assignments
A sublease is an additional contract
between the landlord and a new tenant. It doesn’t relieve the original tenant
from his/her lease. For example, if the subtenant is delinquent in rent
payment, the landlord may sue for any unpaid balances from the original tenant,
or both. The landlord may or may not require a new security deposit on a
An assignment is a contract between
the landlord and a second tenant that relieves the original tenant of his/her
lease. In this case, if the second tenant is delinquent on rent, the landlord
may only sue the second tenant. On an assignment, the landlord will almost
always require a new security deposit.
Both subleases and assignments only
occur under the landlord’s direction. Under Colorado law, a landlord may not
withhold permission to sublet without reason. Always refer to the lease for
sublease or assignment agreements.
The Eagle County Sheriff's Department Website (www.eaglecounty.us/sheriff)
Colorado Statutes Title 38 Article 12
Colorado Department of Housing
The National Landlord Tenant Guides