Colorado law protects tenants from unfair and unreasonable landlord practices regarding security deposits, maintenance and evictions. State law provides a basic floor of protection for tenants, but counties and municipalities may enact more strict protections at their discretion.
Landlords in Colorado are free to request as much money as they want as a security deposit for a rental property. State law requires landlords to return deposits to former tenants within one month of the termination of the lease, unless the lease agreement specifies otherwise. No matter what the lease says, however, the deposit must be returned within 60 days. If the tenants are forced to vacate because of hazardous conditions involving natural gas, the landlord must return the deposit within 72 hours, excluding weekends and holidays. Landlords can deduct unpaid rent and utility bills from the security deposit, in addition to the cost of repairs.
Maintenance and Repairs
Colorado passed a law in 2008 requiring landlords to maintain the habitability of their rented properties. Properties with inadequate electrical or sewer access and properties with structural problems may qualify as "uninhabitable." If so, tenants can demand repairs from their landlords in writing. If the landlord fails to complete the repairs, tenants have three options: getting a court-ordered injunction, terminating the lease, or withholding rent. The law is vague about specific circumstances justifying these remedies and about how much rent tenants can withhold, so tenants should consult with an attorney before doing anything that might violate the terms of their leases.
Notice and Entry
Colorado law mandates specific notice periods for terminating leases based on how long the lease has been in effect. For yearly leases, the minimum notice period for both tenants and landlords is 91 days. For leases lasting six months to one year, 28 days notice is required. For leases lasting between one and six months, only seven days notice is required. If the lease has a specified end date, however, no notice is required. The lease ends at the specified time without either party taking action.
Colorado does not have any specific statutes governing when and if landlords are allowed to enter rented properties. However, landlords are allowed to enter their properties in the event of an emergency, like a burst pipe.
If a landlord wants to evict a tenant in Colorado for nonpayment of rent, the first step is to issue a quit notice ordering the tenant to vacate the property within three days. If the tenant doesn't move out, the landlord can file for an eviction order in court.
For other lease violations, like keeping a pet when the lease prohibits it, landlords still must issue a quit notice with a three day notice period. Tenants can keep the lease and avoid eviction by remedying the violation within that time. However, repeat violations are grounds for immediate termination without the opportunity to remedy.
Colorado does not allow landlords to perform evictions themselves or to lock tenants out of their properties under any circumstances. Tenants can sue for damages if their landlord locks them out of their homes. The only exception to this rule is if a state board of health orders them to lock out tenants in connection with the clean-up of an illegal drug site.