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Concerning real estate law, private property rights, and related matters with a focus on Colorado

Is Colorado a “Pro-Tenant” State?

We are definitely on the way...

I have a book from 2014. It is called “Colorado Landlord-Tenant Law From the Perspective of a Tenant Advocate,” by Manuel Ramos. It does a good job explaining the nuts and bolts of landlord-tenant law, or at least, it did. The book is quite out of date now, because the Colorado legislature has made a lot of changes over the last ten years, mostly to increase tenant rights. Would Colorado be considered a “tenant-friendly” state now? Let’s review some of the biggest changes in the last few years.

A lot of the changes give tenants more notice and time:

  • Written demands requiring that the tenant comply with the lease or move out now must provide the tenant 10 days to cure the lease violation, rather than just 3.
  • Terminating a “month-to-month” tenancy could be done with a notice served at least 7 days before the end of the month. Now that time period is 21 days.
  • Sheriffs must wait at least ten days after a judgment for possession before serving the writ of restitution (i.e., physically removing the tenant).
  • Landlords have to give at least 60 days’ notice of rent increases.

Some changes do more than just make evictions take longer:

  • If the tenant offers the landlord all rent owed after the 10-day cure period and before an eviction judgment is entered, the tenant gets to stay. This is true even if the landlord has already filed an eviction action and incurred costs and attorney’s fees. Previously, the landlord could refuse rent after the cure period and proceed with an eviction.
  • Fees for late rent are capped at $50 or 5% of the monthly rent, cannot be charged unless rent is at least 7 days late, and landlords cannot charge interest on late fees.
  • Landlords can no longer evict tenants merely for failure to pay late fees.

New in 2023 are the following:

  • Landlords cannot charge a “pet deposit” greater than $300. The new law is not clear whether that is “per pet.”
  • Landlords cannot charge “pet rent” more than $35 or 1% of the monthly rent. Again, the new law is not clear on whether that is “per pet.”
  • Landlords cannot require a deposit of more than 2 months of rent.
  • Landlords cannot reject a tenant for insufficient income if the tenant’s annual income is a least double the annual rent. Such a rejection is now unlawful housing discrimination. This policy bucks the conventional wisdom that rent should not exceed 30% of ones’ income.
  • The same law (SB 23-184) also appears to make a landlord’s unlawful housing discrimination of any kind an affirmative defense to an eviction action, even if the eviction action has nothing to do with the alleged discrimination. This provision seems to imply that if a tenant proves a landlord committed one of the (seventeen!) forms of housing discrimination, they could never be evicted from the premises. Could that really be what the legislature meant?

Debated in the 2023 legislative session but not passed was a proposed “just cause” eviction bill. The bill would have prevented landlords from getting rid of tenants by refusing to renew their leases, and instead provide a fairly short list of what constitutes “just cause” for an eviction. The legislature also rejected a proposal to allow municipalities to enact rent control. The “just cause” bill would have been the biggest pro-tenant reform in some years. Nevertheless, much has changed recently to shift the power dynamic between residential tenants and landlords.