Colorado is looking to bolster renter’s rights with a new state law
For renters in a resort community like Summit County, limited and expensive options can mean tenant hell. Landlords can sometimes have the upper hand in Colorado disputes, with necessary repairs ignored and deposits unreturned. But the Colorado Legislature is aiming to bolster renter rights with a new bill that puts the onus on landlords to keep their properties functional and safe for tenants.
The bill, the “Residential Tenants Health And Safety Act,” passed a third reading in the state House on Feb. 26. If eventually passed into law, the bill would give tenants more rights in the event their rented property becomes uninhabitable or unsafe.
“I believe that having a safe and affordable place to live is a cornerstone to self-sufficiency,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora. “This is real life. When Coloradans are paying market rents, they deserve to live in a safe and habitable place. This is a very fair, and very necessary bill.”
The bill clarifies language in existing law by giving tenants the right to notify landlords of an uninhabitable condition in writing, including by electronic means such as email. The landlord would then need to have repairs done within 24 to 72 hours — depending on how unsafe the condition is.
The bill also adds two new conditions that would render a rented unit uninhabitable. One is for a lack of functioning appliances or those not maintained in good working order, which targets faulty heating. The other is dampness-related hazardous mold or dampness that can lead to mold.
“If you are paying rent you have the right to expect a home that is safe and healthy to live in, with remedies available if it isn’t; especially in a rental market as challenging as ours is right now,” said co-sponsor Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora.
The bill would require landlords to find other accommodation for tenants, at no cost to the tenant, if there is a housing condition that is immediately hazardous.
Other provisions include the right for a tenant to deduct repairs from rent payments under certain conditions, and prohibit landlords from retaliating against a tenant who makes a good-faith complaint to the landlord or a government agency for an uninhabitable or unsafe condition. Neither of these rights had been codified in state law before.
Finally, if a condition that rendered a unit uninhabitable reappears within six months, the tenant has the right to vacate the premises with 14 days written or electronic notice. If the condition is related to a faulty appliance, the landlord can remedy the situation by fixing or replacing the appliance and the notice to vacate is nullified.
The renters’ rights bill would seek to balance the field for renters in a fairly lopsided system. Colorado ranks as one of the unfriendliest states for renters, according to an analysis by RentCafe.com. The ranking took into account 10 different metrics from existing state law, including security deposit returns and lease termination rights, and ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to how tenant-friendly they were.
Colorado ranked 43rd out of 51, with the ranking hurt by the lack of legislation fixing a maximum security deposit, as well as the right for tenants to deduct the cost of necessary repairs from rent payments and a relatively short 21-day notice period for landlords to raise rent on month-to-month tenants.
The bill now heads for consideration in the state Senate, with Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Sen. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village as the co-prime sponsors.
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