Mountain Law: Landmark law brings changes for landlords and tenants

Noah Klug

The Colorado Legislature passed a new law in 2008 codifying certain obligations of residential landlords and tenants. The statute applies to tenancies that began on or after September 1, 2008, and applies to all sorts of properties, including apartments, rooming houses, rental condos, single-family homes, and trailers (if the landlord owns the trailer). It applies to verbal leases as well as written leases, but does not apply to rentals for less than 30 days.

The new law requires landlords to maintain leased premises in a condition fit for human habitation, and includes a long list of specific landlord obligations, such as: Maintaining weather protection of the roof and exterior walls; Maintaining the plumbing, heating, electrical and sewer systems in good order and in compliance with the building code that was in effect when they were installed; Providing reasonable hot water; Maintaining floors, stairways and railings in good repair; Providing locks or security devices for all exterior doors and operable windows; and Complying with applicable building, housing, and health codes.Its not uncommon for written leases to contain a provision whereby the tenant waives claims for dangerous or defective conditions. Except in a few limited situations, the new law makes unenforceable any provision in a lease that attempts to waive the landlords obligations for habitability.If a tenant gives the landlord written notice of an uninhabitable condition (if the tenant is not the cause of the problem), and the landlord fails to fix the problem within five business days after receipt of the notice, the tenant may vacate the premises and terminate the lease. If the tenant prefers to stay in the premises, he can ask a court to order the landlord to fix the problem (but the tenant must report the unsatisfactory condition to local government before filing suit).In the past, tenants would often defend their failure to pay rent on the basis that there was something wrong with the premises. Under the new law, if a landlord files a lawsuit to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, the tenant will be obligated to give some or all of the delinquent rent to the court as a prerequisite to contesting the condition of the property. The new law does not change a landlords right and obligation to follow the statutory eviction process to remove a tenant who doesnt pay rent or violates other terms of the lease. The new law prohibits certain forms of landlord self-help such as turning off utilities and changing the locks on the doors unless the property has been abandoned by the tenant.

The new statute also imposes duties on tenants (including occupants who havent signed a written lease), such as: Keeping the premises reasonably clean, safe, and sanitary; Complying with building and health codes; Using utilities and appliances in a reasonable manner; Not disturbing the peace of neighbors; Informing the landlord if the premises are actually or potentially uninhabitable; and Not damaging, defacing, or removing any part of the premises.Here are some additional details of the law: In response to a tenants notice that a property is uninhabitable, a landlord is permitted to move the tenant to a comparable property at the landlords expense; If certain requirements are met, landlords and tenants can agree that the tenant will perform work to remedy conditions making the property uninhabitable; and Landlords are not permitted to retaliate against tenants who claim that a property is uninhabitable by arbitrarily increasing rent or decreasing services, or by pursuing or threatening to pursue eviction of the tenant.The last major revision to landlord tenant law in Colorado was in 1971, when the Legislature imposed treble damages on residential landlords who fail to timely refund or account for security deposits after termination of the lease. The 2008 law promises to bring a new wave of accountability for landlords and tenants.The new statute contains details and exceptions that are not mentioned in this article. A complete copy of the new statute can be found at You should consult a real estate attorney for a review of your own situation.Noah Klug is an attorney with Bauer & Burns, P.C. He may be reached at 970-453-2734 or

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