The residential property management field is continually shaped by evolving legislation, and the recent passage of SENATE BILL 23-184 in Colorado is a prime example of such a transformation.
This legislation introduces changes directly affecting how properties are managed, particularly regarding tenant vetting and financial requirements. As a property manager, it is imperative to understand and adapt to these changes to ensure compliance with the law and protect property owners' interests.
This article will delve into the specifics of SENATE BILL 23-184, breaking down its key elements and what they mean for property management. This bill represents a notable shift in the landlord-tenant dynamic, from new restrictions on income and rental history considerations in tenant screening to introducing caps on security deposits.
We will focus on interpreting these changes and exploring how they will influence our day-to-day operations in property management. We will also discuss the strategies and measures we are implementing to stay aligned with the spirit of the bill while continuing to safeguard the interests of our clients.
This article is designed to clearly explain SENATE BILL 23-184 and how it affects our work in property management. Our goal is to stay ahead of these changes and use our expertise to keep everything running smoothly and legally, ensuring we continue to succeed in the Colorado real estate market.
Under the new guidelines set forth by SENATE BILL 23-184, the tenant vetting process in Colorado will undergo notable changes, particularly in rental and credit history evaluation and income considerations.
Property managers and landlords have traditionally relied on rental and credit histories to gauge a tenant's reliability and financial stability. This traditional approach often included scrutinizing years of past financial data. This new bill only allows us to examine the previous seven years of financial data.
This shift represents a significant departure from past practices, where longer historical insights were crucial in making informed tenant selections.
Generally, a seven-year credit history is considered a substantial period to evaluate an individual's financial behavior. This time frame should encompass significant financial events in a person's life, such as debt handling, payment regularity, and major financial setbacks or recoveries.
Most negative items, like bankruptcies (except Chapter 7, which can stay for 10 years), collections, and late payments, fall off the credit report after seven years, which can provide a reasonably current perspective on a tenant's financial stability.
Although checking credit history beyond seven years can make us feel more secure, looking at a tenant's rental history and talking to their previous landlords gives us a clearer idea of what they'll be like as a tenant.
The bill also introduces changes to specific income criteria. The 3X rule has been a standard in the We have traditionally looked for a tenant to earn 300% of their annual rent to qualify. This new bill changes this to 200%
For tenants receiving housing subsidies like Section 8, landlords are now restricted from inquiring about their total income except to verify that it meets a minimum threshold — at least 200% of their portion of the rent.
For non-subsidized tenants, income requirements imposed by landlords cannot exceed 200% of the annual rent.
These provisions mark a big shift from the more open-ended income assessments of the past. This could increase the risk for landlords, as it limits their ability to fully assess a tenant's financial capacity and the risks associated with late or missed rent payments.
However, it's important to note that while these changes might appear to constrain the vetting process, they are designed to promote fairness and prevent discrimination based on income. Violating these new regulations carries significant penalties, including fines and potential legal repercussions.
The penalties for violating the SENATE BILL 23-184 guidelines are significant and designed to enforce compliance strictly. If a landlord violates certain sections of this bill, they face an initial fine of fifty dollars, which must be paid to the person affected by the violation.
If the landlord does not correct this violation promptly, they are then subject to a much larger penalty of two thousand five hundred dollars in addition to the initial fine. This larger penalty also includes any economic damages, court costs, and attorney fees that may be incurred. Furthermore, those seeking to address these violations legally do not need to go through administrative procedures first, indicating the seriousness of these offenses. These substantial penalties highlight the importance of fully understanding and adhering to the bill's requirements to avoid legal and financial consequences.
Our commitment, as always, is to ensure that our vetting processes comply with these new legal requirements and maintain their thoroughness. Although we are now operating within more defined parameters, our vetting process has always been detailed and rigorous. We understand the importance of finding reliable tenants while adhering to legal and ethical standards. As such, we are exploring the most comprehensive methods of tenant vetting that align with the letter and spirit of SENATE BILL 23-184. This approach will safeguard our clients' interests and prospective tenants' rights, ensuring a balanced and fair property management environment in Colorado.
Section 5 of SENATE BILL 23-184 introduces a significant change regarding security deposits, directly impacting property management practices in Colorado. This section of the bill caps security deposits at a maximum of two months' rent, a measure aimed at reducing the upfront financial burden on tenants. This legislative change aligns with the broader intent of the bill to create more equitable and accessible housing opportunities.
Traditionally, in cases where a tenant's application was borderline in meeting our qualification guidelines, our policy has been to ask for a double deposit. This practice served as a risk mitigation strategy, safeguarding against potential financial losses, such as damages or unpaid rent. With the new bill, this approach coincidentally aligns with the imposed cap, meaning our existing policy for borderline cases remains compliant with the new legal framework.
However, the bill's broader implications, particularly the restrictions on tenant vetting, necessitate reassessing our risk management strategies. Given the more limited scope for background checks and financial vetting, requesting the maximum allowable security deposit may be needed more frequently as a form of risk mitigation. This approach would be instead of the more thorough background checks now constrained under the new guidelines.
It is important to note that while this adjustment to our deposit policy helps mitigate some risks associated with the looser vetting requirements, it also adheres to the spirit of the new bill, which seeks to balance tenant protections with the legitimate business interests of landlords and property managers. By implementing this strategy, we can safeguard our clients' properties effectively while complying with the updated legal requirements.
In summary, Section 5's cap on security deposits requires us to be more strategic in our approach to risk management. While we align with this new regulation by default in some instances, we also recognize the need to adapt our policies to maintain our properties' integrity and financial stability in this new legislative environment.
Section 6 deals with discrimination and a tenant's defense during an eviction proceeding. The provision in SENATE BILL 23-184 that allows tenants to assert an affirmative defense based on a landlord's violation of specific housing laws is highly significant in managing tenant relations and protecting landlords from potential legal challenges. This provision empowers tenants with a robust legal tool to defend themselves in eviction proceedings or similar disputes. Understanding and addressing this provision is crucial for several reasons:
Increased Legal Scrutiny for Landlords: This provision places landlords under closer legal scrutiny. If a tenant can successfully prove that a landlord has violated anti-discrimination or housing laws, it can significantly weaken the landlord's position in legal proceedings. Therefore, landlords need to be meticulous in complying with all housing regulations to prevent any potential defensive claims by tenants.
Encouragement of Fair Practices: The provision serves as a strong deterrent against any unfair or discriminatory practices by landlords. By giving tenants this legal leverage, it encourages landlords to engage in fair, ethical, and lawful management practices. This is not only beneficial for maintaining a good reputation but also crucial for avoiding legal complications.
Importance of Documentation and Record Keeping: In light of this provision, landlords should maintain thorough and accurate records of all interactions, transactions, and decisions related to tenants and property management. Good documentation can serve as vital evidence in case a tenant asserts such a defense, helping to prove that the landlord has complied with all relevant laws.
Need for Legal Awareness and Training: Landlords and property managers should be well-informed about the specifics of housing and anti-discrimination laws. Regular training and legal updates can be beneficial to ensure ongoing compliance and understanding of how these laws apply to their day-to-day operations.
Risk Management: This provision highlights the importance of proactive risk management in property dealings. Landlords should assess their policies and practices regularly to ensure they align with legal requirements. This might include revising tenant screening processes, lease agreements, and the handling of tenant complaints or concerns.
Consultation with Legal Experts: Given the complexities and potential legal ramifications, consulting with legal experts specializing in property law is advisable. They can provide guidance on compliance and help in formulating strategies to protect against such defenses by tenants.
In conclusion, this provision underscores the necessity for landlords to operate meticulously within the bounds of the law. It's a reminder that the legal landscape in property management is dynamic and requires continuous attention and adaptation. By prioritizing legal compliance and ethical management practices, landlords can effectively protect themselves against the tenants' potential use of this affirmative defense.
Radon is a radioactive, odorless gas naturally found in soil and groundwater—it has long been a concern for public health. Recognized by authorities such as the U.S. Surgeon General and the World Health Organization, as a carcinogenic toxin, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. It is responsible for approximately 500 deaths annually in Colorado alone.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the decay of uranium in the soil and rocks beneath the Earth's surface. Here's how it can enter homes:
Think of your home as a vacuum, sucking in radon from the ground. Especially in poorly ventilated homes, radon can accumulate to harmful levels.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends reducing radon levels in homes with a radon level at or above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. It's worth noting that the EPA does not describe any level of radon exposure as "safe," but the 4 pCi/L level is where the agency recommends taking corrective action.
Given the gravity of the risks, the Colorado State Senate has taken decisive action to protect its residents by enacting SENATE BILL 23-206. This legislation significantly expands the scope of radon disclosure laws, setting rigorous new protections and guidelines that impact tenants and landlords.
Radon experts recommend different testing based on the history of radon in a particular property. Here's a breakdown of recommendations for the State of Colorado:
The recommendation to test regularly exists for a couple of reasons. First, radon levels can fluctuate over time due to changes in soil composition, water tables, or even construction activity nearby. A test a few years ago may not accurately reflect the current situation.
Second, seasonal variations can significantly affect radon levels. For example, radon tends to accumulate in higher concentrations during winter when homes are sealed off from the outside. This can create a false sense of security if a test is conducted during a season when radon levels are typically lower.
Regular testing ensures that you can take timely action if levels rise above the recommended safety limits, thereby protecting the health of all occupants.
SENATE BILL 23-206 is a comprehensive update to Colorado's radon disclosure laws, enhancing transparency and safety in residential property transactions. It's a legislative effort to regulate the presence of radon, an odorless, radioactive gas linked to lung cancer, in homes across Colorado.
This bill mandates that landlords disclose whether a property has been tested for elevated radon levels, among other critical information. The legislation also enforces tenants' rights to know about radon risks before signing a lease.
It introduces the possibility for tenants to void a lease if landlords do not comply with these disclosure requirements. By setting these measures, the bill aims to minimize radon-induced health risks by ensuring that homebuyers and renters are well-informed before making a housing decision.
Before the enactment of SENATE BILL 23-206, Colorado's approach to radon primarily catered to homebuyers rather than tenants. Real estate transactions often included a radon advisory clause that informed potential buyers of the risks associated with radon exposure and recommended that they conduct tests before purchasing a home.
However, no explicit protections were in place for tenants that mandated landlords to disclose information about radon levels in rental properties. While buyers had some safeguards through contractual advisories, renters navigated a more ambiguous landscape with less clarity and protection. SENATE BILL 23-206 aims to change this imbalance by introducing explicit disclosure requirements for landlords, thereby leveling the playing field for buyers and renters.
Inclusion of Tenants: Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of this bill is its inclusion of rental properties. Unlike before, landlords must now provide tenants with radon disclosures before signing a lease. This plugs a significant gap, as tenants were largely overlooked in prior radon regulations.
Tenant Rights: If landlords don’t comply with the new radon requirements, tenants can void the lease. This is a powerful incentive for landlords to comply with the new legislation, giving tenants a recourse mechanism.
Warranty of Habitability: The bill integrates the issue of radon into Colorado’s warranty of habitability laws. Non-compliance with the new radon disclosure requirements can result in landlords breaching this warranty, adding another layer of tenant protection.
Real Estate Commission’s Role: The bill tasks the Real Estate Commission with creating rules to implement these new disclosure requirements, thereby involving a regulatory body to oversee and ensure compliance.
Exemptions Clarified: Individuals testing or mitigating radon in their own homes are exempt from these regulations. This provides a clear exemption pathway that was not explicitly stated in prior laws.
Effective Date: The law takes effect 90 days after the general assembly adjourns unless a referendum petition is filed. It applies to contracts and leases entered into after this date, making it a forward-looking regulation.
In summary, SENATE BILL 23-206 considerably updates and expands existing radon laws in Colorado. It shifts from mere advisories to explicit requirements, expands protection to renters, and imposes greater obligations on sellers and landlords, thereby offering a more comprehensive approach to managing radon risks.
Tenants' Right to Know: One of the major shifts with SENATE BILL 23-206 is that tenants now have a legal right to know if a rental property has been tested for radon. This adds a layer of transparency that was previously missing and largely focused on homebuyers.
Landlord Disclosures: The bill mandates landlords provide detailed radon disclosures to prospective tenants if they know of any radon tests and the results before signing a lease. This is significant because landlords are now legally obligated to be transparent about radon risks and any mitigation measures are taken.
Ability to Void Leases: The legislation empowers tenants to void a lease if the landlord fails to meet radon disclosure and mitigation requirements. This is a major leverage point for tenants, allowing them to take decisive action if their safety is compromised.
Integration into Warranty of Habitability: Perhaps the most impactful aspect of this new law is incorporating radon issues into Colorado’s warranty of habitability. If a landlord fails to comply with radon disclosure requirements, they effectively breach this warranty, offering tenants another layer of legal protection.
In summary, SENATE BILL 23-206 greatly enhances protections for tenants while holding landlords more accountable for radon disclosures and mitigation. It closes existing gaps in legislation by extending key features initially designed for homebuyers to the rental market. It's a win for tenant safety and a call for greater responsibility for landlords.
SENATE BILL 23-206 represents a significant milestone in Colorado's approach to radon safety, particularly for tenants. While previous regulations primarily catered to home buyers, this legislation extends crucial protections to renters, making the rental landscape more transparent and accountable.
For landlords, the bill necessitates an update in disclosure practices and incorporation of radon safety into the very fabric of the leasing agreement vis-à-vis the warranty of habitability. To prepare for these changes, landlords should act proactively by conducting radon tests, updating lease agreements with the required disclosures, and familiarizing themselves with tenants' new rights.
On the other hand, tenants should educate themselves on this bill's provisions, ask the right questions before signing any lease, and be aware of their new rights, including the ability to void a lease if landlords fail to comply. Essentially, this bill prompts a paradigm shift, making radon safety a collective responsibility rather than a one-sided affair.
Understanding reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications is essential for landlords navigating today's multifaceted housing market. These terms describe the changes a landlord or housing provider may be required to make—either to policies or physical features—that make residential spaces more accessible for individuals with disabilities.
Comprehension and compliance with these terms isn't just a moral duty; it's also a legal requirement. Failure to make these adjustments can lead to legal repercussions.
This article serves as a guide to demystifying these important terms, enlightening a property owner or property manager on creating accessible housing while fulfilling their legal obligations.
Reasonable accommodations refer to changes in rules, policies, or services that make a residential property more accessible for individuals with disabilities. Unlike modifications, these adjustments don't involve altering the physical structure of a property but focus on adapting existing practices and services.
Understanding and implementing such accommodations is a legal requirement for landlords and contributes to a more inclusive and equitable living environment for tenants with a disability-related need.
Reasonable modifications are physical or structural changes made to a rental property's living space or common areas to accommodate special conditions or a tenant's disability. Unlike accommodations, which involve changes to rules or policies, modifications require actual changes to the physical structure of the dwelling.
Comprehending and appropriately implementing reasonable modifications is crucial for landlords, not just to adhere to legal obligations under laws like the Federal Fair Housing Act, but also to offer an inclusive and accessible living environment for all tenants.
A Property Manager or Landlord has specific legal obligations to accommodate tenants who make a reasonable accommodation request. If the tenant is disabled under various U.S. laws, primarily the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). These obligations serve to level the playing field, ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to housing opportunities. Failure to meet these obligations can result in legal consequences, including fines and potential lawsuits.
When and How to Comply with Requests for Accommodations or Modifications
Understanding the law and its requirements is essential for any landlord. By knowing when and how to comply with requests for accommodations or modifications, landlords fulfill their legal obligations and contribute to an inclusive living environment.
Understanding the legal framework surrounding federal nondiscrimination laws, reasonable accommodations, and modifications in residential housing involves two major U.S. laws: the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Role in Residential Housing:
The FHA is the cornerstone of anti-discrimination laws in housing. FHA fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin. Under the FHA, landlords are obligated to make reasonable accommodations and modifications to provide equal housing opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Implications for Accommodations and Modifications:
The FHA mandates that landlords must make, or allow tenants to make, reasonable modifications to their living space or to common use areas at the tenant's expense. Furthermore, landlords must make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services to give people with disabilities equal opportunities to use and enjoy a dwelling.
Relevance to Residential Housing:
While the ADA primarily focuses on common use spaces and public spaces, it does have limited applicability in residential settings. The ADA applies to rental offices or any other places that are open to the public within residential complexes. For example, if a rental office is located within an apartment complex, that office must be ADA-compliant.
Overlap with FHA:
Some aspects of ADA and FHA do overlap, especially when a residential complex offers amenities that are open to the public. For instance, swimming pools or gyms within a residential complex might need to comply with ADA guidelines in addition to FHA requirements.
Both these terms come into play under the FHA, which specifies that landlords must provide reasonable accommodations and allow reasonable modifications. The ADA might also come into the picture if the residential property has public spaces.
In summary, both the FHA and ADA contribute to shaping the landscape for reasonable accommodations and modifications in residential settings. Landlords need to be well-versed in the specifications and requirements of both acts to ensure full compliance and to offer an inclusive and accessible environment.
Various federal and state agencies and local governments enforce compliance with laws surrounding reasonable accommodations and modifications.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
This is the primary federal agency responsible for enforcing the FHA. HUD would investigate a fair housing complaint, provide guidelines, and initiate lawsuits against landlords or property managers for non-compliance.
In a nutshell, compliance with reasonable accommodation and modification laws is enforced primarily by HUD at the federal level. The stakes for non-compliance are high, involving severe legal and financial consequences including federal court. Therefore, understanding and adhering to these laws are crucial for landlords.
Handling a requested accommodation or modifications requires a careful, systematic approach to ensure compliance with the law and maintain good tenant relationships. The administrative burden for these requests falls on the landlord or property manager.
By implementing robust documentation and record-keeping procedures and effective communication strategies, landlords can handle requests for accommodations and modifications in a manner that respects the law and the tenant's needs. It’s important to maintain the standard for all requests, not on a case-by-case basis.
Understanding real-world cases can offer valuable insights into how to successfully comply with accommodation and modification requests or the consequences of failing to do so.
Example 1: Successful Compliance Situation:
A tenant with a mobility impairment requested that grab bars be installed in the bathroom for safety.
Landlord Action: The landlord approved the request and worked with the tenant to install the grab bars, even going so far as to cover the cost as a goodwill gesture.
Lesson Learned: Prompt and empathetic action can build a strong, positive relationship with tenants, going beyond mere legal compliance. It also fortifies the landlord's reputation as fair and accommodating.
Example 2: Failure to Comply Situation: A tenant required an emotional support animal, but the apartment had a strict "no pets" policy.
Landlord Action: The landlord denied the request, stating that the "no pets" policy was non-negotiable.
Consequence: The tenant filed a complaint with HUD, which led to an investigation and subsequent fines against the landlord for discrimination under the FHA.
Lesson Learned: Rigid policies that aren't adjusted for reasonable accommodations can lead to legal consequences and damage to reputation. It underscores the importance of understanding and complying with laws relating to reasonable accommodations.
In summary, these case studies show that successful compliance benefits both the landlord and the tenant, creating a harmonious living environment. Failure to comply not only invites legal ramifications but can also significantly harm a landlord's reputation and future business prospects.
Conclusion: Key Takeaways and Continued Education
Navigating the terrain of reasonable accommodations and modifications is critical to modern property management. Landlords must comply with federal laws, most notably the FHA and ADA, to provide equal housing opportunities for all tenants, including those with disabilities.
Keeping abreast of legal requirements isn't just about avoiding penalties; it's also about building a more inclusive, equitable environment for all. The benefits extend beyond compliance, improving tenant relations and, by extension, the overall success of your property management efforts.
In an ever-changing world, the laws and regulations governing landlord responsibilities will inevitably evolve. Continuous education, consultation with legal experts, and proactive management are your best tools for staying ahead of the curve and successfully meeting the needs of all tenants.
If you rent your home, following the terms of your lease is one key to a smooth living experience in your rental home. This includes any responsibilities around home maintenance and utilities.
Renting a single-family home generally comes with different responsibilities than renting an apartment. In an apartment setting, the building management usually handles most maintenance tasks. However, when you're in a single-family home, you'll often find that you're responsible for some basic maintenance activities. These can range from yard work to maintenance items around the house.
Many of these tasks require active utilities; for example, you'll need water for lawn care, electricity for power tools, a service for trash collection, and possibly gas for heating systems. It's not just about paying the utility bills; it's also about understanding how utilities play into your broader responsibilities as a renter in a single-family home.
When it comes to utilities, the most straightforward scenario for a tenant is to include all utilities in their monthly rent. However, this is relatively rare, particularly in single-family home rentals, for several reasons that pose potential problems for the landlord.
For these reasons, most landlords require tenants to handle utility payments separately from the monthly rent to protect their financial interests and encourage responsible utility usage.
Many tenants are taken aback by the high utility costs they face and might resort to reducing or shutting off their utilities to save money. However, this can result in property damage. Therefore, it's crucial to read your lease carefully and understand your responsibilities about utilities. Before signing a lease, it's a good idea to research and find out what utility costs you can expect so you're not caught off guard.
One common mistake people make when moving out of a rental unit is turning off the utilities. While it may seem easy to cut expenses, it can lead to several problems, such as water damage, frozen pipes, and an unkempt landscape. If the landlord has to turn the utilities back on, you could be liable for additional costs, including repairs and restoration. Therefore, keeping the utilities on until your lease expires or until you are completely moved out is best.
It's important to avoid the common mistake of moving out while still owing money for utilities. This can create problems for your landlord and delay new prospective tenants' move-in process. Failing to pay your utility bills can damage your rental history and negatively impact your credit score.
So, whether you're a long-standing tenant or someone new to renting, being well-informed about your utility responsibilities ensures a smooth living situation for everyone involved. Always manage your utility expenses according to what your lease agreement stipulates.
Both tenants and landlords need to understand that shutting off utilities can create significant complications, even if it seems like a logical step to take when vacating a property. To avoid issues, tenants should always seek the landlord's permission before requesting a utility company to shut off any utilities. By doing so, tenants can ensure a smooth transition, avoid unnecessary costs, and maintain a positive relationship with their landlord.
Let's review some best practices concerning rental property utilities to guide you in maintaining a great relationship with your landlord and clarify your roles as a tenant. This isn't just about rules; it's about making your renting experience as smooth as possible while being a responsible tenant.
First and foremost, as a tenant, you should never disconnect, cancel, or terminate utility services, be it water, natural gas, or air conditioning. While tenants in most single-family rentals are generally responsible for their own monthly utility payments, it's crucial to understand that you're also accountable for any damage that might occur to the property due to utility disconnection. This applies whether you're going out of town, leaving the rental home early, or breaking the lease.
Utility companies and the property owner rely on consistent utility usage to maintain the rental unit's condition. Interruptions in service can lead to various risks, including damage to the property for which you could be liable. If any damage occurs due to utilities being shut off, the property owner has the right to deduct the cost of repairs from your security deposit. Managing your monthly costs for utilities responsibly not only safeguards you against unexpected expenses but also ensures a smooth living experience for everyone involved.
Understanding the potential damages when utilities are disconnected can help you make informed decisions as a tenant. Here are some key points to consider:
Consistent utility services are crucial for a smooth move and to avoid additional costs and complications.
There will often be a reconnect fee when the landlord has the utilities turned back on. In addition to the damages, this fee can also be taken out of your security deposit.
If you're a tenant having trouble paying your utility bills, you're not alone; help is available. Look into local utility assistance programs that can help you cover costs like electricity and heating. These programs are usually easy to apply for, but you might need to show that you need the help. These programs can save you from late fees and keep your utilities running.
Here are several programs aimed at helping tenants who are struggling to pay their utility bills. These include federal, state, and local government initiatives and programs run by utility companies and nonprofit organizations. Here are a few examples:
Do your research before signing a lease. Falling behind on utility payments can hurt your credit score and relationship with the landlord. Seek help proactively to avoid problems.
If you can't pay your utility bills and don't qualify for assistance programs, talk to your landlord. You both have a shared interest in keeping the property in good shape. Working together on a solution is a smart move.
While the utilities shouldn’t be disconnected, the unfortunate fact is that it still can happen. Tenants cancel the services instead of transferring them, or unpaid utility bills pile up, resulting in the utility company shutting them off. For this reason, landlords should proactively take steps to help protect themselves and their property.
Here’s a look at a few things that landlords can do:
Here is a look at some important lease clauses that should be included in the lease:
In many cases, if there is an outstanding balance on the account, the utility company will not provide services to the next tenant, and in some cases, the landlord, before the balance has been paid. For this reason, any outstanding balances the tenant owes should be pursued.
Note: Just as tenants should avoid turning off the utilities at the rental property, landlords should also. While some landlords may be tempted to shut off a tenant’s utilities due to a violation of the lease or in an attempt to force an eviction, in almost every situation, this is against the law, and doing so could result in the tenant taking legal action against the landlord. Landlords need to ensure that they refer to and abide by the eviction laws in their state.
As a responsible tenant, staying informed about utilities is essential to fulfill your obligations and maintain a positive relationship with your landlord. In case your landlord overlooks providing utility information, you can proactively follow these best practices to ensure a seamless experience.
If you have any questions regarding your rental agreement or concerning your utilities, it’s important that you ask your landlord. Always ask questions about utility services and the billing process before you sign the lease.
Here are a few good questions to ask:
The term utility refers to several different services. Standard utilities include electricity, gas, water, sewer, and garbage. Other services such as phone, cable, and internet –are additional amenities. Tenants are generally responsible for most utilities in single-family rentals. However, in some cases, landlords may cover the cost of utilities that are required but fall outside of the scope of what we would consider standard utilities; this includes things like Internet service or security system subscriptions. It's important to note that each rental agreement varies, so it's crucial to clarify which utilities are your responsibility.
Set Up Your Utility Accounts Promptly
Transfer the utilities into your name as soon as possible upon moving in. In some cases, you may even be able to schedule a utility transfer before you move in. Note that as a tenant, you are only responsible for the utilities you use during your tenancy.
Pay Your Bills on Time
Paying your utilities promptly and on time is important. It’s also a good idea to keep documentation of the payment and any communication between you and the utility company and/or landlord in reference to your bills. By keeping current with your bill, you will reduce your chances of running into problems. Tenants behind on utility payments should contact their utility provider to resolve the issue quickly.
Take Action to Resolve Utility Disputes Quickly
The key to resolving most disputes is documentation. If your utility company has a problem with your payment or lack thereof, having the proper documentation to prove that you did make the payment can help to keep you out of trouble. If you have a problem with your bill, take steps to reconcile this quickly so as not to incur any late fees and to avoid disruptions with your services.
At the end of the day, utilities are usually the tenant’s responsibility, but ultimately, the rental is the landlord's property. Because of this, any damage caused by or expenses incurred from shutting off utilities or failing to pay can usually be taken directly from the security deposit.
Tenants –if you have any questions regarding the utilities for your rental property – don’t hesitate to ask your landlord or property manager. Being well-informed on your rights, as well as your responsibilities as a tenant is vital for ensuring that you abide by the terms of your lease and can help to save you from a tremendous amount of money –and hassle.
Navigating the balance between a landlord's right to inspect and manage their property and a tenant's right to privacy and quiet enjoyment is a delicate task that demands mutual respect and understanding.
On one hand, landlords have a legitimate interest in maintaining their investment, ensuring that the property is in good condition, and verifying that tenants follow the lease terms. This often calls for periodic inspections, repairs, and maintenance visits.
On the other hand, it is a tenants’ right to "quiet enjoyment" of their rented space, which includes a reasonable expectation of privacy. State laws, local laws. and lease agreements often balance these competing interests by establishing guidelines such as requiring "reasonable notice" before entry and limiting the reasons a landlord can enter a rented space.
In the lease agreement, the importance of clarifying expectations around the routine inspection or walk-through on a rental property cannot be overstated. This is a foundation for a transparent, respectful, and lawful relationship between the landlord or property manager and the tenant. Without clear terms, misunderstandings and conflicts can easily arise, leading to strained relationships or even legal disputes.
For landlords and property managers, outlining the specific reasons for a landlord inspection—whether for repairs, maintenance, safety checks, or routine inspections—establishes a guideline to operate within the bounds of the law and the rental agreement. It sets the tenant's expectations right from the start, allowing them to understand their obligations and rights better.
Knowing these terms beforehand gives prospective tenants a clear picture of what to expect and how to prepare. It equips them with the knowledge to protect their own rights, especially their right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of the property. If a tenant knows, for example, that a landlord will conduct quarterly routine inspections, it won't come as a surprise and they can prepare accordingly.
Therefore, both parties must get these terms in writing before signing any lease agreement. Verbal agreements or assumptions are not sufficient and can lead to ambiguity. A written agreement is a formal record that can be referred to in case of any disagreement or dispute, providing security and clarity for both parties.
In summary, clearly outlining the lease agreement's terms regarding inspections and walk-throughs is not just a good practice—it's a necessary step for safeguarding the interests, rights, and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant.
Emily had recently moved into a new apartment managed by Mark. Enthusiastic about the new chapter in her life, she skimmed through the lease agreement and hastily signed it without reading it thoroughly. Mark sent her written notice a month later that he would perform a routine property inspection in 48 hours, as stated in the lease agreement.
On the inspection day, Emily's room was messy, with clothes strewn about and personal items cluttering her desk. Feeling uncomfortable with the idea of Mark seeing her space in disarray, she closed her bedroom door when he arrived. As Mark proceeded with the inspection, he noticed that Emily's door was closed and asked if he could inspect the room. Emily, feeling uneasy, politely refused as she felt this was an invasion of privacy.
Mark's suspicions were aroused. To him, a closed door often signified that a tenant might be hiding something that violated the lease terms. Per the lease agreement, Mark gave Emily 24 hours advance notice that he would return to inspect her bedroom.
Distressed, Emily reached out to her friend Sarah, who happened to be an attorney, and asked, "Can a landlord look in my bedroom?"
Sarah first admonished Emily for not reading her written lease agreement carefully but then delved into her rights as a tenant. She explained that landlords or property managers generally have the right to inspect any part of the rental unit for specific reasons like repairs, maintenance, or routine inspections, as long as they provide proper notice and the inspections are performed at reasonable times. She told Emily that the lease agreement Emily signed stipulated that any part of the apartment could be inspected with 24 hours' notice, which Mark had abided by.
Sarah suggested that Emily clean her room and allow the inspection to proceed, as Mark had a valid reason and followed the lease agreement's protocols. She reminded Emily that not complying with the lease agreement might jeopardize her security deposit or, worse, put her in legal hot water.
Sarah then went on to discuss what could happen if Emily did not comply with the landlord's right to inspect. "Let's say you continue to refuse Mark's entry into your bedroom for the inspection," Sarah began. "In that scenario, you're not just jeopardizing your relationship with Mark; you could also be violating the terms of your lease. Depending on state laws and what's outlined in your written lease, refusing a lawful landlord entry for an inspection could result in eviction notices being issued against you."
Sarah continued, "If the situation escalates and you still don't comply, Mark could potentially secure a court order, granting him the legal right to enter your apartment and carry out the inspection, despite your objections. If a court has to intervene, not only would this strain your landlord-tenant relationship, but you could also incur additional legal costs. More importantly, this entire fiasco could end up on your rental history, making it harder for you to rent in the future."
Emily's eyes widened. She hadn't realized the serious legal implications of not allowing a simple property inspection.
"In extreme cases, continual non-compliance with inspection clauses could provide grounds for eviction," Sarah added, "and trust me, going through an eviction process is something you want to avoid at all costs. It's not just a legal nightmare; it's emotionally and financially draining."
Sarah concluded, "Remember, the lease is a two-way street. Mark has responsibilities, but so do you. Your legal rights as a tenant also come with legal obligations. Ensuring a smooth inspection process by following the guidelines in your lease is an obligation that shouldn't be taken lightly."
After their discussion, Emily fully understood the weight of her responsibilities under her lease agreement. She felt grateful for the free legal advice and made a mental note to be more vigilant in the future. As for Mark, he appreciated Emily's newfound respect for the lease terms, bolstering his confidence in her as a responsible tenant.
With Sarah's advice, Emily tidied her room and prepared for Mark's inspection the next day. Upon seeing that everything was in order, Mark felt satisfied that no lease violations were occurring in the bedroom. From that day on, Emily familiarized herself with all the terms of her lease agreements. Mark continued to conduct his property management responsibilities in compliance with the law.
This experience taught Emily the importance of fully understanding her lease agreement. At the same time, Mark was reminded that clear communication and adherence to legal procedures are key to maintaining a positive landlord-tenant relationship.
The importance of having specific reasons for a rental inspection, along with giving tenants as much notice as possible, is key to a smooth landlord-tenant relationship. For instance, consider Mark from our earlier story. He did everything by the book—sent out a 48-hour notice, and clearly stated the inspection was routine. This clarity removes any guesswork for the tenant and keeps the relationship on solid footing.
Conversely, conducting inspections without adequate notice or a specific reason can be a recipe for trouble. Most places have laws requiring landlords to provide a "reasonable notice"—often 24 to 48 hours—before entering a tenant's space. Failing to do so could lead to legal action. So, being transparent and following the rules is not only good manners. It's smart business and legally prudent.
In summary, establishing clear guidelines for property inspections and giving proper notice are indispensable elements for fostering a harmonious and lawful landlord-tenant relationship. Specificity in the reasons for inspections and adherence to notification rules, as exemplified by property manager Mark, can mitigate misunderstandings and protect both parties legally. Conversely, arbitrary or surprise inspections can erode trust and may lead to legal consequences.
Given the complexities and legal nuances involved in leasing homes, both landlords and tenants should enlist the expertise of professional property managers and real estate attorneys. These professionals can ensure that all actions are compliant with the law, and that lease agreements are comprehensive and fair, and that both parties' interests are adequately protected. In the long run, professional guidance can save time and potential legal hassles, making the leasing experience more straightforward and secure for everyone involved.
Renters insurance is a type of policy that is designed to cover the tenants and their personal belongings in a rented residence. While landlords have their own homeowners insurance policies that cover their structures and financial interests, these policies don’t generally extend coverage to their tenant's personal property.
This means that if a tenant’s property is damaged or stolen, a landlord's insurance is not likely to cover the cost of replacing those items.
Most renters don’t think about protecting their belongings, much less their potential liabilities as a tenant. In many cases, tenants will look to their landlord for compensation for damaged, destroyed, or stolen items.
If the landlord is responsible for losses due to negligence, the tenant may have a case but this is the exception, not the rule. In most cases, the responsibility for their belongings, and liability claims falls to the tenant.
This is why many landlords require tenants to have renters insurance sometimes referred to as apartment insurance, or tenants insurance before occupying a property. They do this to avoid disagreements that may arise as a result of theft, injury, or damage.
A renter's policy should contain liability insurance which helps protect the landlord in case the renters or guests get injured on the property.
Renters insurance works just like most insurance policies. The policy holder chooses the level of personal property coverage, and how much liability coverage they require, these levels will determine how much renters insurance will cost.
In the event the policy holder suffers a loss from a covered event to the tenant or their belongings, such as fire, theft, or other types of damage, the tenant simply files a claim with the insurance company.
The insurance provider will then pay the amount that’s equivalent to what’s covered by the policy after paying any deductible. A replacement cost coverage policy is a good idea as well, this means you won't have a deductible, and you will be paid the current value of your losses.
Apart from covering your property, renters insurance covers other types of disasters.
For example, let’s say someone falls on your stairs and sues you for the medical bills, renters insurance can cover it. If you have to move out of your house after a fire tragedy, most policies will take care of the cost of living in a hotel room as well.
However, it’s important to go through your renter's policy and coverage and identify its strengths and weaknesses. The elements covered by policies differ, and may be less detailed if you choose a lower premium.
Renters insurance primarily covers tenant's belongings in the event of damage or destruction. But keep in mind that the policy doesn’t cover for every type of damage or accident. Renters insurance typically deals with four types of covered losses. These are;
These are the basic types of coverage that renters insurance provides to tenants. Some Renters insurance policies may even cover your belongings when you’re traveling, this may require additional coverage which is a good idea.
As much as this insurance policy protects you against unexpected events, it’s still important to realize the type of scenarios that are not covered by this type of insurance.
Renters insurance coverage won’t protect you from everything. Most service providers are consistent about the types of claims they don’t cover. Damages caused by natural calamities are not generally covered. Here are some things that aren’t covered
Liability from pets is a major issue for many landlords. The good news for renters is that renter’s insurance usually covers liability from dog bites, and associated legal expenses. There are liability limits, generally, these fall into the $100,000 to $300,000 range so if the claim exceeds these limits, the dog owner is responsible for the difference.
Fortunately, a typical renters insurance policy isn’t that expensive, these policies can cost you as little as $10 to $20 a month and about $200 to $250 per year. This is a fraction of the replacement cost for the average renter's belongings. It just makes sense to obtain this type of insurance even if it's not required.
The price of your policy is determined by the type of policy, and how much coverage you need. Individuals who own expensive and sophisticated gadgets or an art collection will pay more than those who’ve simple and less expensive items.
It’s all up to you to decide whether you need renters insurance or not. If you’re finding it hard to make this decision, start by evaluating your personal finances and your possessions. If you live in a small studio apartment with simple furnishings, and you’re sure that you can replace them from your pocket without any struggles, you may not want renters insurance.
On the flip side, if you own more household items that you can’t afford to replace at once, a renters policy will benefit you.
Start by doing a home inventory and make a list of the items in your home and how much they will cost to replace.
Don’t forget to include the smaller items, i.e., dishes, books, musical instruments, fine jewelry, clothes, even pots, and pans. Now, sum up the total and if the total amount exceeds the amount you can afford to replace your inventory, you should consider getting a quote for a renters insurance policy.
Obtaining a renters insurance policy is very easy; in fact, you’ll wonder why you haven’t already done it. After you’ve taken stock of all your belongings, find out what’s covered by your landlord’s insurance and note down everything that isn’t covered.
You can then start researching different insurance companies online and make comparisons before choosing. Most insurance companies offer free quotes online, over the phone, or even in person. You can contact an insurance agent and they’ll take you through how much coverage you need for your situation.
Once you’ve decided that you need renters insurance, there are several things to consider before purchasing this type of insurance policy. They include:
Even if you feel that your personal property isn’t worth an insurance policy, simply having liability protection is worth the cost.
Most importantly, ensure that you’re not paying for the coverage you don’t need. See what’s covered by your landlord’s insurance policy and make a comparison with what you need before proceeding to purchase a renters insurance policy.
If you need more information about renters insurance, you can contact renters insurance experts to get estimates or contact us and we can point you in the right direction.
For many tenants, property condition is a deciding factor when choosing a rental unit. If you’ve been renting for a while, you’re probably already in the habit of documenting any damages from a former tenant prior to move-in. But how often do you think about the carpet condition in your rented home or apartment? Probably not often (until it starts to look visibly dirty or worn) and you probably don't know anything about the Landlord Carpet Replacement Law.
Without proper cleaning and maintenance carpet can become both a health risk and safety issue even before it begins to look dingy. Dirty carpets can hold four times their weight in dirt and debris, which settles into the fibers and cannot be removed by dry vacuuming alone. Food, hair, skin cells, pet urine, as well as debris, dragged in by pets or shoes can build up in the carpet, making it a perfect breeding ground for mold and dangerous bacteria.
Even if you are scrupulously clean the entire carpet, you will still have some level of build-up in your carpet. There’s also no guarantee that a property’s previous tenants shared your standards of cleanliness. Knowing your rights as a tenant and asking your prospective landlord or property manager a few questions about the potential replacement of carpet before signing a lease agreement, could spare you a few headaches down the line.
Colorado has passed a number of landlord-tenant laws governing both the tenant and landlord’s responsibility, which includes laws about property condition. The Colorado Warranty of Habitability, for example, was designed to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords and requires rentals to be adequately waterproofed, have working heat, plumbing, and electricity, as well as proper sanitation. Under this warranty, it is the responsibility of the landlord to keep the property habitable.
Beyond the general requirement of habitability, which would ostensibly include properly maintained flooring, there are no state or local laws regulating carpet replacement or maintenance. As a result, landlords or the property owner are only legally required to replace the carpeting in rental properties if it makes the house unlivable, such as in cases of mold or pests.
Under these laws, how frequently carpets should be replaced is left to the landlord’s discretion. When touring a rental, you may want to ask about the age of the carpet and when the landlord intends to install new carpets. With normal wear and tear, the life expectancy of a carpet is approximately 15 to 20 years, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends replacing rental property carpet every 5 to 7 years which is the end of the carpet’s useful life.
So what should you do if you’re touring a house or apartment with dingy carpets that have never been replaced? As a potential tenant, you have a few options—
As a tenant, you may also bear some responsibility for the cost of the replacement of damaged carpets, which is why it’s important to document any potential issues before move-in. You do not want to be charged for damages that you did not cause via normal use and disputes over security deposits are common but avoidable. The deposit that you pay at the beginning of your lease will be used to do any repair work for unusual damage, when you move out, which could include cleaning costs, any necessary repairs, or replacing carpets.
If the landlord decides to withhold part of the tenant’s security deposit, he or she must provide a written report explaining the deductions. Deposits can only be used to cover damages, not normal wear and tear. When it comes to carpet, reasonable wear includes issues such as matting, dirt, or ordinary wear in heavily trafficked areas and impressions from any furniture. Cigarette burns, stains, or tears in the carpet would be considered damages, and your deposit could be used to pay for cleaning or the cost of repair or replacement to the affected areas. Normal wear and tear would be a landlord charge.
In most courts, the replacement cost of the carpet would be prorated over the course of five years, since that is considered the useful life of carpeting in a rental home.
In other words, if the carpet is already 3 years old when you moved into the house, you could not be charged the full cost for replacing a damaged carpet, since it was already halfway through its expected lifespan. If you were to be charged, for a complete replacement, you should seek legal advice before agreeing to any charges.
The method of carpet installation can also affect how the carpet depreciates. Since tacked-down carpet is easily removed, it is not considered “attached” to the property and would depreciate over the span of 5 years. Glued-down carpet is considered more permanent and would depreciate over 27.5 years like most other types of flooring.
Though you may not think of carpet condition as a deal-breaker in a rental property, take a moment to consider the extent of damage or wear before committing to any lease.
Considering the amount of bacteria and dirt that can live in a carpet, negligence in cleaning and replacing the carpet could put you and your family at risk.
Asking for the carpet cleaning and replacement schedule during a tour is a great place to start and could help you and your landlord come to a better understanding of each other’s priorities and expectations.
Updated June 15, 2021
Colorado Springs Airbnb laws changed significantly at the end of 2019. If you are a real estate investor or property owner looking to get into the Short-Term Rental (STR) market, that may be more difficult than you think, at least in the city of Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Springs City Council has implemented some new Colorado Springs Airbnb Laws that make investing in Short Term Rentals more challenging. We are going to take a look at why those rules were implemented, what the rules are, and how to move forward as a real estate investor.
The phrase short-term rental has traditionally meant a rental property that is leased for less than one year. This type of rental was generally used by people who were waiting for a home to be built or were new to an area. Short Term Rentals were usually difficult to find and didn’t create much controversy.
This all changed with the introduction of online platforms like Airbnb and VRBO.
Both of these services allow homeowners to lease their own place directly to guests for short periods of time, much like a hotel would. These transactions are now referred to as Short Term Rentals or STR’s
These new types of short-term rental properties are actually for very short periods of time. Short Term now means by definition less than 30 days but in practice, the lease periods are more commonly 3 to 5 days.
Investors soon figured out that they could purchase properties in popular neighborhoods, and turn them into short-term rental units. These were good investments because the rental rates were significantly higher than a traditional long-term lease.
In addition to receiving much higher returns, the tenants were less demanding in terms of things like repair requests and service issues. Yes, there were issues with preparing the units to be turned over quickly for new tenants but there were cleaning fees charged to help with that.
Many investors turned their entire rental portfolios into short-term rental operations. Investor owners of short-term rentals were getting along nicely until neighboring homeowners got tired of living near STRs.
Complaints and controversy are what motivated the Colorado Springs City Council to institute new regulations regarding short-term rentals in 2019. While short-term rental owners are attracted to these types of investment because they yield high returns, Neighbors on the other hand detest them because of the increase in traffic, noise, and people coming and going.
There were frequent complaints about loud parties, empty beer bottles, and the constant smell of marijuana.
The effects the short-term rental industry has had on local housing supplies and pricing is another complaint about STR’s. The problem is that they take away housing for local residents, reducing potential inventory and driving up both rents and prices. In many popular STR destinations, we hear about problems with affordable housing. This is another issue that makes restricting STR’s popular with many.
These complaints and objections about STR’s from neighboring permanent residents eventually led city officials to implement new STR regulations. In a recent move, the Colorado Springs City Council approved new short-term rental regulations on 25th November 2019.
The Colorado Springs City council members voted 5-4 to approve the new provisions for short-term rentals which are more stringent than existing provisions. These new provisions were recommended by the City Planning Commission.
The goal was to regulate properties rented out by online platforms such as VRBO and Airbnb. The City Council decided that these provisions were needed to establish a standard for all the short-term rentals within Colorado Springs.
The primary focus of this new ordinance seems to have been non-owner-occupied short-term rentals. While the ordinance doesn’t do away with non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, it does make it more difficult to find and license them.
There are certain zoning designations that will allow for non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in the City of Colorado Springs. Those zoning codes are R-2, R-4, R-5, SU, non-single family PUDs, OR, OC, PBC, C-5, C-6, and M-1. The property must have one of these zoning designations, and cannot be within 500’ straight line distance of another STR.
These zoning codes can be found on the Colorado Springs Springsview website. This tool allows you to search for properties and then dig into some real detail about that particular property. Once you locate the parcel you're interested in you simply click on the identify button at the top of the tool to find out about the zoning, building licenses, and more.
In a major part of the non-owner occupancy clause, the City Planning Commission also specified that there must be at least a five hundred (500) foot of operation buffer between any two new newly licenseted short-term rentals.
They have also clarified that this distance of five hundred feet will be calculated on the basis of a straight-line distance between two new short-term rentals and any intervening structures will not be regarded. So, a new short-term rental property must be situated at a distance of about five hundred feet in any direction in a straight line from another short-term rental property.
If you are considering purchasing a property to use as an STR, the best way to find out if there are any existing STRs within 500’ is to e-mail email@example.com . They will usually get back to you in 24 to 48 hours. The short-term rental search function on the Springsview page has been disabled due to security and privacy concerns.
The next provision that was introduced limited the overnight occupancy. Pursuant to Section 7.5.1706(H), “maximum overnight occupancy of a short-term rental unit shall be limited to two (2) occupants per bedroom, plus an additional two (2) occupants per dwelling unit. The maximum occupancy per dwelling unit shall be fifteen (15) occupants.”
Short-Term Rental operators will be required to obtain a valid permit to operate. The operator must display their approved permit and Good Neighbor Guidelines (with the permit number, valid through date, and local emergency contact) in a prominent location within your short-term rental unit.
The permit is valid for one (1) year from the date the permit was issued by the Planning & Community Development Department. After the expiration, the permit becomes invalid and the operator can renew the permit for an additional period of one year.
The Ordinance also clearly states that the permit is issued to the owner, not the property. This means that the permit is issued to the operator or the specific owner in order to operate or use the short-term rental unit.
Once the property transfers from one owner to another, the permit becomes invalid. The new owner will have to reapply for a new permit.
For example. "Mr. X" the operator of a short-term rental unit received a permit on January 1st of 2020. This permit is valid for one year from the date of issuance or December 31st. of 2020.
If "Mr. X" sells the short-term rental unit to "Mrs. Y" on, November 1st. of 2020, "Mrs. Y" will need to apply for a new permit if she intends to continue operating the property as a short-term rental.
In the case of non-owner occupied STR’s, existing owners (Pre-November 2019) are grandfathered in and therefore eligible for a Permit. Although these non-occupant owners are grandfathered in, they still need a permit to operate and if they sell or transfer the property, the new owner is not eligible unless they live in the property for more than one hundred and eighty-five (185) days.
In these new provisions, the Council has provided a definition of owner-occupied short-term rentals to clarify whether a person falls under this category or not.
The council defines owner-occupied short-term rentals as an owner who has been inhabiting a property for a continuous period of one hundred and eighty-five (185) consecutive days in a particular year. This makes it difficult to be a compliant, non-owner-occupied STR owner, at least in the City of Colorado Springs.
Owner-occupied STRs are allowed in any lawful dwelling unit as long as the property is within any of the following residential zoning types: A, R, R-1 9000, R-1 6000, R-2, R-4, R-5, SU, PUD, OR, OC, PBC, C-5, C-6 and M-1.
The Colorado Springs Springsview website can help you determine if your property is located in the appropriate zoning code.
A short-term rental license is now required to operate any short-term rental unit in the City of Colorado Springs. The operator must display their approved license and Good Neighbor Guidelines (with the license number, valid through date, and local emergency contact) in a prominent location within your short-term rental unit.
Licenses cost $119 per year and are valid for one (1) year from the date the license was issued by the Planning & Community Development Department. After the expiration, the license becomes invalid and the operator can renew the license for an additional period of one year.
It’s important to note that as an STR owner/operator, you will also be responsible for sales tax. Application for a short-term rental license can be made at the City of Colorado Springs Planning and Development website.
The Ordinance also clearly states that the license is issued to the owner, not the property. This means that the license is issued to the operator or the specific owner in order to operate or use the short-term rental unit.
Once the property transfers from one owner to another, the license becomes invalid. The new owner will have to reapply for a new license.
For example. "Mr. X" the operator of a short-term rental unit received a license on January 1st of 2020. This license is valid for one year from the date of issuance or December 31st. of 2020.
If "Mr. X" sells the short-term rental unit to "Mrs. Y" on, November 1st. of 2020, "Mrs. Y" will need to apply for a new license if she intends to continue operating the property as a short-term rental.
In the case of non-owner occupied STR’s, existing owners (Pre-November 2019) are grandfathered in and therefore eligible for a license. Although these non-occupant owners are grandfathered in, they still need a license to operate and if they sell or transfer the property, the new owner is not eligible unless they live in the property for more than one hundred and eighty-five (185) days.
There are still opportunities for investors to be a successful Airbnb landlord in other cities and towns within the Pikes Peak region. The key is to find areas that are desirable to visitors.
Probably the best opportunity for non-owner-occupied short-term rentals. Manitou Springs is a small tourist-friendly town located just west of Colorado Springs. The city of Manitou Springs adopted regulations for the very first time in 2016. The Planning Department recommended changes to those rules in 2018 and at this point in time has yet to implement those changes.
As of now, the regulation states that the permission of the Manitou Springs City's Planning Commission is required for the rental of the dwelling unit which is given on rent for the sole purpose of lodging for at least one day and for a maximum period of twenty-nine days. The planning commission of the city provides the occupier with a minor conditional use permit.
Monument, Colorado is a small town located just north of Colorado Springs. While Monument doesn’t possess the same tourist appeal as Manitou Springs, there are limited possibilities to find tenants for a short-term rental in Monument.
Monument is close to the United States Air Force Academy and both Cadets and Parents look for short-term rentals. Monument is also home to some great outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking. An STR investment in Monument would certainly be more difficult to keep occupied but it’s not out of the question.
In the town of Monument, there are no regulations around short-term rentals.
Palmer Lake is located just west of Monument, Colorado and falls into the same category as Monument when it comes to STRs. There is limited availability but also not a strong demand either.
The City of Fountain, Colorado is located just south of Colorado Springs. The City Fountain is home to the Fort Carson Army Base. This creates the potential for short-term rental guests from friends and family visiting service members. Additionally, Fountain is close to both Schriever Air Force Base and Peterson Base. Both of these air stations provide potential guests as well.
Fountain is currently looking to adopt the zoning rules for both tiny homes and short term rental units which are advertised by online platforms like Airbnb and also for other houses that are rented for a continuous period of thirty days at any particular given time. However, regulations or official notification from Fountain have yet to be announced.
Woodland Park is a small eclectic mountain town located west of Colorado Springs in adjoining Teller County. While not as popular as Manitou Springs, this city does have a strong draw for tourists. The upside to Woodland Park for inventors is that there is generally more available inventory here than in Manitou Springs.
Woodland Park has yet to institute rules around short-term rentals.
Another niche might be to look into short term rentals that require a stay of 30 days or more. Leases of more than 30 days do not require a permit.
These have traditionally been called corporate rentals and were intended for corporate employees traveling for work for extended periods of time. They afforded these road warriors the amenities of home in a setting that was more comfortable than a hotel.
Much of the corporate rental market jumped into the Airbnb model of leasing simply because it was so profitable. This has left a vacuum in inventory for those people looking at short term rentals for more than 30 days but less than a year. This is people that are building houses, new to the area or corporate travelers.
While the rates for a corporate rental are less lucrative than those for the Airbnb type rentals, they are still more attractive than what you would see on a traditional long-term lease.
Recently it was brought to the attention of the Colorado Springs City Council that there is a loophole that allows for limited liability companies to hold short-term rental permits forever. Even though the number of LLC companies that hold permit for short term rentals is relatively small, the issue created some discussion. The commission ruled against a permit holder who wanted to keep his permit after transferring ownership of the rental house to a limited liability company for liability and estate planning reasons. The intent of the city code was for short-term rental permits to expire when homes are sold. Neighborhood advocates are encouraging the Colorado Springs City Council to close this potential loophole to maintain the intent of the city code.
At this point, the Colorado Springs City Council has committed to revisiting the rules around short term rentals within the city limits again at some point in the future. Until then we have to live with the current regulations.
If you aren't an existing pre-November 2019 non-occupant owner of a short-term rental in Colorado Springs the good news is you've been grandfathered in and as long as you acquire a permit can continue to do business until you sell the property.
If you are a homeowner leasing out an accessory dwelling unit or small apartment within your home. You're OK as long as you have a permit and follow the rules regarding number occupants allowed.
Finally, if you are a non-owner occupied investor looking to get into the short term rental market in the Pikes Peak Region, your best bet is going to be to lookout in one of the surrounding areas that don't yet have restrictions in place. Airbnb and VRBO properties do well in areas that are a popular destination for visitors and tourists.
Until something changes, this is the current status of the Short-Term Rental market in Colorado Springs. If you have any additional questions on short-term rentals or real estate investing in general, please feel free to contact us.
Section 8 is a rental housing assistance program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing (HUD), and administered by local public housing agencies. Sometimes referred to as the housing choice voucher program because it grants vouchers to eligible low-income families, people with disabilities, and seniors in order to help them obtain affordable housing.
Section 8 properties are owned by cooperating private landlords that agree to rent Section 8 approved properties to qualified voucher holders at fair market rents. The gap between fair market value and what the voucher holders pay is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing HUD and managed by a local public housing authority or local PHA.
It is important to mention that the responsibility for finding the rental property is up to the voucher holder, not the housing agency. There are States that are implementing regulations that mandate rental properties accept Section 8 voucher holders whether the private landlord wants to or not.
First, a little background: the creation of Section 8 housing dates back to the Great Depression. It was first introduced as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" program back in the 1930s, In fact, the term "Section 8" comes from Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. As you might expect, it's evolved a lot between then and now.
The most important development came with the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, which introduced the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is what most people mean when they refer to Section 8. It was established in response to criticism of government-owned public housing - people felt the government public housing program at that time, while well-intentioned, was just creating poverty-ridden areas that made the problems faced by low-income individuals and families worse, not better.
You've probably encountered the term "the projects" before. This phrase is shorthand for "public housing projects," i.e., housing that is owned by the public sector (that is, the government). This used to be the only kind of this type of housing available up until the introduction of the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Nowadays, Section 8 housing can be in any apartment or house which passes inspection - the tenant has a choice when it comes to the type of housing. Section 8 is a private market solution to a public housing problem, and we know it works because section 8 is currently responsible for helping more than two times the number of eligible tenants as public projects.
There are two types of vouchers: project-based vouchers and tenant-based vouchers.
Project-based vouchers, as their name implies, can only be used for specifically approved projects.
These are buildings, or areas that are designated to house eligible low-income families, and accept Housing Choice Vouchers. These tend to be larger multi-family buildings, more like apartment buildings than detached single-family homes.
Tenant-based vouchers, on the other hand, follow the tenant, not the project. These choice vouchers are used to pay property owners who have made their properties available to Section 8 tenants and have passed inspections. These are issued under the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Let's first take a look at this housing voucher program as it applies to tenants. If you find yourself facing financial difficulties, is applying for Section 8 housing a good idea for you? You may have become discouraged as people tell you it's too difficult to get, or that all the accommodations will be dirty and undesirable.
While the process of qualifying for the housing choice voucher program is certainly not easy, it's not impossible. there are specific steps you will need to take and plenty of paperwork you will need to fill out but at the end of the day, it's certainly worth the work.
As far as living conditions are concerned, the local housing agency inspects each unit and there is a minimum condition requirement the landlord needs to meet in order to be a part of the program. So, while the properties are certainly not brand new or luxury homes, they are clean and safe.
Section 8 won’t cover all of a voucher holder's rent. The housing choice voucher program uses something called payment standards to determine how much housing assistance payment money the public housing agency will pay the owner on behalf of the voucher holder.
A payment standard between 90% and 110% of the Fair Market Rents for a particular area is calculated by the local public housing agency. This represents the cost of leasing a moderately-priced dwelling unit in a particular area. These Fair market Rents are published regularly by HUD
The voucher holder will be required to pay 30% of their monthly adjusted gross income towards rent and utilities. If the rent exceeds the payment standard allocated for this house, the tenant would be required to pay the difference.
The most obvious advantage of Section 8 is that it can help you pay your bills. A lot of people can get to the point where paying for rent is their primary concern - this rental subsidy helps alleviate this rent burden so you can pay for other necessities such as food.
Section 8 affords low-income families the opportunity to improve their situation
One major drawback is that you will most likely be placed on a waiting list - it may take as long as a year or two for Housing and Urban Development to determine if you or your family qualify. However, during this time you will likely be able to use project-based vouchers.
Although you will most likely be placed on a waiting list - the demand for vouchers is greater than the number of accommodations available - Section 8 is not a first-come, first-serve system.
There are certain qualifications that can give you preference when it comes to getting housing. Some of these include:
If any of these conditions apply to your situation, be sure to let the PHA (Public Housing Authority) know as you may be able to get housing faster.
Qualification for housing choice vouchers is based mainly on your income, and the amount of the payment standard HUD is willing to fund varies based on your family size. It also depends on the area you live in: there are income limits, as a rule of thumb, you can not earn more than 50% of the median income of the area in which you live in order to qualify.
The tenant will also need to go through the private landlord’s standard screening process. This usually involves a credit check, a background check including a look at any criminal history, or eviction history.
The tenant will in most cases also be responsible for the security or damage deposit.
Section 8 voucher holders are responsible to report any changes in income or family composition or familial status to your local public housing authorities.
In general, you must be a US citizen in order to qualify for Section 8, though there are certain exceptions.
To start the application process, you will visit a Public Housing Agency office. HUD maintains a list of participating agencies, you can find the list here.
Applications are free and can be filled out in person, sent through the mail, or even submitted online.
You will most likely be placed on a waiting list for 1 to 2 years, during this waiting period, you can choose to accept project-based vouchers.
Once the tenant applicant is approved they can start to search for rental properties that accept Section 8 vouchers. Once they find a property, the local housing agency will need to inspect the housing unit and make sure it meets the section 8 criteria, this also includes a physical inspection to make sure the property is in good condition.
Each local housing authority will have a different process, and different requirements for this rental assistance program, it’s best to start with the local housing agency.
If you are considering becoming a Section 8 landlord, you probably have a lot of questions. First and foremost, you'll be wondering: "should I become a Section 8 landlord?" Well, there are benefits and drawbacks to accepting Section 8 tenants. We'll start with some of the benefits.
If you've been a landlord for any length of time, you'll know that one of the most frustrating things about being a landlord is overdue rent; you've probably heard that rent is guaranteed with a Section 8 tenant, and what could be more appealing than this? Well, it's at least partially true, and one of the biggest advantages of renting out to a Section 8 tenant.
Basically, the government will only pay a certain percentage of the rent - this you can expect to receive every month (although when first starting out with a tenant, it might take a few months to get rent; more on this below)
Given that the whole point of public housing is for the government to guarantee accommodations to those who can't afford it, it might seem strange that they're only paying a portion of the rent, but that's the way it works unless the tenant is making no income in which case they'll probably cover it completely.
As you can see, saying Section 8 means "guaranteed monthly rent" is a bit of a misnomer. As with any tenant, it's your duty to evaluate the Section 8 tenant, looking at things like their credit history.
Since the government will be paying most of the rent, market-based increases on rental units are less traumatic for tenants.
Another benefit of agreeing to accept Section 8 tenants is that you'll be able to fill up vacancies more quickly. Since there is a shortage of landlords who are willing to work with housing voucher clients, these apartments and houses are continuously in short supply and high demand: we don't want to say it's guaranteed that a vacancy will fill up in a few days, but there's a good chance that, in a lot of cases, it will be filled more quickly than if it were being rented out the normal way.
Since a lot of landlords will not accept Section 8 vouchers, this also means tenants are less likely to leave this type of housing (ideally, yours) once they've found it. Section 8 leases are usually for a minimum term of one year.
Above, we mentioned that apartments or houses that wish to become Section 8 housing must pass inspection. As with any federal government program, there can be a lot of red tape!
Once a year, an inspector will visit the property to ensure it meets standards and habitability requirements. You may be required to make changes at your own expense, though there are preventative measures you can take to make sure this doesn't happen.
Of course, although the government pays around 70% of the rent, the other 30% is not guaranteed. If you are an experienced landlord, you should use your standard systems for qualifying section 8 tenants. This should involve a credit check, background check, and a follow up call with any references.
It’s important to be consistent with your qualification standards from tenant to tenant. The fastest way to end up with a fair housing violation is to use different standards for approving or rejecting different tenants.
Another business practice landlords should maintain is the security or damage deposit. When leasing to a Section 8 voucher holder, it’s important to maintain your normal business standards, if you normally charge a security or damage deposit, you should use the same standards with a section 8 applicant.
So, overall, there are advantages and disadvantages to becoming a Section 8 landlord.
Determining whether or not it's right for you can seem like a balancing act of weighing the benefits against the drawbacks and vice versa.
In spite of all the myths you have heard, this is not necessarily a disaster, nor is it a magical, higher-than-average guaranteed rent situation.
We recommend really doing your research, taking your time and especially researching the experiences other landlords have had with Section 8 tenants so you can learn more about the perks but also be on the lookout for any potential problems.
Section 8 is a valuable program that benefits both tenants and landlords. It can help tenants get back on their feet, saving them from homelessness if they can't otherwise afford rent, and it helps landlords have steady access to a large supply of potential tenants.
Whether you are a person who needs cheaper housing, or a landlord who needs more tenants, Section 8 is certainly something worth looking into. If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to contact us.
Your rental property is a valuable investment. Perhaps your most valuable (other than the home that you live in), which makes choosing the best property management company an important decision. If you don't know how to find a good property management company, read on...
Many real estate investors opt to work with a property manager to save themselves time and stress— late-night emergency maintenance calls aren’t anyone’s idea of a good time. For others, however, managing a rental is simply impossible, either because their primary residence is out-of-state or because they don’t have the time and expertise.
Property managers can step in and take care of the day-to-day concerns of maintaining the property and finding tenants. The problem is that property management is not a well-regulated industry. If you aren’t careful, you could end up with an incompetent or even dishonest property manager.
You probably spent a lot of time researching and visiting potential rental properties before making a purchase. Taking some time to research and vet prospective property managers is one of the best ways to protect your investment.
It is relatively easy to become a property manager in Colorado. By law, you are only required to have a real estate broker’s license to manage rental properties.
The problem is that not all real estate agents have the expertise to successfully manage properties. Or they may be too busy with other aspects of their business to give property management the time and attention it deserves.
Going through a real estate company that has property management expertise and a dedicated property management team, however, offers distinct benefits. A realtor knows how to effectively advertise properties and will be able to assist if you decide to sell your rental property in the future.
Property management services offered by industry professionals usually include finding the right tenants and in many cases avoiding the dangerous ones, negotiating rental contracts, performing routine maintenance, handling evictions, collecting rent, and everything in between.
Property management fee structures can vary widely between companies. Here at Springs Homes, for example, we charge a small annual administration fee, a monthly fee, a lease fee to cover marketing the property and screening prospective tenants, and a maintenance retainer that is used to keep the property up to snuff. Some companies may also charge fees for things like early termination of a property management contract, handling an eviction, or taking on a property without an existing tenant.
Though services may vary slightly, property management is designed to allow you to enjoy the benefits of an investment property without sacrificing your free time. In addition to saving time, a good property manager will be familiar with relevant laws, such as habitability and eviction laws, and deal with any legal issues that may arise.
A property manager’s job includes vetting potential tenants, running background checks, and marketing the property, so it won’t sit empty for long. The manager is also the main point of contact for tenant issues and is responsible for security deposits and documentation for the property.
Since property managers have such a wide range of responsibilities, it is easy for a bad property manager to take advantage of either rental property owners or tenants through dishonesty and negligence.
So how can you as an investor be sure that you are choosing the right property manager who will work in the best interest of you and your tenants? With a bit of background research and a well-planned interview process, you can enter into a property management relationship with confidence.
A Google search is a good place to start researching a prospective property manager. Online reviews can give you an idea of overall customer satisfaction. Some negative reviews (such as a review by an evicted tenant) may have no bearing on the quality of a company’s work, but you can look for themes, such as multiple people complaining about a manager’s poor communication.
Once you’ve given Google a quick skim, check out the company’s listing on the Better Business Bureau. Have they had any complaints filed against them? A solid online reputation is the first sign that this might be a good company to work with. Here's a great article that digs deeper into the importance of online reviews.
If you are ready to sit down in an interview, ask the manager to provide references from previous property owners and tenants. When you call the property owner, ask about things like communication, timely payments, and transparent policies.
Ask the tenant if they are satisfied with responses to their repair requests and if they would renew their lease.
Before interviewing a candidate, you will want to verify that they are appropriately licensed through the state’s real estate commission. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies offers a license lookup tool. You can search by either the individual’s name or the business name to see the type and status of their license.
You can also ask the company or individual if they have any certifications related to property management. Several trade organizations, such as The National Association of Realtors and The National Association of Residential Property Managers, offer certification programs.
Make sure that any companies that you are considering have the appropriate insurance coverage for their business. As a baseline, property managers should have general liability insurance, errors and omissions (E&O), and commercial insurance that helps cover the properties they manage.
Property managers usually require that both the tenants and landlords be properly insured as well. They may ask you to add them onto your landlord insurance as an additional insured to make sure that they are protected from all angles
If possible, meet your potential property manager in person for an interview. Note your first impressions of the manager. Would you feel comfortable renting from them? Are they personable, polite, and responsive? Was it relatively easy to schedule a meeting with them?
Though property managers have a lot on their plate, their ability to make time to meet with you will likely translate over to how they communicate with you and your tenants in a business relationship. Slow responses or multiple reschedules are red flags that indicate they might be difficult to communicate with when you are actually working together.
You will want to prepare a list of questions to ask in the interview so that you can learn more about the company’s qualifications and policies. We have put together a list of suggested interview questions that you can print out and take with you to the meeting, or you can write your own.
Make sure that the property manager has expertise with the type of property that you own. You probably don’t want to hire a commercial property manager to manage your single-family home. Likewise, a property manager that works primarily with single-family homes may not be ideally positioned to market your commercial space.
Ask about the types of property that they have previously managed and how many years of experience they have. You can also ask about continuing education and what they do to keep up on current industry laws.
In the property manager interview, ask about vacancy rates and size of client base. If they have a decent number of vacant properties, ask about the property types and how long each property has been vacant. Maybe they have filled all of their single-family homes but don’t have the expertise to find tenants for a condo.
The size of the client base can give you an idea of the company’s experience. If they already have a sizable number of satisfied customers, they are probably a good company to work with. At the same time, you will want to make sure that they have the capacity to take on a new property and aren’t stretched too thin.
If everything else checks out, you are ready to examine the company’s property management contract and tenant lease agreement.
You will primarily want to look for transparency and strong policies in their contracts. Are their services clearly outlined? What are you responsible for as a landlord? How long is the contract, and can you terminate early if you aren’t satisfied with the company?
This is also a good time to look at their fee structure. Are their management fees straight-forward, or are there hidden fees? You can also do some comparison research to make sure that their services aren’t under or over-priced. An under-priced property manager may be inexperienced or too good to be true.
When looking at the lease agreement, look for late rent policies, penalties for breaking the lease, tenant responsibilities (such as who is responsible for yard maintenance), and who the tenant should contact with issues or maintenance requests. The more clearly these processes are outlined in the contract, the less likely you are to run into issues down the road.
At this point, you have done your due diligence and have a few potential candidates that are qualified, competent, and well-reviewed. How do you make your final decision?
Great communication will result in a great working relationship, so the right fit may be the manager who is the most responsive or the easiest for you to talk to. You want a qualified professional managing your rental property, but great customer service for you and your tenant is equally important.
Taking some time to compare and contrast your short-listed candidates may offer some additional insight. All of your candidates probably have strengths and weaknesses in some aspect of property management, so create a pros and cons list. Which pros do you value the most highly as an investment property owner, and which cons are you willing to live with?
Though finding the best property manager might seem like a daunting task, there are many qualified real estate professionals in the Colorado Springs area, and if you work your way through this checklist, you can rest easy, knowing that your investment is in good hands.
If you are interested in discussing your investment property with the Springs Homes Property Management team, contact us. We’d love to meet with you and answer your questions.