If you’ve been renting or looking to rent for a while, you’ve probably come across the “3x rent rule.” The 3x rule is a common way landlords and property managers vet potential tenants. It states that a tenant’s adjusted gross income, or take-home pay, should be 3x the proposed rent on a property.
Adjusted gross income is your total monthly income minus any deductions, like taxes, alimony, interest from student loans, contributions to an IRA or 401k, or a car payment.
If we look at a property with a monthly rent of $2,000, for example, the 3x rent rule states that a tenant must have a gross monthly income of $6,000 or $72,000 annual salary to qualify for that rental. The income itself can come from wages, dividends, capital gains, or retirement accounts.
The rule generally applies to household income, so a couple’s combined annual gross income must be 3x the monthly rent amount. But in many roommate situations, the landlord will require each roommate to meet the 3x rule separately to ensure that they still have a viable tenant if someone decides to move out.
While this can be a headache for prospective tenants, especially in areas where rental rates outpace average income, the 3x rule protects landlords from missed payments and helps prevent evictions.
The 3x rule originated in the Housing Act of 1937, which was part of FDR’s New Deal. The Housing Act offered housing assistance to low and moderate-income families.
The Act was originally proposed in 1934, but wasn’t passed until FDR’s second term. In his second inaugural address, President Roosevelt promised to make adequate housing a priority and signed the act into law in September of 1937.
Section 8 of the Housing Act offers federally-subsidized rent assistance to families in the private market. Section 8 requires families to pay 30% of their adjusted income toward rent. The program then covers the gap between 30% of their income and the actual rent cost.
This eventually became the standard rent-to-income ratio for the housing market.
Section 8 explains where the 3x rule came from, but why do we still use it? What if an individual can afford to spend 40% of their income on housing? Shouldn’t they be able to qualify for a more expensive rental?
Though it can have drawbacks, the 3x rule is an important part of the prequalification process. It is not one-size-fits-all, but if your income is 3x larger than the rent, you are less likely to miss a rent payment or regularly struggle to afford rent.
Evictions are horrible for everyone involved. Tenants are thrown into temporary turmoil at best, and homelessness at worst. The property owner loses money from missed rent and spends time, energy, and resources pursuing an eviction and back rent.
Pre-qualifying tenants can help minimize the likelihood of an eviction, protecting the tenant and landlord from pain and heartache. The 3x rule benefits both parties by ensuring the tenant doesn’t get locked into a lease agreement that they can’t afford, and that the landlord receives their payments on time.
Ideally, landlords and property managers will use the 3x rule as one part of the prequalification process, but also run a credit check, talk to references and previous landlords, and verify employment.
Meeting the income requirement is only one piece of the puzzle.
Gathering proof of income can be a lot of work for an independent landlord. Tracking down income verification documents, bank statements, and making phone calls eats up a lot of time, but again, the goal is to prevent evictions. Finding the right tenant upfront will save you time and money down the road.
We have compiled a list of items to check with different types of tenants—employed, self-employed, and retired—to simplify the verification process for you.
Verifying income for employed applicants is the simplest, but you can also find excellent self-employed and retired tenants. Just be prepared to do a bit more legwork
For employed applicants, ask for pay stubs from the past 3 months. This will give you an accurate picture of their current earnings and cover a long enough period to reveal any fluctuation in income.
W2s show total income from the previous year. W2s can indicate how financially stable an applicant is and if their earnings are consistent. If the applicant has changed jobs, however, this may not be particularly useful.
Lastly, a simple phone call to the applicant’s employer will offer insight into their employment status and character. Consider asking what the applicant is like as an employee. Do they show up on time, work hard, and get along with their coworkers?
This group of applicants includes freelancers, gig workers, and entrepreneurs. We value and admire our freelancers and small business owners, until they want to buy or rent a home.
We often perceive small businesses as more susceptible to market changes—they may not have the financial stability to weather dips in the economy. This perception can make it difficult for self-employed individuals to get approved for a rental or home loan. But it doesn’t have to!
Plenty of industries that provide consistent and stable work to freelancers and gig workers. Just because a business is small, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s vulnerable. Even large companies can go through periods of financial struggle and layoffs.
If you are willing to do a bit of initial research, you may find yourself with an amazing, reliable self-employed tenant.
Bank statements from the applicant’s business account will give you the most comprehensive information about their earnings. Look for consistent deposits, and make sure that expenditures don’t exceed their deposits—this could indicate a lack of profit.
Talk to the applicant. Ask them how long they have been in business and what services they offer. You can also ask about industry stability, or research the industry yourself once you have a bit more information.
Research the business. Are they registered with the state government? Do they have a business license (if one is required)? Colorado Springs, for example, only requires licenses for specific industries, like food and liquor. Also, see if they have a professional website.
Checking the applicant’s credit report will reveal any red flags, such as a history of late payments, or any bankruptcies or foreclosures. You’ll also want to pay attention to balances on loans and credit cards.
Previous landlords are a great resource for any potential tenant, not just self-employed ones, since they can answer questions about payment history. Most importantly, ask if they would rent to the tenant again!
Unemployed or Retired Applicants
It can be difficult for retirees and the unemployed to qualify for rentals, since the same pre-qualification standards are used for all applicants. They may not have a consistent income, or may not have the necessary verification documents. Here are a few examples of documents to ask for in this situation.
Social Security statements are a great place to start, as Social Security provides a steady source of income for retirees that can be easily verified.
Ask for annuity statements. Many retirees rely on annuities to replace their paychecks, and this income can also be used during the verification process.
IRA, 401k, or pension distribution statements can also help verify income.
Bank statements will reveal any consistent deposits that are not listed on the previous types of statements. They may have another way to supplement their income that does not fall into any of the previous categories.
If you have an unemployed applicant, ask them to provide unemployment statements. These statements act as proof of income from the government.
We mentioned at the beginning of the article that the 3x rent rule can make finding a place difficult. In many markets, wages do not keep pace with housing costs. Unfortunately, our own lovely Colorado falls into this category.
In 2019, the Denver Business Journal published an article, saying that the average wage earner in Denver cannot afford to buy a median-priced home. For workers making $65,000-$75,000 a year, over 40% of their income would go toward their mortgage.
Home and rental prices are continuing to climb, leaving prospective tenants without many options. Some will seek out roommates, hoping to pool their incomes to meet the 3x rule. This doesn’t always work. Many landlords and property managers will expect each tenant to meet the rule separately.
This is an understandable precaution since roommates can move out without notice, but where does that leave you? If you are hoping to rent with roommates, a private landlord may be more flexible with income requirements than a property manager or institutional one.
You can also work to strengthen your rental application in other ways to compensate for your financial situation. Having a good credit score is especially important in these situations since it demonstrates that you pay your bills on time and take your financial commitments seriously. Adding a cosigner or making a larger security deposit can convince a landlord that you are less of a financial risk.
Some rentals don’t require an income check. If you know you can afford a house or apartment, but don’t meet the 3x rule, this may be an ideal situation for you. Just be careful not to overextend yourself financially.
Rely on word of mouth to locate a private landlord that will consider your application. Think about the Kevin Bacon effect. If every actor can be linked to Kevin Bacon in 3 steps or less, someone in your network can put you in touch with a suitable landlord or point you toward an apartment in your price range.
Find a roommate already in a lease, which will eliminate the need for you to pre-qualify. Make sure that you have a written rental agreement with your roommate, laying out terms and financial responsibilities.
Also, if you can’t afford rent in your home city, Section 8 was made for you! In general, your household income cannot exceed 50% of the median income in your area to be eligible. You can check out our blog post, “What is Section 8?” for more information.
The 3x rule is a good general rule of thumb for landlords to protect themselves from missed rent and the messy process of evicting a tenant, but it is not a perfect solution. A tenant may miss payments for reasons other than an inadequate income, or a tenant that wouldn’t normally qualify, may be perfect for your situation.
If you are a private landlord, think about rental costs in your area vs average wages. If it is not a favorable ratio, consider how you might compromise with potential tenants without putting yourself at risk. Maybe you’re okay with roommates pooling their incomes, or would accept someone with a lower income level if they paid a higher deposit?
If you are a prospective tenant with a lower income, focus on strengthening other key parts of your application, such as your credit score. You can also brainstorm people who might be willing to cosign for you, such as a trusted family member.
And, of course, ask around! There are private landlords that are willing to work with a good tenant, even if they don’t meet the 3x rule.
There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Colorado Eviction Process. Because the process is very specific, failure to understand the appropriate steps can add significant time to the eviction.
The pandemic of 2020 and subsequent eviction moratorium has also made the colorado eviction process even more confusing.
If you are involved in residential leasing as a Property Manager, Landlord, Property Owner, or Tenant, you should understand your rights and responsibilities in the State of Colorado.
We will provide a comprehensive overview of what the eviction process within Colorado entails. As an aside, you'll often see eviction referred to as "forcible entry and detainer" (FED) when it comes to Colorado statutes, so keep that in mind.
The statewide moratorium on eviction cases is set to end on June 30th. 2021. The formal legal process should return to normal after this moratorium is lifted.
First of all, if you're going to go through with evicting a tenant via termination of their lease before the end of their lease term, you'll need to have a sound legal reason.
The most obvious and most common reasons for eviction will be for non-payment of rent. Colorado law also allows for the violation of a condition of the lease or rental agreement as a reason for eviction.
Eviction filings based on a lease violation happen when a tenant refuses to follow the guidelines of the lease. For example, they are failing to adhere to the covenants in a community with an HOA. Other situations that can result in eviction are violations related to issues like an unauthorized pet violation or undisclosed roommates. Colorado landlords and property managers do see a lot of lease violations around growing marijuana in a rental property.
In Colorado, the tenant can also be evicted in the case of a public trustee sale. If the tenant commits a violent criminal act or is involved in a drug-related activity (referred to as a substantial violation), this also provides a legal basis for eviction.
Of course, there are also protections for the tenant against unfair eviction.
For example, a landlord or property management company cannot attempt an eviction in response to the tenant filing a complaint about a violation of what's called the implied warranty of habitability. This is laid out in the Colorado Revised Statutes in Section 38-12-509.
What is the implied warranty of habitability? It's simply a fancy term for how livable or unlivable the apartment is. If a tenant complains living conditions are poor, they can't be evicted for this reason, though in this case, the burden of proof is on them.
A federal law, the Federal Fair Housing Act prevents eviction of a tenant on the basis of race or color, religion, national origin, familial status, or sex. When you get into issues involving the Federal Fair Housing Act, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice.
It also covers disabilities: if the person requires a service dog, this need overrides any pet restrictions present in the lease. Colorado state law also provides protection against discrimination on the basis of ancestry or belief systems, marital status, and sexual orientation.
Depending on what city in Colorado the property is in, there may be additional protection.
Colorado eviction laws mandate that you must provide your tenant with 10 days' notice. Previously, the requirement a 3-day notice, but this was changed in May of 2019. Obviously, it's important to take note of this recent change, especially if you have been a landlord for years and are used to the notice requirement being only 3 days.
In the case of a failure to pay rent, you must provide a 10-day notice - a period of 10 days in which the tenant is permitted to pay rent - before you can go forward with the formal eviction procedure.
If the eviction is due to unpaid rent, the first step in the eviction process is to post a 10 Day Notice, usually on the front door of the property. While most leases have language that talks about when rent is due and when it’s late, the notice can be posted as soon as the rent is late. You will deliver or post in a visible location, usually on the entry door, either a Demand of Compliance or Possession Notice (JDF 101) or the Notice to Quit (JDF 97).
These notices should also provide the reason for eviction to the tenant. Both forms can be downloaded at this link: https://www.courts.state.co.us.
Once notice has been served, the ten-day period must elapse. However, if the last day of this ten-day period is either a Saturday or Sunday or a legal holiday, the period will be extended an additional day. This means ten full days are required, not including weekends or holidays, after issuance of either a Demand of Compliance or a Notice to Quit before pursuing an eviction.
If the 10-day period elapses without a resolution, you'll continue the eviction process by filling out the Complaint in Forcible Entry and Detainer (JDF-99) form.
You'll also have to fill out the Summons in Forcible Entry and Unlawful Detainer form (CRCCP Form 1A) and the Answer Under Simplified Civil Procedure form (CRCCP Form 3). Of course, you'll have to pay filing fees of around $97, plus the cost of producing copies for the defendant or defendants along with the court.
Delivering these forms to the court requires some precise timing: make sure the Summons Complaint and Answer to the Defendant(s) are both submitted within one day of when the JDF-99 has been filed. These need to be sent with first-class mail and prepaid postage. Finally, a court date can be scheduled by a court clerk within 1 to 2 weeks.
A summons will be issued to the tenant by a sheriff or private process server or any qualified adult who has no ties to the eviction process. You will have to pay a service fee in the case of a sheriff or private process server, though the amount can vary.
Finally, we get to the actual court hearing. If the tenant fails to respond to the summons, a summary judgment, default judgment, or court order may be issued to the landlord. Expect a bit of a legal battle as the tenant might file a counterclaim (a response to the landlords’ allegations) or even request a trial by jury. Colorado also may require meditation with the tenant and landlord before the hearing.
Should the landlords' case win in court, they must then file for possession of property with a Motion for Entry of Judgement (JDF 104). You'll receive the Order for Entry of Judgement (JDF 107). The tenant must vacate the rental within 48 hours - if they don't, the landlord will need to fill out the caption on the Writ of Restitution (JDF 103) and deliver it to the court. Upon approval, the sheriff's office will forcibly remove the former tenant from the premises.
Should the eviction proceedings go in the landlord’s favor, they'll need to remove all of the belongings with a crew while being supervised by the sheriff’s department. If you don't expect your tenant to comply with an eviction order, it's best to make preparations to have a team ready to move everything out with boxes, tarps, trash bags, etc.
Colorado is unique when it comes to removing a former tenant's belongings when they have to be removed by force: you are not required to store the items. The former tenant has 15 days to retrieve the items and, if they don't, you are legally free to sell or discard them.
The Demand for Compliance is to be issued in cases where you want to give the tenant a chance to rectify the issue. They'll have 10 days in which to, for example, pay outstanding rent or reverse any violation of the lease agreement. Should they fail to make amends, you are then able to proceed with filing the forms necessary for eviction.
The Notice to Quit, on the other hand, can be used if you want the tenant removed as early as possible and don't want to give them the opportunity to rectify. The Notice to Quit is best used, for example, in the case of a tenant violating the law and can get them out in as little as 3 days.
You can expect to wait no longer than 2 weeks for a hearing after the filing process is completed. Of course, the length of it takes for the hearing to occur can be drawn out by appeals or continuances. Usually around one month is enough time for a completed eviction to occur, though it depends on so many factors.
The state of Colorado is a loser pays state: this means that, should you have a solid case and valid reason for evicting your tenant you can expect to pay reasonable court and attorney fees. However. you have to specify this in your lease in order to qualify for recovery.
The Colorado Eviction Process (or in any state for that matter) can be difficult, but they aren't always. We hope we've shed some light on how it all works and what you need to know if you're considering evicting a tenant. If you file forms correctly and have a valid complaint against the tenant, the law should be on your side and the rental vacated as expediently as possible.
For many tenants, property condition is a deciding factor when renting a home. If you’ve been renting for a while, you’re probably already in the habit of documenting any damages 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 a health-risk even before it begins to look dingy. Carpet can hold four times its weight in dirt and debris, which settles into the fibers and cannot be removed by dry vacuuming alone. Food, hair, skin cells, 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, 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 a few questions before signing a lease, could spare you a few headaches down the line.
Colorado has passed a number of rules and regulations governing the landlord-tenant relationship, 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, the landlord is responsible for any necessary maintenance and upgrades to keep the property habitable.
Beyond the general requirement of habitability, which would ostensibly include properly maintained flooring, there are no state laws regulating carpet replacement or maintenance. As a result, landlords 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 when the carpet was last replaced and when the landlord intends to install new carpets. With normal wear and tear, a carpet can last approximately 15 to 20 years, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends replacing a rental property’s carpets every 5 to 7 years.
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 replacing 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 and disputes over security deposits are common but avoidable. The deposit that you pay at the beginning of your lease will be used to make any necessary repairs when you move out, which could include cleaning or replacing carpets.
If your landlord decides to withhold part of your deposit, he or she must give you a written report explaining the deductions. Deposits can only be used to cover damages, not normal wear and tear. When it comes to carpet, wear and tear includes issues such as matting, dirt or wear in heavily trafficked areas, and impressions from furniture. Burns, stains, or tears in the carpet would be considered damages, and your deposit could be used to pay for cleaning or replacing the affected areas.
In most courts, the cost of replacing 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.
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 consider the extent of damage or wear before committing to a 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.
If you have lived in Colorado Springs for a few years, it may come as no surprise that the average cost of rent has risen 27.41% since 2015. But is renting a townhouse the right housing option for you?
Though a booming job and housing market offers certain benefits to the Colorado Springs community, the increase in housing costs makes renting a single-family home less realistic for many, including young professionals and single-income households.
As you examine your budget and weigh housing options, you may find yourself wondering if a townhouse or condo is a better option for your lifestyle and financial situation.
On average, renting a townhouse is 16-17% less expensive than renting a single-family home, while offering some of the same amenities. townhouses do require some sacrifices in terms of autonomy and privacy, however, so make sure it is a good fit for you before signing a lease
In addition to their affordability, townhouses require less upkeep than a traditional single-family home. If you dread lawn maintenance and repainting your home’s exterior every 5-10 years, buying or renting a townhouse may be a great investment.
The HOA in these communities are responsible for all exterior maintenance, including snow removal in the winter. Shoveling your driveway and walk after a Colorado snowstorm is essential for avoiding slick and hazardous surfaces, but it can also be a chilly and physically taxing chore.
Townhouses also offer advantages over a traditional apartment unit or condo. Though not as private as a single-family home, townhouses typically have private entrances, eliminating the shared hallways of an apartment complex.
Most townhouses are narrow two-story structures, meaning that you would have neighbors on either side of you, but none above or below. This layout decreases the likelihood that you will hear your neighbors through shared walls and vice versa.
In most communities, each townhouse has its own in-unit laundry, rather than the communal laundry areas popular in apartment complexes. This feature, in addition to the small private yards that exist in most townhouse communities, results in a more house-like feel than most multi-family structures. For a more detailed comparison of apartments or condos and townhouses, read “Condos vs. Townhouses—What’s the difference?”
Despite the more private nature of a townhouse, you will still be living in relatively close proximity to your neighbors and utilizing many of the same common areas, so it may be worth thinking about whether you would enjoy the social element of a townhouse community.
If you prefer to keep to yourself and can afford a single-family home, that may be a better option.
Living in a townhouse does require adhering to the covenants and by-laws of that community which are enforced by the HOA. These rules vary greatly from community to community but may include noise restrictions, rules about parking, and regulations regarding the external appearance of the townhouse.
Though these rules are designed to preserve the appearance and desirability of the community, some individuals may find the covenants restrictive.
If you are considering renting in a particular community, ask the landlord, previous tenant, or the HOA for a copy of the community’s governing documents.
Many HOAs enforce quiet hours at night, and some may also have ordinances regarding acceptable noise levels during the day.
Though you may have a one-car garage attached to your townhouse, many communities use carports or street parking. Parking regulations will determine where you can park and what types of vehicles are allowed. The HOA may also enforce a parking lot speed limit.
In addition to leash laws and restrictions on the number of pets per unit, HOAs often enforce breed or weight restrictions. The most common restrictions are placed on dogs over 50 pounds or “potentially dangerous” breeds, such as Pit Bull or Staffordshire Terriers, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds.
Other common rules deal with uniformity within the community. The HOA may have regulations regarding size and type of holiday decorations, as well as deadlines for removing the decorations. They may also prohibit landscaping or gardening in the front yard.
When you lease in an HOA community, you assume the owner’s responsibility for adhering to the community’s regulations. Most leases will pass the penalties for violations onto the tenant.
The only exception being if the owner (rather than the tenant) was responsible for the violation. These penalties typically include warnings or fines, but multiple violations can result in eviction for violating the terms of the lease, so make sure that you are willing to abide by the rules of the community before buying or renting.
Though an HOA fee may seem like an additional unnecessary expenditure, it covers several of the bills that you would normally be responsible for, such as trash removal, exterior maintenance (discussed earlier), and insurance coverage for the building’s exterior.
Your HOA fees may cover additional amenities, such as a community clubhouse, pool, or gym, potentially saving you money on a gym membership or fitness subscription in addition to offering more opportunities to build community with your neighbors.
If you are an avid gardener, value seclusion, or like the freedom to leave your Christmas lights up through March, a townhouse may not be right for you. For the right individual or family, however, these inconveniences are made up for by the affordability, community, and lack of exterior maintenance townhouses offer.
If the amenities and lifestyle of townhouse living appeal to you, check out our townhouse listings online. Before signing your lease, remember to talk to prospective neighbors and check out the community’s governing documents to make sure it is a good fit for you. Springs Homes would love to help you find the perfect community, so please contact us if you have any questions or want to schedule a showing.
The end of a lease is an important event for landlords and tenants alike. It can also be a time of conflicting expectations. Both tenant and landlord need to understand the difference between normal wear and tear versus damage.
The landlord will usually expect their property to be returned to them in the exact condition that it was in when the tenants moved in –and if this doesn’t happen, are often happy to use the tenant’s security deposit to make it this way. Tenants, on the other hand, more often than not will expect their full security deposit back, even if there has been some damage to the rental.
In order to help manage expectations, and make the move-out process as simple and straightforward as possible, it’s important for both landlords and tenants to be on the same page. This includes having a good understanding of security deposits, and what they can and cannot be used for.
At the time of move-out, the landlord or property manager is responsible for repairing any damages to the property, as well as assessing and documenting normal wear and tear. A good Property Manager will have a move-out routine that includes items like:
They’re also responsible for deciding who will pay for any repairs, maintenance, and cleaning that’s required to bring the property back into rentable condition.
This is the part of the process that’s often full of contention. When it comes to assessing damages, the landlord’s job is to assess the property and determine what falls under the category of damages, and what should be considered simply normal wear and tear. While damages are the tenant’s responsibility, things that fall under the category of normal wear, should not be taken out of the security deposit.
It's important that landlords not use the security deposit to pay for things that go above and beyond the scope of normal wear. They may attempt to use it for things like worn carpeting or faded paint on the walls, things that aren’t damages, but instead are just the result of normal usage. In most cases, landlords know to use the security deposit as intended, to repair damages to the property, only for the tenant to contest this, and seek to get it back. One important exception to this rule pertains to items spelled out in the lease. Examples might be cleaning or carpet cleaning. If these items are stipulated as tenant responsibility in the lease, the landlord is within their rights to use security deposit funds to pay for them, if the tenant left these items undone.
When it comes to repairs, though, the law stipulates that the security deposit should only be used for repairs to damage that goes beyond what’s considered to be ordinary wear and tear.
Colorado Law (C.R.S. 38-12-102) defines “normal wear and tear as “Deterioration which occurs, based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.”
That’s a bit confusing for landlords and tenants alike. To help clear things up, here’s a list of examples of both normal wear and tear and damage.
|Normal Wear and Tear||Damage|
|Worn out Carpet||Torn, Stained or Burned Carpet|
|Faded Window Coverings||Torn, Mutilated or Missing Window Coverings|
|Worn out Keys||Lost or Missing Keys|
|Dirty Walls||Holes in Walls|
|Dirty Windows||Broken Windows|
When determining costs, the landlord will also make decisions about repairing versus actual replacement. In some cases, repair is the best choice. A good example of this would be a recent experience we had. A tenant had backed a car into the side of a home damaging a section of masonite siding. The siding was already in rough shape and the product was failing and the particular pattern was no longer available. The owner was planning to reclad the home in stucco in a couple of years anyway, so we just applied a patch using every the favorite body putty of every motorhead, "Bondo".
This repair worked out well because the owner already had a plan in place for new exterior stucco and was willing to kick the can down the road. Had this not been the case, the repair could have cost the tenant a lot more money. It’s important to note that in some cases, a landlord may charge replacement cost for an item that could be repaired with a short-term fix. So, for example, suppose a tenant punches a large hole in a wall. The landlord may choose to repair it in the short-term by simply patching it. While this temporary fix is fine for the short-term, the underlying fact is the wallboard is not the same, and the owner may choose to go back at some point and replace the entire wallboard so they are within their rights to charge for replacement.
If the item can be repaired, though, in most cases the landlord will choose to go that route. In this case, the landlord will deduct for labor, materials, and travel.
For example: if a five-year-old carpet is destroyed and that particular type of carpeting had a 10-year life expectancy, the landlord may only charge the tenant 50% of the replacement cost. This is a good practice, and extremely important as it helps to prevent landlords from using deposit funds in order to upgrade their properties.
|Water Heater||10 Years|
|Carpeting (builder grade)||5 Years|
|Air Conditioning Units||7 Years|
|Interior Paint-Enamel||5 Years|
|Interior Paint-Flat||3 Years|
|Linoleum Tile||5 Years|
|Window Coverings (shades, screens & blinds)||3 Years|
These are estimates are produced by HUD. Manufacturer estimates will vary.
Assessing the condition of the property is the responsibility of the landlord or property manager.
This will allow the landlord to determine whether there are any damages that are the tenant’s responsibility, and therefore should be paid for out of the security deposit. It also allows them to set the condition baseline before a new tenant moves in.
The challenge is determining and documenting the condition of the property before the damage occurred. This is important in the event that the tenant disputes the damages, or if the case goes to court, as having proof that the affected or damaged area was in good condition before will generally resolve the issue.
Of course, there’s a lot that tenants can do to help ensure that they’ll get their deposit back at the end of their lease.
First, of course, tenants should ensure that they keep the property in good condition while they live there, and avoid anything that might cause damage to it.
Secondly, if a tenant would like to contest the landlord’s decision to apply the security deposit to damage, they can do so. The best way to do this is by being able to furnish proof of the condition of the property. In most cases, tenants should consider taking their own photos. Generally speaking, the more documentation, the better. Photos that are taken at the time of move-in could provide proof of the condition of the property, and images that are obtained, say; a month into the lease could be used as proof of damage caused by movers. It’s also a good idea to use a camera with a time and date stamp feature and to show any pictures of post-move-in damage to the landlord.
It’s also worth noting that if a landlord fails to follow Colorado security deposit laws, the tenant could be awarded up to three times the amount that was wrongfully withheld, plus attorney’s fees and court costs, so it’s important for landlords to ensure that they remain in compliance with the law, and handle the security deposit properly.
For tenants, it’s important to remember that normal wear and tear versus damage are broad definitions, and much of the detail about the condition that you’re required to leave the property in at move-out will be specified out in your lease.
It’s important to read the lease before signing it and to make sure you ask questions to ensure that you’re clear on what’s expected of you. For instance, in some cases a landlord may state that the carpets are to be professionally cleaned at the time of move-out, others will require you to perform regular, outdoor grounds keeping maintenance, so make sure you fully understand your responsibilities and requirements before you move in.
Successful and straightforward move-outs are always the result of good documentation and communication, from both parties. It’s important for landlords to spell out their expectations in the lease document, and for tenants to ensure that they’ve read the lease –and are clear on their responsibilities both in terms of maintenance, and the condition that they’re expected to leave the property in at the time of move-out.
Rental Security Deposit disputes usually occur because of a misunderstanding between a landlord and a tenant. At the end of a lease term, the tenant is usually required to leave the property in “move-in ready” condition. This means the same condition in which they received the property, minus any normal wear and tear.
Since normal wear and tear are well defined, most landlords or property managers should have a strong grasp on what constitutes damage vs normal wear and tear.
At the end of the lease term, usually, after one to three years, the landlord inspects the property. This move-out inspection determines if the property is "Move-in ready" for the next tenant.
If the property needs cleaning or repairs to be move-in ready, those costs are paid from the previous tenant's security deposit.
Each individual state regulates its own landlord, tenant laws. In spite of this, most state laws are very similar. Most states allow deductions from security deposit funds for the following:
When using security deposit funds, the landlord is responsible for:
Inappropriate use of security deposit funds can cause problems for the landlord. When security deposit disputes go to small claims court the guidelines are clear. The landlord can incur penalties for failing to adhere to the appropriate guidelines.
Because of the dollar amounts involved, security deposit disputes that cannot be resolved without the help of a judge end up in small claims court.
The small claims process is very straight forward, the Judge looks at the following:
The rules about security deposits are clear so disputes are usually about what "move-in" condition is. The responsibility falls to the landlord to document the condition of the property prior to any new tenant moving in.
Problems occur for the landlord if they fail to adequately document the condition of the property. In these cases, it becomes about the landlord's word against the tenant's word and the courts can be more sympathetic to the public.
When a landlord fails to appropriately document the condition of a property, it speaks volumes about how they do business. There are instances when the damage to a property occurs someplace so obscure the landlord could not have been expected to document that area. This is, of course, the exception, not the rule.
Proper documentation of the property and open communication with the tenant are the best way to avoid small claims court.
There are a number of methods available to facilitate the effective documentation of a property. Digital imaging and cloud storage have made it very simple to record and share any media or reports.
Photos are a great way to document property condition. Digital storage is cheap and photo-documenting a property is easy. Sharing photos with the tenants enables them to check out the original property condition. Just being able to see move-in photos goes a long way to heading off any potential condition disputes.
Another advantage to photographs is that in the event you end up in court, you can print before and after pictures. This saves time in court and shows that you've done the proper documentation.
Video has become another popular method of documenting the condition of a rental property. Lightweight high-quality cameras make this an attractive option for landlords and property managers. One advantage of video is that the person shooting the video can also comment about what they are seeing. This avoids having to make notes or guess about what the photo is about.
Like photographs, videos are easy to store and share. Videos can be more difficult to deal with in a courtroom setting. Patience can run thin while fast-forwarding or rewinding as you look for something specific. Higher quality cameras allow you to take good quality still photos from video clips. We recommend this if you need to go to court.
Virtual tours have become very sophisticated over the last five years. Matterport is a 360-degree camera that produces so pretty awesome virtual walkthroughs. This is a great way to share the current condition with the owner as well as creating a record for the tenant time of move out.
In the event we need to go to court, these virtual tours allow us to zoom into an area and take a very high-quality still photo. Our Colorado Springs Property Management company uses this method and it's working great.
Reports are another effective way of documenting the condition of a property. Popular property management software usually comes with some type of reporting module. These modules usually come in the form of an app for a mobile device. The landlord walks through the property and takes photos of any issues. These apps have a place to write comments as well.
We have used these apps in the past and they produce a really attractive report. The only problem we have found is that they only capture current problems. We have found that it's best to have a comprehensive snapshot of the entire property. This way if a problem arises, we have documentation of how the area looked.
A little transparency, communication, and participation can also go a long way in reducing security deposit disputes. Move outs are easier when both tenant and landlord are on the same page. One way to accomplish this is to get participation from the tenants right at the beginning of the lease period.
It's a good idea to get the tenants involved in documenting the condition of the property right from the beginning. We like to give out tenants the opportunity to take pictures of any damage or dirt they find prior to any big furniture or appliances being moved in. If you have set up a file for move-in documentation, these tenant photos can be incorporated.
Obviously, there needs to be a reasonable deadline for these types of discoveries. But, we have found that this one simple action has really helped reduce our security deposit disputes.
Another effective action is to perform a pre move out inspection walkthrough. This is an informal walkthrough where the landlord can point out or make a list of any items that might be an issue.
This gives the tenant heads up and allows them the opportunity to make the item right before they move out. If they choose not to repair or clean something found on this walkthrough we always interpret that it's something they're willing to have taken out of their deposit. This pre-inspection walkthrough gives them a clear picture of what's going to happen so they don't feel blindsided.
Another good way to avoid any misunderstanding about expectations at move out time is to provide the tenant with a cleaning checklist. In most cases, a general checklist works well. If the property is really unique the landlord may need to provide more detailed instructions for the tenants.
Unexpected surprises are the primary cause of disputes over security deposits. Transparency and communication help eliminate surprises. While the tenant may not appreciate the deduction, knowing that it’s coming and why it’s coming goes a long in avoiding a trip to small claims court.
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 falls to the tenant.
This is why many landlords require tenants to have renters insurance sometimes referred to as apartment insurance before occupying a property. They do this to avoid disagreements that may arise as a result of theft or damage.
A renter's policy also helps protect the landlord in case the renters or guests get injured on the property.
This type of insurance works just like most insurance policies. The purchaser chooses the amount of coverage they require, this level will determine the cost of the renter's monthly premiums.
In the event that anything happens to the tenant or their belongings, such as fire, theft, or other types of damage, the tenant simply files a claim with the insurance provider.
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.
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 loss. 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.
While tenants should always ensure that they abide by the terms of the lease, unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Every tenant needs to understand the responsibilities for the utilities at their rental property.
One common lease violation that occurs is when tenants attempt to shut off the utilities upon vacating a property. In addition to often being a violation of the lease agreement, turning off the utilities can also lead to potentially serious problems –water damage, freezing pipes, and a dead landscape –just to name a few. Not to mention that when the landlord has to turn the utilities back on, additional extra costs are often incurred. Sometimes, tenants will even vacate a property –while still owing unpaid utility bills, putting the landlord in the frustrating position of being unable to turn the utilities back on until the back payments are made.
For many tenants, though, shutting off the utilities usually isn’t done with bad intentions. Often, shutting them off may seem like a logical step that’s done when leaving the property. The fact is, though, that utilities should almost never be turned off –and tenants should never ask a utility company to do so without the express permission of the landlord.
To help you to abide by your rental agreement, and to ensure that you understand your responsibilities as a tenant, here’s a look at some dos and don’ts when it comes to utilities for a rental property.
First, it’s important to understand that the utility connection should never be terminated, canceled, or disconnected by a tenant. While it’s true that in most single-family rentals, tenants are usually responsible for paying their own utilities for the duration of their lease, it’s also true that they are responsible for damage that occurs to the property due to a disconnection of the services.
Tenants disconnect or terminate services for various reasons –this includes going out of town, moving out early, or breaking the lease. No matter what the reason, though, tenants should never disconnect the utilities. There are a number of risks that are involved with having the utilities shut off at the rental, and should damage occur due to the utilities being shut off, you could be held liable for the cost of repairs; the expenses can be taken from your security deposit.
Here are some of the damages that can occur when the utilities have been disconnected:
Oftentimes, there will also 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.
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 then 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:
Third party notifications allow the landlord or property manager to be copied in on communications between tenants and the utility company. This will alert them if the utilities are going to be shut down, canceled, suspended, or transferred.
Setting up the utility account to revert back to the landlord helps to eliminate the gap that’s left when tenants leave. It also means there should be no reconnection fees and enables landlords to be in the know at all times.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, landlords should always protect themselves with an airtight lease that outlines a tenant’s responsibilities and requirements, as well as the consequences for nonpayment. A violation of the rental agreement that results in damage to the property could result in the landlord being able to apply part or all of the security deposit toward the damages.
Here is a look at some things 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 that are owed by the tenant will be pursued.
Note: Just as tenants should avoid turning off the utilities at the rental property, landlords should as well. 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. It’s important for landlords to ensure that they refer to, and abide by the eviction laws in their state.
For tenants, it’s in your best interest to be well-informed on the issue of utilities, and aware of your responsibilities, as well as what could be considered to be a violation of the lease. If your landlord doesn’t supply you with information regarding the utilities, here are some general best practices for tenants regarding utilities.
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 a number of different services. Common utilities include electric, gas, water, sewer, and garbage. Other services such as phone, cable, and internet –are additional amenities. In most single-family rentals, tenants are responsible for most of the utilities, but in some cases, landlords will pay for utilities that are required to keep the unit in good condition –such as sewer, water, and garbage. However, every rental agreement is structured differently, so be sure to find out which utilities you are responsible for.
Upon moving in, be sure to transfer the utilities into your name as soon as possible. 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 that you use during the length of your tenancy.
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 who are behind on utility payments should contact their utility provider to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
They 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, in fact, 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 any disruptions with your services.
At the end of the day, utilities are usually the tenant’s responsibility, but ultimately, the rental is the property of the landlord. Because of this, any damage that’s caused by, or expenses that are 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.
Colorado tenants –are you looking for homes to rent in or near Colorado Springs? Have a look at Springs Homes For Rent rental properties today!
Disclaimer: The information provided is for and advisory purposes only. Springs Homes accepts no responsibility for its accuracy. Landlord-tenant law varies considerably from state to state and we recommend that you consult with an attorney familiar with current federal, state, and local laws when creating a rental agreement.
While landlords are usually free to allow, or ban pets from their rentals, and are well within their rights to do so, there’s one very important exception to this rule that landlords should know about: assistance animals. It is critical for landlords to understand the emotional support animal laws and how it pertains to their rental property.
When it comes to the issue of service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs), landlords should note that these animals are exempt from no-pets policies. The reason is simple: these animals are not considered to be pets, but rather necessary aids for someone who has a disability. Because they don’t fall under the category of pets, landlords should make every effort to accommodate a reasonable request from a tenant who has a disability and allow these animals in their units. Landlords should also waive any pet rent or additional security deposits that they would normally require for pets.
When leasing their homes, some homeowners may feel concerned –that there’s room to exploit this system and attempt to smuggle pets in under the guise of service animals or emotional support animals; there’s no need for alarm. While a landlord is required to make reasonable accommodations for requests from people with disabilities, they also have rights to screen requests to ensure legitimacy.
If you’re a landlord –and wondering how you should treat requests for service animals or emotional support animals, read on. In this guide we’ll explore the difference between pets, service dogs, and emotional support animals; and see what your obligations –and rights are as a landlord.
First, let's look at the three different categories of animals; and see the difference between pets, service animals, and emotional support animals.
The tasks a service dog can perform are not limited to this list; however, the work or task a service dog does must be directly related to the person’s disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that service dogs are exempt from ‘no-pets’ policies, and may accompany a person with a disability into places that members of the public normally go, including state and local government buildings, businesses and non-profits that are open to the public, and on public transportation. Both the ADA and the Fair Housing Act require landlords to make similar accommodation for these animals, to allow them in units that have no-pets policies in place. This is something that falls under the category of reasonable accommodation, which requires landlords to make every reasonable attempt to accommodate people with disabilities. These animals are also exempt from pet deposits and pet rent, or any other pet-related fees. These animals are also excluded from any restrictions on breed and size.
When a landlord or housing provider receives a request for a service dog or ESA, they should ask two questions.
A landlord is allowed to verify a tenant or applicant’s need for service dogs or emotional support animal by requiring a letter from the tenant’s doctor or licensed mental health therapist, stating their need for the animal.
However, there are two things that a landlord should avoid doing during the verification process:
The ADA states that the only two questions that may be asked are the following:
A request for a service dog or ESA is classified as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability. A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy or practice used in running a community. In most cases, a landlord should be able to make accommodation for a person with a disability and allow them to have a service animal or ESA.
On the other hand, a person with a disability who makes a request for any modifications to the unit or common areas, on the other hand, is considered a reasonable modification. In these cases, the resident is usually responsible for paying for related costs. In practice, though, management may agree to some type of cost sharing with the resident as part of the interactive process expected under the Fair Housing Act.
There are a few exceptions to the Fair Housing Act, and some properties may be considered exempt from providing reasonable accommodation.
While landlords are not able to charge a tenant who has a service animal or ESA a pet deposit or pet rent, the tenant can be held responsible for any damage that their animal causes in the unit. Additionally, a landlord can issue a warning and even evict a tenant who has a service animal or ESA if that animal poses a threat to others, disturbs the peace, or causes considerable damage. An assistant animal may not be a nuisance for other tenants.
It’s important to note that some states have laws that provide broader protection than the ADA. For example, some states may offer protections to trainers of personal assistance animals as well. However, in some cases, a state may have disability discrimination laws that exclude psychiatric service dogs from protection. However, this doesn’t mean that the ADA doesn’t apply in these states. As long as federal law applies the ADA trumps more restrictive state laws.
Just as landlords must make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities, tenants must also ensure that they abide by the law as well. Any person who misrepresents the right to an assistance animal would commit a class 2 petty offense.
In most cases, a tenant should first make the request for the animal to the landlord, before obtaining the animal. [Sample letter] While the law doesn’t require it, it’s good practice for this request to be in writing. The request should explain how the reasonable accommodation helps or mitigates symptoms of the disability. The tenant does not need to disclose the disability, but he or she will need to provide documentation from a doctor or other licensed health professional stating that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.
While landlords are allowed to restrict or ban pets from their rentals, when it comes to service animals and ESAs, in most cases, a landlord should make every attempt to accommodate reasonable requests from tenants who have a disability. For emotional support animal requests, or requests for a service animal where the disability may not be obvious, a landlord can require a letter from the tenant’s physician or psychiatrist. If this document is produced, then in most cases, a landlord should allow the animal.
For tenants, all requests for a service animal or ESA should be made to the landlord prior to obtaining the animal. Ideally, this request should be made in writing. If the landlord requires more information on your need for the animal, this can usually be provided in the form of a letter from your doctor or licensed therapist.
Finally, if you’re a landlord who’s wondering how to handle a specific request for a service animal or ESA in your rental consider speaking with an experienced local attorney. A good attorney will be able to inform you of the best course of action for your situation, allowing you to ensure that you stay in compliance with federal, state, and local laws.
Colorado Landlords: for more information on Colorado state law, have a look at some of the landlord-tenant laws that apply to residential units.
Tenants who are looking for help making a service animal or emotional support animal law request, here is a sample request letter that you can modify and use to make a request to your landlord.
In an ideal world, security deposits wouldn’t exist. Tenants would move into a rental – and look after it with the best of care. They would always pay the rent on time, and continually abide by the terms of the lease, unfortunately, though, things don’t always work out this way. Things happen and mistakes are made. Sometimes, tenants end up vacating a property, leaving it in a state that requires renovations and repairs. Other times, they may fall behind on the rent –and leave owing thousands of dollars in bills and back rent. It is important to know the ins and outs of Security Deposits in Colorado.
Security deposits provide an ideal solution to the problem of tenant damage and owed rent. Think of them as an insurance policy for the home. The landlord collects the deposit at the time that the tenant moves in, and when they move out, the landlord applies the funds towards any outstanding rent, or damage that was caused by the tenant.
Security deposits, though, are not a simple cut and dry issue. Each state has different laws and requirements pertaining to the collection, use of, and sometimes even storage of security deposits, and landlords should take care to ensure that they’re operating in a way that’s in compliance with the both state and municipal law. Additionally, security deposits are often a hotly contended issue –tenants usually assume they will be getting all of their deposit back, while landlords will usually attempt to keep the deposit, and use it to fix up the rental. Property managers, unfortunately, often find themselves stuck in the middle –trying to ensure that the deposit is applied correctly, while at the same time helping to manage the expectations of both the landlord and the tenant. Little wonder that disputes about security deposits are one of the most common reasons that landlords and tenants end up in court.
Landlords and tenants would do well to know the law as it pertains to security deposits, and to have a clear understanding of their requirements when it comes to the use of the deposit. For landlords, this is vital for staying on the right side of the law, while for tenants, having a good knowledge of security deposits will help them to know their rights, and understand what they can do to ensure that they will get their deposit back.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at security deposits, and see what the law says about handling them. We’ll also uncover what tenants can do to increase their chances of getting their deposits back –in full!
First, let’s look at the purpose of the security deposit. The security deposit is designed to cover damage, caused by the tenant, as well as unpaid rent and outstanding bills. It can also be used to cover cleaning services to restore the rental to the condition that it was in before the tenant moved in.
In the event that the total damages and unpaid rent are higher than the security deposit itself, the landlord or property manager has the option to pursue the tenant for back rent and damages. The deposit, however, usually helps to fill the gap and provides a level of protection.
According to Colorado state law, a landlord may keep all or a portion of the security deposit in Colorado for any of the following reasons:
While a landlord may keep the security deposit for any of the above, they cannot keep the deposit for anything that’s considered to be normal wear and tear. This includes faded paint and drapes,worn hinges on doors or locks, and old or worn carpet.
Here’s a look at some damages that a landlord cannot apply the deposit towards. The following are generally considered to be normal wear and tear.
In most cases, the deposit should not be held for the following:
On the other hand, the deposit can be used for damages that the tenant caused –issues that go beyond normal wear and tear.
Landlords can generally use the deposit for:
Just because there was damage, though, doesn’t mean that the landlord can keep the entire deposit. The item or fixture’s age and condition when the tenant moved in must be taken into consideration as well. A common way to calculate how much of the deposit should be used for damages is applying the deposit so that the tenant only pays for what is known as the “remaining useful life” of the item.
So, for example, suppose a tenant has damaged carpet that’s seven years old. Supposing the carpet has a lifespan of about ten years, and a replacement carpet of comparable quality would cost $1,000, the landlord could charge only $300 for the three years’ worth of life that would have remained had the tenant not damaged the carpet.
In addition to damages, a security deposit can also be applied toward cleaning the rental, especially if it was excessively dirty. Trash or belongings left behind, grime or dirt in the kitchens and bathroom, and a general state of uncleanliness can usually all be considered excessively dirty.
It’s important to note that “clean” can mean different things to different people. It’s a good idea for the landlord to outline in the lease exactly what type of condition they expect their property to be left in when the tenants leave.
Here’s a list of cleanliness issues that the security deposit can generally be held for:
Specific cleanliness requirements should be outlined in the lease. For instance, if it’s stipulated in the lease that carpets should be professionally cleaned at each change of occupancy, this means that the tenants should ensure that they hire a professional to clean the carpets. Simply opting for the cheapest carpet cleaner usually isn’t enough to tackle excessively dirty carpets.
In some cases, tenants may leave unpaid bills, including utilities, when they vacate a property. In these situations, the security deposit can be kept and applied toward these outstanding balances.
If stipulated in the lease, landscape maintenance is another area where the security deposit can be applied. Landscape maintenance issues include a dead lawn caused by neglecting to water it, uncut grass, as well as dead trees and bushes. The lease should always outline who is responsible for landscape maintenance.
If the tenant has complied with all of the terms of the lease, has paid the rent in full and on time every month, has left no outstanding bills for the landlord to cover, and has caused no damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear, then the tenant is entitled to the return of their security deposit.
Laws pertaining to the return of security deposits vary considerably from state to state. But in Colorado, landlords are required to return the security deposit within 30 days, in most cases, although landlords and property managers can take up to 60 days if stipulated in the lease. However, they should never go beyond the 60-day limit. Any more than 60 days and the landlord or property manager could be held liable for three times the amount that was withheld.
If there are any deductions, the landlord or property manager should provide an itemized list of expenses incurred, along with the price of the necessary costs or repairs. Although the landlord is not required to provide the tenant with copies of receipts for expenses or repairs, they may wish to do so as further clarification.
Any remainder of the deposit should be returned to the tenant.
Tenants should either arrange to either collect the security deposit from the landlord in person or leave a forwarding address where the landlord to can mail the security deposit.
If the tenant disagrees with the deductions taken for expenses and damages, or if the landlord has not provided an itemized list, within 30 days, or up to 60 if specified in the lease, the tenant may send out what’s known as a “Seven-day Demand Letter” to the landlord. This letter should itemize the charges that the tenant is disputing, and state that the tenant may sue the landlord for three times the amount of the deposit withheld if the entire deposit or the disputed portion is not returned to the tenant within seven days of receipt of the letter.
The Seven-day Demand Letter should be sent certified mail, return receipt requested, and the tenant should keep a copy of the letter.
If the landlord returns the security deposit in full, or pays the tenant the disputed portion within seven days, the matter is considered to be resolved.
If the tenant has the intention of filing a legal suit against the landlord, they must notify the landlord seven days before doing so. This allows the landlord time to return any amount that may have been wrongfully withheld, outside of court.
If the tenant does not hear from the landlord within the seven days as specified by the demand letter, they can then choose to pursue legal action.
If the landlord does not return the security deposit or an itemized list of deductions within the time period, they forfeit all rights to the deposit.
Additionally, if the landlord fails to follow security deposit laws in the state of Colorado, the tenant could be awarded up to three times the amount wrongfully withheld, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.
In some cases, clauses that are contrary to Colorado state law may be written into the lease. These clauses cannot be enforced in court. Landlords should take care to identify and eliminate these clauses before the lease is signed. If either party has a question concerning the enforceability of a lease term, they should seek legal advice.
There are a number of things that tenants can do to ensure that they will get their deposit back.
One of the most important steps that a tenant should take is to ensure that they have carefully read and understand the terms of the lease. The lease should outline what is required of tenants in terms of lawn maintenance, as well as the condition that they should leave the property in when they vacate. It should also include additional stipulations, if they are required, such as having carpets professionally cleaned.
As a general rule, if tenants leave the rental in the same condition that it was in when they moved in, and paid the rent as well as any other bills, they should get their security deposit back
Tenants should also be sure to give proper notice when vacating the property, and should ensure that they remove all of their furniture and belongings, and clean the unit before they leave.
It’s also a good idea to document the condition of the rental when they first move in, and when they move out.
“Does Colorado law limit the amount that a landlord can charge for the Security Deposit?”
No. At the state level, Colorado does not set a limit on the maximum amount that a landlord can charge for a security deposit. But landlords should check city and county laws to ensure that there’s no limit set by their municipality.
“Can a landlord charge a nonrefundable deposit?”
No. A security deposit is considered to be the property of the tenant, and as such, the landlord holds the deposit as a security, in case the tenant violates the terms of the lease.
“Are there requirements for storing the security deposit?”
No. While some states require the landlord to store the security deposit in a financial institution, and even require the deposit to earn interest, there are no requirements for how a landlord must store a security deposit in Colorado.
While security deposits may seem like a straightforward process, there’s still plenty of room for confusion and disputes to arise. To simplify the process, and help prevent misunderstandings surrounding the deposit, landlords should detail their process for handling security deposits in the lease. This should include important details, like what’s considered to go beyond normal wear and tear, the type of condition that the tenant should leave the unit in, and the process for returning the security deposit itself.
It’s also important for landlords to have walk-through inspections and to take photos or collect video footage to document the condition of the rental. This will provide irrefutable proof of the state of the unit, at the time that the tenant moved in.
Having both photographic evidence and an airtight lease will help to inform and educate tenants on what the deposit is used for, and what they can do to ensure that they will get it back. For landlords, they will also prove to be invaluable evidence, should they have to prove their case in court.
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