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.

Property Condition Laws

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.

Your Options When it Comes to Rental Carpet Replacement

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—

  1. Don’t rent the property. If the landlord seems unconcerned with the carpet condition or is resistant to the idea of replacing it, keep searching. You should feel comfortable and safe in your rental home and not be worried about what might be lurking in the carpets.
  1. Attempt to negotiate with the landlord to have the carpet replaced. Consider offering to sign a longer lease or paying a slightly higher rental rate to cover the cost of the carpet. Most landlords are willing to make a few compromises if it means they can find a good, long-term tenant for their property.
  1. Live with the carpets as-is. Most debris and bacteria can be eliminated from your carpets with regular steam cleaning, which should be done at least once a year. Many landlords will have a property’s carpets cleaned between each tenant, which is another great question to ask during a property tour.

Depreciation and Damages

Landlord Carpet Replacement LawsAs 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.

Conclusion

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 are a landlord in Colorado, you should have a basic understanding of the Colorado Eviction Process and applicable Colorado Eviction Laws. Why? For a landlord, nothing derails your cash flow quicker than dealing with an eviction and it is important to know your rights and responsibilities.

You vetted the tenant –as carefully as possible. You pulled credit reports, did a background check, verified their job, and called their previous landlords to make sure everything checked out.

Colorado eviction processAt first, they may have been an ideal tenant; paying the rent on time, and rarely causing problems.

But somewhere along the way, something changed and a tenant that was once considered qualified –is no longer abiding by the terms of the lease.

In most cases, this violation comes in the form of late rent. Maybe they’re having trouble paying due to a job loss that results in a sudden loss of income, or income being cut in half due to a divorce. Other times, lease violations involve a tenant moving a new roommate in, without seeking permission first; or even adopting an undisclosed pet or two, and bringing them into your ‘no pets’ rental. Sometimes, there may be more serious issues involved; such as drug-related activity or criminal activity.

The fact is that even the most carefully vetted tenant, can sometimes slip through the cracks. And things come up that can transform even the most ideal renter into one who’s in violation of the lease.

No matter what the issue is, for landlords, it’s extremely important to ensure that you take action as soon as possible, to help prevent the problem from compounding or getting worse. Once a tenant falls too far behind on the rent, it can be all but impossible for them to get caught up. It may seem like an insignificant detail, but for many landlords who depend on rental income, a tenant who falls one month –or longer behind on the rent, can represent a serious loss.

For tenants who may be violating the lease in other ways, such as moving pets in without permission, taking action to address the issue sends the message that you care about your rental, and expect all of the residents to abide by the rules. Letting things “just slide” for too long can lead to complacency and the start of a downward spiral.

If you’ve reached the point of no return, where a tenant who is in violation of the lease isn’t complying with your warnings, the next step is usually to begin the eviction proceedings.

Notice for Termination With Cause

For a landlord to evict a tenant in Colorado before the tenant’s rental term has expired, they must have legal cause. The Colorado Eviction laws defines legal cause as:

  • Failing to pay rent
  • Violating the lease
  • Committing a serious act, such as a crime

The first step in the Colorado Eviction Process involves giving the tenant a 3-day notice. This notice states your intention to evict the tenant and informs them that they have three days to fix the lease violation or vacate the property.

The procedure for the 3-day notice is something we discussed in detail in our previous article.

Once they’ve received the 3-day notice, the tenant usually has two options:

  1. To pay rent, or remedy or, ‘cure’ the violation, or
  2. Move out.

The tenant has three days to correct the problem or move, and if they fail to do so, then you may begin the eviction procedures through the court. This process can be initiated on the 4th day after the tenant receives the notice.

The Formal Colorado Eviction Process

According to the Colorado Eviction Laws, if the 3-day notice doesn’t result in the tenant paying the rent, or ‘curing’ the violation –or moving out, you can then proceed with the formal Colorado eviction process.

This involves filling out a few forms including JDF 99, or, Complaint in Forcible Entry and Detainer, plus a CRCCP Form 1A –Summons in Forcible Entry and Unlawful Detainer, and a CRCCP Form 3 –Answer Under Simplified Civil Procedure.

Once you’ve filed the complaint with the court, you have one day to mail a copy of all of the forms to the tenants. Do this via first class mail with prepaid postage.

Next, the court clerk will schedule a hearing. This is usually between 7 and 14 days from the date that the summons is issued. However, the tenants must be given at least 7 days between the date they are formally served and the court date itself.

The summons can be issued by the sheriff’s department or a private process server –or by another adult who isn’t involved in the eviction. If the tenants cannot be served in person, the papers can be posted on the door of the rental.

After the tenants have been served, they must show up in court, or file a counterclaim to the allegations in your complaint. If you’ve filed everything correctly and the tenants do not make a counterclaim, you may receive a summary judgment in your favor.

If the Tenant Contests the Eviction

If they feel they have legal grounds, a tenant may try to contest the eviction. They could do this by filing an answer on or before the time set by the court.

Some common legal defenses that a tenant may use include claims that you failed to maintain the rental unit, or that you are retaliating against them. Fighting an eviction could increase the amount of time that the tenant is able to stay at the rental property.

If the tenant files an answer with the Justice Court, then a hearing will be scheduled. A notice of the hearing date will be mailed to all parties.

However, if the tenant fails to answer or appear on the date indicated in the eviction papers, you can obtain an eviction “Order” by default.

If the Tenant Does Not Contest the Eviction

If the judge makes a decision in your favor, you can then file for possession of the property. To do this, you’ll want to complete the Motion for Entry of Judgment (JDF 104). After reviewing it, the court will give you a signed copy of the Order for Entry of Judgment (JDF 107).

Next, the countdown begins. The tenant will have 48 hours from the date of the judgment to vacate the unit. If they don’t, then you can then complete the Writ of Restitution (JDF 103) and present it to the court.

Once the judge approves it, they’ll contact the sheriff’s department to execute it; that is, to remove the tenant.

Removal of the Tenant: What Happens if a Tenant Refuses to Leave?

If the tenant hasn’t vacated the premises, then the actual eviction will take place.

You’ll receive a time and date from the court or sheriff’s department, stating when they will arrive to execute the writ.

You can then arrange to have the tenant’s personal property removed from the rental at the date and time that you received from the court. This is generally done with the help of a local moving company. You will have one hour to remove the tenant's belongings, so make sure you will have enough manpower available to remove everything during this time.

On the day of the eviction, the sheriff will serve the Order to the tenant and then will remain on site.

In some jurisdictions, such as El Paso County, the Sheriff will generally “Pre-Serve” the tenant by posting a notice letting the tenant know they will be back to take possession. This is done to encourage the tenant to leave instead of waiting for the eviction itself to take place.

Keep in mind that the only person who is authorized to remove a tenant from the rental unit is a law enforcement officer. A landlord must never try to force the tenant out of the unit. If you attempt to do this yourself, the tenant could take legal action against you.

Neither the sheriff nor the landlord has any responsibility to safeguard the tenant’s property once it is removed. If you find that a tenant has left behind personal belongings, you aren’t required to contact the tenant before disposing of them. However, if you do decide to store them for the tenant, you can charge storage.

After the Eviction

Once the tenant has been evicted; the landlord or property manager can take steps to get the property ready to rent again.

In most cases, the first step is getting the property re-keyed.

At this point, the cleaning and repairs can commence as well. This involves a walk-through inspection of the unit, taking note of any damage that the tenant caused.

You also process the security deposit that you obtained from the tenant when they first moved in. If there is any back rent owed or damage to the rental, you can apply the security deposit to this, and send the remainder to the tenant. Keep in mind that general wear and tear is not the tenant’s responsibility, and cannot be taken out of their security deposit.

If additional back rent or money is still owed, even after the security deposit has been applied, you can start the process of seeking this as well.

While evictions can be a stressful and often-confusing time, it’s important for landlords to ensure that they follow the law to the letter. Complying with the law will help the eviction proceedings to go much more smoothly. If you were to attempt to take the law into your own hands at any point, or neglect to send out the right form, a tenant could have a reason to contest the eviction, and the judge could end up throwing your case out. In this case, you may have to start the proceedings again.

Evictions are never pleasant but they do get easier over time. Once you have a clear understanding of the Colorado Eviction Laws and the Colorado Eviction Process, it’ll be a lot easier to navigate the process and ensure that you do so in a way that’s in compliance with the law.

If you’re not sure where to start, you could always consult with an experienced attorney, to make sure you’re clear on the Colorado Eviction Laws, the Colorado Eviction Process, what’s required of you as a landlord or tenant, and what steps you should take.

Note: The information in this article is intended to inform and educate, it should not be taken as a substitute for legal counsel. If you have any questions about the eviction process or your rights as a landlord please contact an attorney.

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.

Normal Wear and Team vs DamageIn 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

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:

  • Making sure the property is clean
  • Replace all furnace filters
  • Check smoke and CO detectors are in good working order
  • Replace burnt-out lightbulbs
  • etc...

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 vs. Damage

Normal Wear and TearDamage
Worn out CarpetTorn, Stained or Burned Carpet
Faded Window CoveringsTorn, Mutilated or Missing Window Coverings
Worn out KeysLost or Missing Keys
Dirty WallsHoles in Walls
Dirty WindowsBroken 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".

Wear and Tear

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.

Calculating Repairs Cost

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.

  • Calculating Average Repair Costs-It’s also important for the landlord to determine material and labor costs based off of averages. This will help to avoid conflicts, and in the event of litigation, the courts will also require a list of repairs, and having average costs will make it easier to prove your case.
  • Factoring in Depreciation-Depreciation also factors into how much the tenant ends up being charged for damages. Depreciation takes into account the fact that things have a life expectancy. This includes carpet, appliances, paint, tile, and more. This life expectancy needs to be factored into the cost of repairs or replacement.

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.

Here is a Sample Life Expectancy Chart:

Water Heater10 Years
Carpeting (builder grade)5 Years
Air Conditioning Units7 Years
Ranges20 Years
Refrigerators10 Years
Interior Paint-Enamel5 Years
Interior Paint-Flat3 Years
Linoleum Tile5 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

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.

Documentation Methods Include:

  • Written Reports: Written reports are an old method, but one that’s still in use today. With a written report, the landlord or property manager does a walk-through of the property and takes notes on its condition. Relying solely on written reports isn’t the best option, since it can be subjective, and doesn’t really provide much proof of the condition one way or the other. In most cases, property managers and landlords would be better served by using another form of documentation in addition to, or instead of a written report.
  • Apps: Some landlords prefer to use an app that prompts them for pictures and notes. Although this certainly is a step above the old-fashioned written report, in that it makes it easy to capture images and notes to go along with your report, in some cases, they just aren’t thorough enough.
  • Video: Video footage is an especially good method of documentation. To capture video footage, the landlord or property manager will perform a walk-through inspection of the home with a video recorder or phone, compiling a detailed video of the condition of the unit. However, this method can be problematic. When it comes to finding the affected item in question, having video footage means that the landlord will have to fast forward and rewind through quite a bit of footage. This can be time-consuming and uncomfortable in court. Just imagine fast forwarding and rewinding while the judge waits! Of course, you could capture image stills before you go to court, but again, this could be a time-consuming process.
  • Pictures: Taking photos is one of the best ways to document the condition of a property. And it’s especially affordable since the advent of digital photography and affordable storage options. You can take hundreds of pictures of a property and if there's damage, it's fairly easy to go back and find the photograph that references the newly-damaged area. If you choose this method, just make sure you use your digital camera’s time and date stamp feature.
  • 3D Imagery: Another new method for documenting the condition of a property, using 3D photography like the Matterport 3D camera allows landlords to do realistic virtual walkthroughs on properties. Since the footage is stored in the cloud, you can use the mouse to walk right up to the area that’s damaged and check to see what the condition was prior to their move-in. You can also take additional pictures inside cabinets, closets, and other places the camera can't see. A secondary benefit from these tours is showing prospective tenants –especially out-of-state applicants, the property before they agree to lease it.

Tenant Should Protect Themselves

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.

Being Clear on the Terms of the Lease

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.

 Additional Resources:

It all starts with being "Move-In Ready"

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.

Landlord Rights and Responsibilities

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:

  • Unpaid rents
  • Cleaning to return the property to move-in condition
  • Repair for any damages that are not normal wear and tear
  • Repair or replacement of personal property, things like keys, appliances, furniture or televisions.

When using security deposit funds, the landlord is responsible for:

  • Providing the tenant with an itemized breakdown of costs for deducted items.
  • These charges must be reasonable and within industry standards.

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.

Avoiding Small Claims Court

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:

  • State Law
  • The Lease Agreement
  • Evidence:
    • Documentation of Condition before and after (photos, videos, etc…)
    • Receipts
  • Any other pertinent documentation

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.

Documenting Rental Property Condition

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.

How to Avoid Security Deposit Disputes

Security Deposit Disputes and How to Avoid Them

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.

What is Renters Insurance?

Renter's Insurance

Renters insurance is a type of policy that is designed to cover the tenants and their belongings in a rented residence. While landlords have their own 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 of 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 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.

How Does Renters’ Insurance Work?

How Does Renters Insurance Work?

This type of insurance works just like most insurance policies. The purchaser chooses a coverage level which in turn determines 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.

Apart from covering your property, renters insurance can also cover 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 maybe less detailed if you choose a relatively low premium.

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

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 coverage typically has four types of coverage. These are;

  • Personal Property Damage or Loss: In the event that your personal property gets damaged in an event named in your policy, your renters insurance policy will cover the cost of those damages equivalent to your policy’s limits. Examples of covered perils include fires, theft, or wind.
How Does Renters’ Insurance Work?
  • Personal liabilities: In case a visitor gets injured while on your premises or their property is damaged, and you are responsible for the damages, renters insurance can cover all the liability costs. This includes the cost of hiring your lawyer, for as long as it doesn’t exceed the maximum liability coverage.
  • Additional Living Expenses: If a covered aspect makes your rental apartment or home uninhabitable, your renters insurance policy will cover all the expenses incurred after interrupting your normal living expenses. This is referred to as loss of use coverage.
  • Medical Payments: Renters insurance also offers limited coverage for any medical costs in the event that a guest gets injured on your property.

These are the common types of coverage that renters insurance provides to tenants. Some Renters insurance policies may even cover your belongings when you’re traveling.

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.

What’s not covered by Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance coverage won’t protect you from everything. Most service providers don’t cover damages caused by natural calamities, events related to dangerous dog breeds, among many others. Here are some things that aren’t covered.

  • Property Damage- Most of the renters insurance companies will not cover damages caused to the property itself. The landlord's policy generally takes care of the property itself.
  • Damage caused by Pests- Most renters insurance policies don’t cover damage costs caused by bed bugs, ants, and rodents. These are classified as a maintenance issue and failure to provide ongoing maintenance doesn't meet the standard for coverage. It's important to note that most residential leases leave the tenant responsible for pest remediation. The exception to this is in the event the pests at the property prior to moving in. 
  • Flood and Earthquake Damages- Earthquake and flood damages are also not covered by a renters policy, especially in areas prone to these natural disasters. Nevertheless, some companies offer coverage of these disasters at premium rates.
  • Car Damages or Theft- If you have a car, its theft or damage won’t be covered by your renters policy. You’ll need a car insurance policy that offers comprehensive coverage. However, renters insurance will cover the belongings that were inside your car when it was stolen.
  • Roommates- A renters insurance policy doesn’t cover damages to your roommate’s belongings. If you want them covered, you should include the items in your insurance policy.

How Much Does It Cost?

Fortunately, a tenant's 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 you need. Individuals who own expensive and sophisticated gadgets will pay more than those who’ve simple and less expensive items.

Do You Need Renters Insurance?

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 going through all the rooms in your house and make a list of the items and how much they will cost to replace them.

Don’t forget to include the smaller items, i.e., dishes, books, 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.

How Can I Get Renters Insurance?

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 them, and they’ll take you through the best insurance coverage plan for your situation.

Other Considerations When Purchasing a Tenants Insurance?

Once you’ve decided that you need renters insurance, there are several things to consider before purchasing this type of insurance policy. They include:

  • Price and Coverage: Insurance companies will give you a fixed amount for all your belongings, and not on separate items. The higher the amount, the more you’ll pay for your insurance.
  • Deductible: It’s also good to consider how much you’ll be required to pay before your insurance kicks in. Remember, higher premium means a lower deductible and vice-versa. 
  • Replacement Cost vs. Actual Cash Value- A policy will either pay you for the replacement of a similar item or pay you with ACV. ACV represents the value of the property when it was damaged. Although replacement premiums cost more, they’re worth every penny.
  • Previous Claims in your Location: If you live in an area that sees a lot of claims, you’ll probably pay more for your renters insurance. If you or your neighbors have had lots of claims, this may also impact the price of your policy.

Final Thoughts

  • Even if you feel that your personal property isn’t worth an insurance policy, simply having the liability coverage 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.
Renting to Tenants With a Criminal Record

Landlords who have a rule banning applicants who were convicted of a crime-may want to rethink that policy. Recent guidelines issued by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on April 4, 2016 call for landlords to do away with blanket bans, that disqualify applicants based on prior convictions or arrests. Having a general ban on renting to tenants with a criminal record, precludes applicants from housing solely on the basis a criminal record, could be considered a violation the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act signed in 1968, prohibits landlords from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. While criminal history is not a protected class, under the new HUD guidelines, turning down applicants on the basis of a criminal record, without considering the nature of the crime or facts surrounding the conviction, can’t be legally justified –and could, indirectly, be a violation of the Act.

As many as 100 million U.S. adults, or nearly one-third of the population, have a criminal record of some sort. Additionally, the United States prison population, with 2.2 million adults, is the largest in the world. Since 2004, an average of over 650,000 people have been released every year from both federal and state prisons –and 95 percent of those currently incarcerated, will be released at some point in the future.

For individuals who are released, the ability to secure safe and affordable housing is a crucial part of their successful reentry into society. Yet many individuals who were formerly incarcerated are finding it extremely difficult to secure housing –because of their criminal history.

Troubles Securing Housing

Michael Bowers, a single father, has had his share of trouble finding housing in Austin, Texas.

This is due to the fact that Bowers has a criminal record. As a teenager, he was arrested for stealing a debit card and going on a $340 shopping spree.

“I was young,” says Bowers, speaking of his crime. “We were drinking. There was a card. I was like, ‘I’m going to use that to buy stuff that I want.’ It was a dumb mistake.”

This crime led to Bowers spending a few days in jail and being put on probation. Today, however, nearly ten years later –one consequence of this mistake continues to plague him –most landlords still refuse to rent to him.

“The most frustrating thing is I’m just a single dad,” says Bowers, who lives in Austin with his daughter. “I work hard, and I just want to give my child a place to live.”

The fact remains that many landlords are rejecting tenants on the basis of their criminal history –or even an arrest that never even led to a conviction, without taking into account the nature of the crime, how long ago it occurred, or rehabilitation.

For people like Bowers who are trying to get their life back together, finding housing remains one of the most difficult hurdles.

Renting to people with criminal history

The HUD Guidelines: Disparate Impact

While many landlords refuse to rent to tenants with a criminal record, doing so may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

A landlord violates the Fair Housing Act when their policy or practice has an unjustified discriminatory effect, even if the landlord had no intent to discriminate. This is known as “disparate impact” –which occurs when policies or practices that appear on the surface to be neutral, result in a disproportionate impact on a protected group.

“Criminal records-based barriers to housing are likely to have a disproportionate impact on minority home seekers,” the guidelines note. Black and Latino Americans are disproportionately affected, the memo notes since they are incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their share of the general population. Black and Latino individuals comprise an estimated 58 percent of the U.S. prison population, despite accounting for only 29 percent of the total U.S. population.

Under this standard, even a policy that may seem neutral on the surface –could have a discriminatory effect against protected classes, and thus could be a violation of the Act, if it’s not supported by a legally sufficient justification.

It’s important to note that while HUD doesn’t recognize having a criminal record as a protected characteristic under the Fair Housing Act; proponents argue that criminal history-based restrictions on housing opportunities could, indirectly, violate the Act.

Additionally, proponents state, that by making it easier for people with an arrest record or criminal history to find a home, housing providers will help to increase the chance of an individual’s successful reentry to society.

“The fact that you were arrested shouldn’t keep you from getting a job and it shouldn’t keep you from renting a home,” says HUD Secretary Julian Castro. “The ability to find housing is an indispensable second chance in life.”

JoAnne Page, President, and CEO of the Fortune Society, which works with formerly incarcerated individuals, also highlight the importance of housing for individuals with a criminal background. “We know that if a person does not have a stable, affordable place to live, being a contributing member of society is extremely difficult,” she says.

Considering a Criminal Record: A Landlord’s Requirements

While the HUD guidelines outline what landlords should not do when weighing up a potential tenant’s application, they’re less clear on what type of criminal convictions can be used when assessing an applicant.

As there are no guidelines on which crimes should be considered acceptable, and which are not, aside from certain drug-related charges. In most cases, landlords are advised to use their discretion, with the HUD guidelines stating that they should consider circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Case-by-case, means that imposing a blanket ban on individuals with a criminal history, is no longer an option. Instead, landlords and property managers will have to put a bit more care into evaluating applications on an individual basis.

Industry groups, such as the National Apartment Association, are weighing in on the new guidelines. The NAA released a white paper on best practices to members, which advised taking measures such as adjusting screening policies to include only certain types of offenses –rather than a blanket ban, outlining clear justifications for those policies, and giving applicants a chance to explain mitigating circumstances.

While the HUD guidelines are just that, guidelines –and landlords are not bound by law to follow them, the best practice is for landlords to take the HUD guidance seriously, and change any current policies that automatically exclude applicants with a prior conviction; as well as any policies that have not been thoughtfully developed and justified.

Steps Landlords Should Take to Comply With the New HUD Guidelines

While these guidelines may sound daunting –the good news is that for most landlords, they may not be as formidable as they sound.

“Employers have been taking most of these steps for years,” explains attorney Denny Dobbins, “It will not be difficult for good Landlords to comply.”

In order uphold these guidelines, though, landlords will need to need to be a bit more thorough when it comes to documenting their reasons for denying an applicant. They’ll also want to ensure that their policy’s approval criteria, as it pertains to a person’s criminal history, are supported by a legally sufficient justification. For example –if a landlord has an apartment complex, they must also take the safety of the other residents into consideration; therefore they may be able to prove that banning individuals who have committed violent crimes is a justifiable decision. Additionally, landlords who house families with children may not be able to rent to anyone on the Sex Offender Registry. Thus, denying a registered sex offender would not constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

But under these guidelines, landlords cannot institute a sweeping ban on all applicants with a criminal history, and cannot reject applicants for arrests that did not lead to a conviction. Additionally, landlords must take care to ensure that all potential applicants are treated the same; and that comparable criminal histories are assessed similarly; without considering race, national origin, or any protected class.

Consider the Crime

HUD states that a housing provider must show that its policy accurately distinguishes between criminal conduct that indicates a demonstrable risk to resident safety or the property and criminal conduct that does not.

Landlords are advised to take into consideration the nature of an individual’s conviction as well as time elapsed since the conviction. The only clear exception that the guidelines make is for convictions for manufacturing or distributing drugs.

Factors that landlords should consider include:

  • The nature of the crime
  • The facts or circumstances surrounding the criminal conduct
  • Time elapsed since the conviction
  • Evidence of rehabilitation

The Nature of the Crime

Landlords that oversee multi-unit residences must balance out their nondiscriminatory screening policies, with their duty to ensure resident and property safety. This means assessing the nature of the crime to see if there is legally sufficient justification to ban an applicant from the housing. Unfortunately, this is a gray area –and one where landlords and property managers alike much exercise diligence and discretion.

While the HUD guidelines aren’t clear, HUD indicates on their website that for public housing authorities, a criminal background investigation must be performed to determine lifetime registered sex offenders –which then may be precluded from housing. It would seem to follow, that if public housing authorities can draw the line at registered sex offenders that non-public housing landlords could do so as well. But when it comes to offenders who are not on the registry, the guidelines are less clear.

“The nature and gravity of a sex crime may be so serious that even the slightest amount of risk may be too much when contemplating the protection of your substantial and legitimate interest(s),” says Denny Dobbins, attorney. “A case-by-case evaluation based on the facts is necessary for how long to prohibit residency for those with a sex crime who do not have a lifetime sex offender registration status.”

Landlords who are uncertain should consult with an attorney.

The Facts or Circumstances Surrounding the Criminal Conduct

Landlords are advised to assess the circumstances surrounding the criminal conduct. This means that they should consider the age of the applicant at the time of the crime, as well as any other mitigating details. Landlords should also take care not to exclude applicants based on arrests alone since an arrest doesn’t always lead to a conviction.

Time Elapsed Since Conviction

The amount of time that’s passed since the conviction occurred should also be taken into account. Although the HUD hasn’t given a specific timeline that’s reasonable for felonies or misdemeanors, some have suggested a period of six or seven years for some felonies or high-risk crimes.

Evidence of Rehabilitation

If an applicant presents evidence of rehabilitation, this should be taken into consideration as well.

Practically Screening Applicants

There are practical ways that landlords can maintain compliance with the HUD guidelines regarding renting to tenants with a criminal background. Here’s a look at a few things landlords should consider doing:

Run Criminal Background Checks Last

When it comes to the application process, landlords and property managers may want to consider running criminal background checks last; until after an applicant has already passed employment and income verification, credit checks, and previous rental history. Not only will this help to keep housing providers from having to make many potentially difficult decisions, it will also save time when processing applications.

Avoiding Problem Screening Questions

One key area where landlords should tread especially carefully is when screening tenants. Asking potentially problem questions such as, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” and instead, looking to ask more relevant questions, such as “Have you been convicted of a crime in the last seven years?” is a better option; one that shows that the landlord isn’t imposing an outright ban on applicants with a criminal history; and instead is asking relevant questions and assessing applicants on a case-by-case basis.

Ask for Proof of Mitigating Circumstances

Landlords and property managers should consider informing applicants that, if they have a criminal background, they are welcome to submit proof of mitigating circumstances at the time of the crime as well as proof of any rehabilitation efforts. Requesting this information is a step in the right direction, and also shows that the landlord isn’t implementing a sweeping ban on applicants who have a criminal background.

Review Existing Policies for Renting to Tenants with a Criminal Record

Finally, landlords and property managers should review their existing rental policies and tenant screening procedures. Landlords should pay special attention to ensure that there are no qualifying questions that could be considered discriminatory against potential tenants. Doing away with sweeping statements, such as disqualifying all applicants who have a criminal background; and instead implementing policies that allow for a case-by-case analysis is an important step that housing providers should take to protect themselves.

Renting to Tenants with a Criminal Record

Landlords should inquire with the current and previous landlord to assess an applicant’s qualification. Questions to ask include:

  • Did the applicant pay the rent in full and on time?
  • Did they abide by all the terms of the lease?
  • Were there any problems with the applicant?
  • Were there complaints from other tenants about illegal activity?
  • What was the timeframe that the applicant rented in the unit?
  • Would you rent to the applicant again?

Landlords should also obtain a consumer credit report and carefully check the information therein. Landlords should:

  • Check the information for accuracy. Ensure that the information on the report matches what is on the application –including the name, date of birth, and address.
  • Was each credit grantor paid on time?

Every landlord should have a written list of rental criteria, and ensure that they uphold it consistently with each rental application. Examples of rental criteria include:

  • Sufficient Income
  • Proof of Income That’s 3x the Rent
  • Good Landlord References
  • History of On-Time Rent Payments
  • A Good Credit Report
  • The Ability to Abide by the Terms of the Lease

If an applicant fails to meet the above criterion, the fact that they may have a criminal record becomes irrelevant. In the end, the best way for a housing provider to avoid claims of discrimination and ensure equality for all applicants –is to ensure that decisions are not based on one single factor; a criminal record, and instead seek to use other qualifying questions when making a decision.

In addition to helping to prevent claims of discrimination, this method will also help to alleviate fears of landlords, who may be concerned about safety implications that come from not having a blanket ban in place. As Chris with Tenant Verification Services writes, “In most instances…individuals who have a criminal record and continue to lead that type of lifestyle, will not meet your criteria anyways.”

Finally, landlords should make sure they have a look at the HUD Guidelines for themselves, as well as this helpful white paper from the NAA. They should also consider consulting with an attorney, to ensure that they are screening applicants, qualifying questions, and applications –before refusing to rent to a tenant with a criminal record.

Tenants: do the HUD guidelines affect your home search?

Disclaimer: The information provided is for and advisory purposes only. Springs Homes for Rent accepts no responsibility for its accuracy. We recommend that you consult with an attorney familiar with current federal, state, and local laws.

Colorado Warranty of HabitabilityThe Colorado Warranty of Habitability is a statute that outlines conditions that a property must meet in order for it to be considered fit for human habitation.

This statute was established in 2008 to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords. Since then, there have been a few updates and changes made to the document, with the latest changes taking place in 2018.

Many of the issues that this warranty addresses are things that wouldn’t normally arise in rentals that have attentive and fair landlords, however, some of these problems are things that are found in low-income rentals and student housing; which makes this warranty an important tool in helping to prevent dangerous and uninhabitable living conditions.

This warranty states that each rental lease in Colorado carries what is known as an implied warranty of habitability, which stipulates that a landlord is bound by law to keep the property in a habitable state, regardless of whether this is written in the rental agreement or not.

But what does this mean for landlords? What are the requirements outlined in the law? How can you ensure that you’re maintaining your property in a way that’s in compliance with this statute?

Let’s take a look now:

Is your rental habitable?

What Is the Colorado Warranty of Habitability?

The Warranty of Habitability focuses on the condition of a property.

According to the warranty, residential property is considered uninhabitable if it substantially lacks any of the following:

  • Waterproofing - Waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls must be kept in good working order. This includes intact, unbroken windows and doors.
  • Plumbing - Plumbing or gas facilities must conform to applicable law in effect at the time of installation and be maintained in good working order.
  • Running Water - Running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times must be furnished to appropriate fixtures and connected to a proper sewage disposal system
  • Heat – There must be functioning heating facilities that conformed to applicable law at the time of installation and that are maintained in good working order.
  • Lighting - Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment that conformed to applicable law at the time of installation, must be maintained in good working order.
  • Clean Common Areas - Common areas and areas under the control of the landlord must be kept reasonably clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, and garbage and have appropriate extermination in response to the infestation of rodents or vermin.
  • Pest Control Improves HabitabilityPest Control Measures – There must be appropriate extermination measures taken in response to the infestation of rodents or vermin.
  • Sanitation – There must be an adequate number of appropriate exterior receptacles for garbage and rubbish, in good repair.
  • Floors, Stairs, Railings - Floors, stairways, carpets, and railings must be maintained and kept in good repair.
  • Locks - There must be locks on all exterior doors and locks or security devices on windows designed to be opened that are maintained in good working order.
  • Compliance With Codes - The premise must comply with all applicable building, housing, and health codes, which, if violated, would constitute a condition that materially affects or is dangerous or hazardous to a tenant’s health or safety.
  • Absence of Mold - Recent amendments to this bill state that the absence of mold is another requirement of a habitable residence.
  • Appliances – Recent amendments to this bill also state that functioning appliances that conformed to applicable law at the time of installation, and that are maintained and in good working order are another requirement.

Unless otherwise stated in section 38-12-506 of the bill, a residence must comply with these regulations –prior to being rented out. So landlords, make sure your properties are fit for purpose before you start running rental ads!

It’s important to note that the warranty states that no deficiency shall render a premise uninhabitable unless it substantially limits the tenant’s use of the dwelling.

So if something breaks down, or requires repairs, this doesn’t automatically mean that you’re in breach of the warranty. Things will go wrong and break down –and you have a reasonable amount of time to complete the repairs.

What this statute aims to do, is to prevent landlords from allowing their properties to become uninhabitable, and to give tenants recourse should landlords be slow to remedy problems that do arise.

So a landlord is in breach of the warranty if:

  1. A residential premise is uninhabitable or otherwise unfit for human habitation; and
  2. The residential premise is in a condition that materially interferes with a tenant’s life, health, or safety; and
  3. The landlord has received written notice of the condition and failed to resolve the problem within a reasonable time.

Now, if the condition of the property is an issue that was caused by the misconduct of the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest or invitee of the tenant –then this condition does not constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability.

Exceptions to Warranty of Habitability:

  • If the uninhabitable condition is the result of stalking, or domestic violence, domestic abuse, unlawful sexual behavior upon the tenant and the landlord has been given written notice and evidence of the domestic violence, abuse, or stalking.
  • If the uninhabitable condition is the result of a casualty or catastrophe to the dwelling unit, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement without further liability

Tenant Recourse: Remedies and Requirements

Tenants have recourse should the property they are renting becomes uninhabitable.

However, it’s important to note that this must be a genuine case of a breach, not simply an excuse to break the lease or stop paying rent. This would put the tenant's security deposit at risk as well as leave the tenant responsible for any remaining rents.

Here’s a look at what the Colorado Warranty of Habitability, as well as the steps the tenant needs to take to remain in compliance with the law.

If the premises become legally uninhabitable based on the above criteria, the tenant should first notify the landlord.

The landlord must have been given notice of the problem by the tenant. They then have a reasonable timeframe during which they can remedy the problem.

A landlord has 24 hours to respond after receiving the notice, and their response must indicate their intentions for remedying the condition, along with an estimate of when they expect that the remediation will commence and be completed.

Obtaining an Injunctive Relief:

A tenant may obtain injunctive relief for breach of the warranty of habitability in any county or district court. The court will determine actual damages for a breach of the warranty at the time the court orders the injunctive relief.

However, the landlord will not be subject to any court order for injunctive relief if they tender the actual damages to the court within two business days after the order. Upon application by the tenant, the court will release to the tenant the damages paid by the landlord.

If the tenant vacates the rental, the landlord shall not be permitted to rent the premises again until it complies with the warranty of habitability.

Additionally, amendments to this bill also state that a tenant may deduct the cost to repair or remedy the condition themselves; however, the tenant must obtain an estimate for the costs first. If the amount is greater than one month’s rent, then the tenant may deduct over subsequent months until the amount of the estimate is deducted.

The tenant must provide the landlord with at least ten but no more than thirty days’ notice prior to deducting rent.

If a court finds that a tenant has wrongfully deducted rent, the court will award the landlord either possession of the premises or an amount of money equal to the amount wrongfully withheld, or –if the tenant is found to have acted in bad faith, an amount of money equal to double the amount wrongfully withheld.

Colorado Warranty of Habitability

Terminating the Lease

If the same condition that caused a breach of the warranty recurs within six months after the condition had been repaired, then the tenant may terminate the rental agreement. They must provide fourteen days’ notice to the landlord.

If, however, the landlord remedies the condition within fourteen days of receiving the notice, then the tenant may not terminate the agreement.

In the case that a rental agreement contains a provision related to obtaining attorney fees and costs, then the prevailing party shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees and costs.

Prohibition on Retaliation

The Colorado Warranty of Habitability also prohibits retaliation. If a landlord retaliates against a tenant alleging a breach, then the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and recover an amount not more than three months’ rent or three times the tenant’s damages, whichever is greater –along with reasonable attorney costs.

As a landlord, your best option is to keep your property in good, habitable condition, and to respond to any issues that arise –especially those that would render it uninhabitable, in a timely manner.

It’s also important to protect yourself with an airtight lease agreement, one that outlines the condition that you and the tenant are required to keep the property in, and specifies which party is responsible for what tasks.

Also vital, is maintaining good documentation of repairs as well as any agreements, or communication with your tenants.

Finally, it’s important to have a working knowledge of landlord-tenant law so that you have a good understanding of your requirements and responsibilities, as well as the rights of your tenants.

Colorado Eviction ProcessThere are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Colorado Eviction Process. If you are involved in residential leasing as a Property Manager, Landlord or Tenant, it’s important that you understand your rights and responsibilities in the State of Colorado.

We aim to 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.

Under What Circumstances Can a Tenant Be Evicted in Colorado?

First of all, if you're going to go through with evicting a tenant via termination of their lease, you'll need to have a sound legal reason.

The most obvious and most common grounds for eviction would be the tenant defaulting on their rent. Colorado laws also cover violation of a condition of the lease agreement as reason for eviction.

This type of eviction generally happens because a tenant refuses to follow the guidelines of the lease. For example, failing to adhere to the covenants Reason to Evict in Coloradoin an HOA based community. Other situations that can result in an eviction are violations that relate to issues like a pet violation or undisclosed roommates. In Colorado we 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.

What Reasons are Not Sufficient to Pursue Eviction?

Of course, there are also protections for the tenant against unfair eviction.

For example, a landlord cannot attempt an eviction in response to the tenant filing a complaint about violation of what's called implied warranty of habitability. This is laid out in the Colorado Revised Statutes in Section 38-12-509.

What is 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.

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 protections.

How Much Notice Am I Required to Provide?

Eviction Notice TimeframeIn Colorado, you must provide your tenant with 10 days' notice. Previously, the requirement for notice was 3 days, but 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 eviction proceedings.

What Does the Colorado Eviction Process Look Like?

If the eviction is due to unpaid rent, the process starts with a 10 Day notice. 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.Colorado Eviction Checklist

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 hearing 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. Should the tenant not respond to the summons, a summary judgment 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.

Here is a great infographic of how the eviction process works from our friends at, SparkRental.com

Eviction process

What Do I Do with the Tenant's Belongings?

Tenant BelongingsYou'll have to remove all of the belongings with a crew while being supervised by law enforcement. 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 had 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.

What's the Difference Between a Demand of Compliance (JDF 101) and the Notice to Quit (JDF 97)?

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.

How Long Will the Colorado Eviction Process Take?

Eviction Hearing ColoradoYou 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.

What About Payment?

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.

Conclusion

The Colorado Eviction Process (or in any state for that matter) can be a 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.

Colorado Springs Airbnb laws changed significantly at the end of 2019. If you are a real estate investor looking to get into the Short-Term Rental (STR) market, you may have missed your opportunity, 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.

What Are Short Term Rentals?

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

This new type of short-term rental is 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.

Controversy with the Colorado Springs Airbnb Laws

Controversy is what motivated the Colorado Springs City Council to institute these new Colorado Springs Airbnb laws regarding short term rentals. Investors love short term rentals because they yield high returns.

The short-term nature of the stay demands a higher rental rate while in most cases, the tenants aren’t in the rental long enough to cause any serious damage. There are of course exceptions to this rule but for the most part, STR’s are a great investment.

The opposition around short-term rentals generally stems from inconveniences created by the short-term tenants. Things like parking in the wrong place, making too much noise, or just being a bad neighbor.

Colorado Springs Airbnb Ordinance

In a long-term rental lease, these problems can be worked out over time but or the problem tenant can be removed. In a short-term rental, the tenants are gone in a few days and the process potentially starts over again with each new guest.

Frequent complaints from STR neighbors to municipalities eventually led officials to implement guidelines around STRs. This is the case as well here in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In a recent move, the Colorado Springs City Council approved new short-term rentals regulations on 25th November 2019.

Other cities that have passed similar Airbnb rules are Destin Florida and Wellington Florida.

New Colorado Springs Airbnb Laws Outlined in the Ordinance

The Colorado Springs City Council 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.

  1. As per the 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 Commission 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) days in a particular year. This essentially eliminates the non-owner occupied STR or investor model as an option, at least in the City of Colorado Springs.
  2. Along with providing 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 permitted 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.
  3. 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.”

You are Going to Need a Permit

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.

Are There Still Opportunities For Real Estate Investors?

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.

Pike Peak Region Airbnb

Manitou Springs

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

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.

Fountain, Colorado

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, Colorado

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.

Corporate Rental Opportunities

Cozy Airbnb

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.

Conclusion

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 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 look in one of the surrounding areas that don't yet have restrictions in place and is a popular destination for visitors and tourists.

Until something changes, this is the 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.

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.
Emotional Support Animal Laws
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.

Defining What Roles Animals Play

First, let's look at the three different categories of animals; and see the difference between pets, service animals, and emotional support animals.

  • Pets-Any domestic or tamed animal that’s kept for companionship or pleasure is considered to be a pet. Tenants with pets are not afforded any special protection under Fair Housing Guidelines, and landlords can choose whether to allow a pet in their rentals. They can also choose to implement requirements for pets –such as obedience training, up-to-date vaccinations, a clean bill of health from their veterinarian, and requiring the animal to be spayed or neutered. They can also impose breed restrictions as well as weight restrictions; such as no pets over 30 pounds. In most states, landlords can also charge a pet deposit –a form of a security deposit for a pet, as well as charge a pet rent each month. Colorado state law doesn’t have any statute on pet fees or pet deposits. If you’re outside of Colorado, though, be sure to check your own state laws before charging a pet rent or pet deposit.
  • Service Animals- A service animal, under Colorado law, is a dog or even a miniature horse that has been trained to do work or perform specific tasks for a person with a disability. The most well-known form of service dog is Seeing Eye® dog, but service dogs can be trained to assist with a number of disabilities. For example, they can pull a wheelchair, alert a person before they have a seizure, or even calm a person who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.The definition of a service animal can apply to, but are not limited to the following:
    1. Guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision
    2. Alerting an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing to sounds
    3. Providing protection or rescue assistance
    4. Alerting an individual to impending seizures
    5. Pulling a wheelchair
    6. Fetching items
    7. Providing emotional support to a person with a disability

    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.

  • Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)-An emotional support animal is an animal, typically a dog or cat but it can include other species, which provides therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The animal provides emotional support and comfort to individuals with psychiatric disabilities and other mental impairments. The main difference between a service dog and an ESA, is that while service dogs have been trained for a specific task, ESAs are not required to undergo any training at all. Unlike a service animal, an emotional support animal is not granted access to places of public accommodation. However, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) states that an emotional support animal is to be viewed as a “reasonable accommodation” in a housing unit that has a ‘no-pets’ rule for its residents, when an individual requires the animal in order to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing. As with service dogs, a landlord should not charge a pet deposit or pet rent for ESAs, and these animals are also excluded from breed and size restrictions.

Handling Requests for an Emotional Support Animal

When a landlord or housing provider receives a request for a service dog or ESA, they should ask two questions.

  1. Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
  2. Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability?

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:

  1. Landlords May Not: Ask for verification when the disability is obvious In the case of a Seeing Eye® dog, for instance, the landlord should not require proof of the tenant’s disability if they are blind. For emotional support animals, or for disabilities that are not immediately obvious, a landlord can require a letter from the doctor.
  2. Landlords May Not: Ask the tenant’s doctor for information about the tenant’s disability When requesting a letter from the tenant’s doctor, a landlord should take care not to ask for information relating to the tenant’s disability itself, and instead, should only ask for information regarding the tenant’s need for the animal.

The ADA states that the only two questions that may be asked are the following:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Reasonable Accommodation

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.

Exceptions

There are a few exceptions to the Fair Housing Act, and some properties may be considered exempt from providing reasonable accommodation.

  • A building with four or fewer units, one of which is owner-occupied
  • Single-family homes where the owner does not use a real estate agent to buy or rent the property
  • Housing owned by organizations or private clubs that are used for members

Tenants Are Responsible for Their Service Animal or ESA

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.

Different State Laws

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.

Importance of Tenants Upholding the Emotional Support Animal 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.

Tenants Should Make the Request for an Emotional Support Animal

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.

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