About Leases, Landlord/Tenant
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If any part of the written agreement is changed, both parties should initial the change. Verbal agreements are very hard to prove; get it in writing. Be sure all blanks are filled in before you sign. Then be sure each party keeps a signed copy of the lease, at least until the tenant has moved out, and the security deposit has been returned to both the landlord's and the tenant's satisfaction.
WHAT IF THE LANDLORD VIOLATES THE TERMS OF THE LEASE?
If it can be proven that the landlord, by his action or inaction, has failed to meet his responsibilities as defined in the lease, or made the premises unfit for occupancy, the tenant may have grounds for legal action against the landlord in order to vacate the premises. This is called a "constructive eviction," and to prove that a constructive eviction has occurred, it must be shown that the landlord has failed to maintain the premises, provide utilities, or violated other agreements contained in the lease.
Usually in the absence of a written lease, the court would require that the tenant prove the premises unfit for occupancy (untenantability) to grant a constructive eviction. If the court rules on the side of a tenant in such a case, the tenant may not be held responsible for rent, may terminate the lease, and move out. If the court rules on the side of the landlord that a constructive eviction has not occurred. The tenant may be held responsible for back rent, damages, and the remaining obligations under the lease.
WHAT IF THE TENANT VIOLATES THE TERMS OF THE LEASE?
A landlord may evict a tenant who violates a term or terms of the lease through the legal eviction procedure by giving the tenant three days notice to vacate. If the tenant does not vacate, the landlord must then go to court. (Tenant must file an answer in court to prove that the lease was not violated). The landlord must receive a court judgment to remove the tenant. If the tenant refuses to vacate, only the court has the right to move the tenant out.
WHAT IF THE TENANT VACATES PRIOR TO TERMINATION OF THE LEASE?
As soon as the lease is signed, it is enforceable, even if the tenant never moves in. If the tenant vacates prior to the termination of the lease, the landlord may keep the security deposit to:
- cover damages to the unit, and/or
- cover the unpaid portion of rent, and then sue the tenant for the remainder of the rent unless the premises are re-rented at rate high enough to cover the damages the landlord suffered. (The landlord should make a reasonable effort to re-rent the premises).
The tenant is responsible for rent until the unit is re-rented at equal or higher rent or until the lease expires. If the rent is lower, the tenant may be assessed the difference in rents. The tenant may also be charged with the cost of re-renting the apartment such as advertising or other efforts.
If the tenant is considering vacating the premises prior to the expiration of the lease, it is advised s/he review the lease to see if it contains a transfer clause permitting the tenant to vacate because of relocation for business or military service or subletting clause. If no such clause is in the lease the tenant should work with the landlord. Perhaps the landlord will let the tenant out of the lease if enough notice is given or if the tenant allows the landlord to begin showing the apartment immediately.
For the instance of an abandoned property, see Abandonment of Property and in Spanish see Abandono de Propiedad.
WHAT HAPPENS TO A LEASE IF THE PROPERTY IS SOLD TO A NEW OWNER?
When a new owner purchases a building, s/he also purchases all of the obligations of the previous owner, including lease and security deposits. The new owner is free to increase rent, change house rules, etc., but only after existing written lease has expired.
In the instance of a foreclosure, see Renters Rights in Foreclosure.
WHAT IF THERE ARE SEVERAL PEOPLE INVOLVED IN A LEASE (ROOMMATES)?
All parties to a lease can be held liable for rent in the whole or in part...even if one of the roommates moves. If one roommate moves out, s/he should get his/her name removed from the lease and get the new tenant's name added to the lease with the change initialed by all parties to the lease. If that cannot be done, the former tenant can still be held liable for the conditions of the lease, including payment of rent.
ARE ALL CLAUSES IN A LEASE LEGAL?
There are some clauses in leases which have been challenged by tenants and have been judged by the courts as unenforceable because they are unreasonable. Some of these clauses can be found in leases which are commonly used in Colorado and are available from stationery stores. Both landlords and tenants should be aware of these clauses.
Here are a few examples:
- clause that requires tenant to give up security deposit automatically
- clause that states tenant will not hold landlord responsible for anything, including acts of gross negligence
- clause that states tenant and sell the tenant's property without going through the court process
IS THERE A WAY TO RELEASE THE TENANT FROM THE OBLIGATION OF THE LEASE?
Generally, a lease is a contract to which the tenant guarantees to follow the terms of and to pay rent for, during the period the lease specifies. The landlord does not have to allow the tenant to break the lease. If the tenant feel he/she must break the lease, the tenant should read the lease carefully and check to see if the lease gives the tenant the right to sublet or assign the lease. Many leases also include a transfer clause. If the lease does not include any of these clauses, the tenant should discuss the problem with the landlord.
When considering breaking a lease, the tenant should be aware that he/she may forfeit the right to his/her deposit, and the landlord may sue the tenant for the rent due for the remainder of the lease period if the apartment cannot be re-rented. A tenant is advised to talk with the landlord, give as much notice as possible, allow the apartment to be shown prior to moving out, and offer to pay for advertising when breaking the lease. This will help both the landlord and the tenant in seeing both their interests served.
WHAT DOES SUBLETTING MEAN?
Subletting is where the tenant under a written lease, re-rents the apartment to a third party. The first tenant is still responsible for all their terms and liabilities of the lease. (The permission of the landlord is required).
WHAT IS A TRANSFER CLAUSE?
This is a clause in a lease that, upon proof, allows the tenant to terminate the lease if the tenant is forced to move due to military service or business requirements earlier than the stated expiration date.
HOW MUCH NOTICE DOES THE TENANT HAVE TO GIVE BEFORE MOVING?
First, always give written notice. Verbal notice is not sufficient even if you have a verbal rental agreement. If you don't give proper notice, you have to pay additional rent. Normally, if the tenant pays rent once a month, the tenant should give 30 days written notice. If rent is paid on the first of the month, pay your last month's rent and give written notice at the same time.
However, if it is possible for the tenant and landlord to agree to a shorter notice period, be sure to get the agreement in writing. All notice requirements are contingent upon the conditions of your written rental agreement. Read it carefully.
NOTICE REQUIREMENTS - -TIME BEFORE END OF RENTAL PERIOD
|Terms of Tenancy
| Less than one week
|| One Day
| One Week-less than one month
|| Three days
| One Month - less than 6 months
|| Ten Days
| Six months - less than one year
|| One Month
| More than one year
|| Two months
REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE
WHAT CAN BE DONE IF THE LANDLORD DOES NOT REPAIR OR MAINTAIN PREMISES?
Unless there is a specific agreement between the landlord and the tenant (i.e. a lease or rental agreement) specifying maintenance responsibilities, the law does not provide backing for a tenant to demand that maintenance work be done. Some maintenance work, such as on the building's structure, or "common" areas, (i.e. halls, etc.) are covered under the city's housing codes. The landlord is under obligation to meet all housing code regulations, but if he/she does not, only the city, not the tenant, can demand that the work be done. A tenant who withholds rent until repairs are made, can be legally evicted for non-payment of rent.
There have been situations in which tenants have hired someone to make necessary repairs and then filed suit against the landlord for the amount of the repairs. However, the judgment is not always in the tenant's favor. The tenant may be responsible for attorney's fees and court costs if the judgment is awarded to the landlord.
WHEN CAN A LANDLORD ENTER A TENANT'S PREMISES?
In the absence of a written lease specifying when a landlord can enter an apartment, the tenant does not have to allow the landlord to enter the apartment. But if the tenant refuses entry to the apartment, the tenant does assume all liability for damages, repairs, and damage to other apartments if caused because the landlord could not enter to make repairs.
Both the landlord and the tenant should act "reasonable" in dealing with each other. If the landlord has a legitimate interest in entering the tenant's apartment, the landlord should get the tenant's permission, and the tenant should attempt to work with the landlord in finding the best time for the landlord to enter. The only exception is if the tenant is behind in rent. The landlord may, in some cases, enter the tenant's apartment and seize certain property. This is a very complicated part of the law. Prior to taking any such action, the landlord should seek legal advise
CAN A LANDLORD RAISE RENT AND HOW OFTEN?
The state of Colorado has no statutes limiting the amount rent can be increased. The only protection from a rent increase is a written lease that stipulates the amount of rent that will be paid. The law also does not limit how often the landlord can raise rent. The landlord does have an obligation to give the tenant proper notice of a rent increase. The landlord should inform the tenant in writing of a rent increase, and the notice should be given at least 10 days prior to the date rent is due under a monthly tenancy.
IS IT PERMISSIBLE FOR A LANDLORD TO CHARGE DIFFERENT RENTS FOR SIMILAR UNITS?
Yes, as long as the discrimination is not based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, or marital status. Specific questions relating to housing discrimination should be referred to State Civil Rights Commission at 303-839-3684.
For more information about leases, please refer to lease section in the Landlord/Tenant Handbook.