The Colorado Landlord’s Rough Guide to “Normal” Wear and Tear

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 27-10-2011

“Normal wear and tear” is one of those fuzzy legal terms that begs for clarification.

When it comes to security deposits, Colorado landlords can keep money for repairs, cleaning, unpaid utility charges at the end of a tenancy, and even back rent and other expenses if a tenant moves out unexpectedly. But landlords are NOT allowed to deduct money for normal wear and tear of the property.

The problem is what one landlord calls rock star level damage, a tenant considers as normal wear and tear.

Colorado law defines normal wear and tear as “that 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.”

Useful life

Since the legal definition doesn’t offer much guidance, here’s another way to think of normal wear and tear: Consider it the reasonable amount of wear that a given appliance, household item, or piece of furnishing should incur for every year of its useful life. (A useful life is how long you can expect something to live or work.)

So, if a carpet’s useful life is 10 years, then every year, it should deteriorate about 1/10th. One place you can find such information is an advisory guide to useful life, found on the city of Longmont’s web site and republished below:

Item Lifespan Item Lifespan

Carpeting 10 years Door and window hardware 15 years
Bathroom flooring 12 years Stove, cooking range 12 years
Kitchen flooring 12 years Hot water heater 10 years
Curtains 5 years Bathroom sink 17 years
Drapes 10 years Kitchen cabinets 15 years
Curtain rods 8 years Kitchen sink 17 years
Interior doors 20 years Garbage disposal 5 years

You can also find useful life information from product manufacturers. (Such projections likely assume the appliances and household furnishing are regularly maintained and/or cleaned.)

Still confused? The city of Longmont provides this framework for weighing normal wear and tear vs. abnormal use.

Normal Wear and Tear                  Abnormal Wear and Tear

Worn and dirty carpet                  Torn, stained, or burned carpet

Faded curtains                            Torn or missing curtains

Worn out keys                             Lost keys

Dirty window screens                   Torn or missing screens

Faded, chipped paint                   Hole in the wall

 

For more information, see the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.

No More Excuses!

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 24-10-2011

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For most of us, writing a will is a task we put off with a variety of excuses. It costs too much. It’s too confusing. It’s creepy. People under 50 don’t need wills. Excuses aside, there’s one good reason to write a will: what happens if you don’t.

Young and carefree

If you’re young and unmarried, writing a will may seem like a good task to put off for another year—or another 20 years. But if you’re hit by a snowboarder tomorrow and don’t have a spouse or kids, your parents would get everything you own. So, if you want to give your favorite nephew your computer and make sure your best friend takes care of your cat, a will is the way to go.

If you’re not married but in a committed relationship, a will is essential. If you die, your significant other won’t be entitled to any of your estate unless you make provisions now. Continue reading “No More Excuses!” »

Colorado’s Warranty of Habitability Law: The Tenant’s View

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 20-10-2011

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The lock on the front door of your apartment breaks. Or the roof of the house you’re renting leaks during one of Colorado’s epic thunderstorms.

Maintenance problems are a common source of landlord-tenant conflict.  If the conflict gets acute, you may wonder if you can stop paying rent or move out.

Colorado’s Implied Warranty of Habitability Act (Colorado Revised Statutes, Sections 38-12-501 to 38-12-511) sheds some light on who is responsible for maintenance problems in rental units. The law states, in essence, that your landlord promises that your unit is fit for living in when you move in.  It also outlines a process for filing complaints. 

The law gives you responsibilities, too.

Landlord responsibilities

Specifically, your landlord is responsible for making sure your rental unit has:

•    Running water and reasonable amounts of hot water;
•    Functioning lighting and heating in the entire home;
•    Lockable exterior doors and secure windows;
•    Walls and a roof that keep water out;
•    Gas and plumbing in good working order;
•    A connection to a working sewage system;
•    Adequate trash cans;
•    Floors, stairways, and railings that are in good repair; and
•    No rodents or other vermin.

In addition, if you rent an apartment, condo, or co-op, your landlord is responsible for ensuring that common areas are clean and trash-free.

Tenant duties

In addition to any rules outlined in your lease, you must:

•    Comply with building, health, and housing codes;
•    Keep your unit reasonably clean, safe, and sanitary;
•    Dispose of trash, ashes, and garbage properly;
•    Use electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and all appliances in a reasonable manner;
•    Never knowingly damage or deface the property or allow anyone else to do so;
•    Promptly notify the landlord if the unit becomes uninhabitable or if there is a condition that could result in the premises becoming uninhabitable.

The leaky roof

It may surprise you, but the fact of faulty plumbing, a leaky roof, or other household maintenance problem itself is not a breach of the Warranty of Habitability Act. To support a breach, the conditions must be “materially dangerous or hazardous to the tenant’s life, health, or safety.” Further, you must notify your landlord about the problem in writing, using a Notice of Uninhabitable Condition.

After that, your landlord violates the Warranty of Habitability only if your landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a “reasonable” time.  The law does not clearly define what “reasonable” means in different circumstances.  A reasonable time for fixing a broken lock may be 24 to 48 hours, while it may be considered reasonable if a leaky roof takes  a week or more.

Throughout this process, you must keep paying rent. 

If the problem is not fixed, your next step may be to go to court.  If the court finds in your favor, you may be entitled to legal remedies, including monetary damages, the termination of your lease, and/or a court order requiring the landlord to make the repair. 

Of course, in order to pursue a court case such as this, the law sets out specific procedures that you must follow.

For more information, see the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.

 

Colorado’s Warranty of Habitability Law: The Landlord’s View

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 18-10-2011

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Tenants and landlords often spar over maintenance problems.

If you’re like most landlords, your rental properties are at least “habitable” for market reasons. After all, well-maintained properties can command higher rents and attract better tenants.

But regardless of habitability’s commercial value, it’s also the law. The Implied Warranty of Habitability Act says, in essence, that when you lease a residence, you promise that your unit is fit to be lived in. These requirements call for, in general:

· running water and reasonable amounts of hot water;

· functioning light and heat in the entire home;

· walls, roofs, windows and doors that are intact and keep cold and wet out;

· electrical power and wiring that is properly installed and in good working order;

· gas and plumbing in good working order;

· working locks on all exterior doors;

· locks or security devices on windows that can open;

· extermination services if there is any sign of rodents or other infestation;

· an adequate number of trashcans;

· floors, stairways and railings in good repair.

In a multi-family unit, common areas must be clean and sanitary.

While this is a general guideline, you will only be liable for a “breach” (or violation) of the law if three conditions are met:

1) Your property fails to meet one of the above standards; and

2) Your property is in a condition that is “materially dangerous or hazardous to the tenant’s life, health, or safety;” and

3) You receive a written notice of the problem that makes your unit uninhabitable.

Written notice, by the way, can be a form Notice of Uninhabitable Condition, a letter, or even a simple handwritten note.

So, if you receive notice, what do you do?

You have a reasonable amount of time to fix things. There’s no hard deadline in the law, because problems need varying amounts of time to correct. A broken window can take 24 to 48 hours to fix, while a leaking roof might take a week. The important thing is to promptly deal with any habitability issues.

After the repair is done, it is a good idea to send your tenant a follow up note confirming the repair has been completed. Keep a copy of the note, as it may be an important record, should there be a future dispute.

For more information, see the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.

Combating the Silent Killer

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 13-10-2011

As a Colorado landlord, you probably know that in most cities and counties, you are responsible for putting smoke detectors near every bedroom.

But did you know that no matter where you own property in Colorado, you are responsible for installing and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors?

Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic, invisible, odorless, colorless gas. Although frequently associated with factory work, it can come from oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Because it’s impossible to smell, carbon monoxide is highly dangerous.

Passed in 2009, the Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act says that as a general rule, you must put a carbon monoxide detector within 15 feet of the door of each room in your rental property used for sleeping.

This rule applies to single-family homes, condos, co-ops, and apartment buildings that are heated with fossil fuel, have a fuel-fired appliance, have a fireplace, or have an attached garage. (Note that the law excludes commercial properties – offices, retail stores, and warehouses.)

These detectors can be wired into electrical system, plugged into a wall (with a battery back-up), or battery-operated.

It’s not clear if they should be on the ceiling or floor. In the absence of clear guidance, it’s critical that you install the alarm or detector according to the published manufacturer’s instructions. In fact, the law says that if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, your liability is significantly limited.

As a landlord, you need to make sure alarms are working prior to the beginning of a new tenant coming in. The law also states you must give your tenant any batteries necessary to make the carbon monoxide alarm work when he or she moves in.

Tenants, on the other hand, must keep, test, and maintain the alarm in good repair. What’s more, your tenant must notify you in writing if the batteries need replacement or are not working; or if the alarm malfunctions, is damaged, or is stolen.

Finally, if your tenant sends you this notice, it’s your job to ensure the alarm returns to working order.

If those two provisions confuse you as to who is responsible for the care and feeding of the detector, don’t worry.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure the detector is powered and operational at the beginning of the lease. Further, tell your tenant to tell you ASAP if the detector has any problems.

At the same time, though, it’s not a bad idea to leave a few spare batteries with your tenant. It also wouldn’t hurt to keep a record of your maintenance, and to ask your tenant to sign a note saying the alarms are in good working order at the outset. Further, that note might spell out that the tenant understands his or her obligations to test (but not disable) the unit and to notify you of any problems with it.

For more information, see the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.

Welcome to Bradford’s New Blog

Filed Under (Bradford Publishing News & Updates) on 12-10-2011

Hi, I’m Candace Boyle, President of Bradford Publishing.  For those of you just discovering us, we are one of Colorado’s oldest businesses.  We provide top quality legal forms, books and other law-related information. Attorneys have depended on Bradford publications for more than a century.

As President and Publisher, I stay pretty busy working with attorneys, editors and authors, publishing books, and keeping up to date on Colorado legal trends and important legislation.  I also try to stay in touch with the needs of the non-lawyers who use our products. Many people visit our LoDo store, or our website, to get help with:

· Planning their wills

· Buying and selling homes

· Probating loved one’s estate

· Handling family matters such as divorce, marriage and parenting

· Collecting debts

· Setting up businesses

I’ve learned that while our forms seem straightforward, life isn’t. Decisions must be made before you can fill out a form. Then, forms need to be filed correctly.  In the right jurisdiction.  On time.

What’s more, everyone’s situation is a little different, and sometimes using the right form is the easiest part of the equation.

This new blog is devoted to helping Coloradans better handle common legal problems and demystify the use of legal forms to better run their businesses, their households and their lives.

We’ll cover topics such as, “The Hows, Whens and Wheres of Colorado Evictions” and, “How to Name Your Colorado Business.”  The blog will address everything from Colorado parenting plans to Colorado deeds. 

I’m not a lawyer, but I work with respected attorneys. Count on them sharing their wisdom in these pages.

But remember, our blog cannot and does not provide legal advice or opinions. I always recommend that you consult an attorney for help with your specific situation. 

Thanks for stopping by – I hope you enjoy our blog and find it useful.

If you do have any questions or have topics you would like to see covered, feel free to drop me a note in the comment box below. 

Best,

Candace

 

 

 

 

 

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