What Renters Need to Know About Medical Marijuana and Colorado Housing Law

Filed Under (Uncategorized) on 15-05-2012

If you are one of Colorado’s 161,000 certified users of marijuana – and you’re a tenant – you may wonder if it affects your housing situation.

Even though in Colorado the use of marijuana is legal in some situations, under federal statutes marijuana is a “controlled substance,” and owning it, selling it and using it are illegal under a number of federal laws.

That said, should you tell your landlord about your medical marijuana need and use?  What about the neighbors? Does being a “certified user” give you protections and privileges of someone with a medical disability? Can your landlord evict you for smoking pot?

Here’s what we know so far based on case law and common sense: Continue reading “What Renters Need to Know About Medical Marijuana and Colorado Housing Law” »

Three Situations that Can Trigger Eviction in Colorado

Filed Under (Uncategorized) on 08-05-2012

In Colorado, three situations can give rise to an eviction:

Default

Default takes place when the tenant doesn’t pay the rent or violates one of the lease terms.

Landlords must first officially give tenants warning and a chance to fix the problem before moving them out. The warning comes in the form of a three-day notice, also called a Demand for Compliance or Possession.  Basically, the notice gives tenants three days to pay the rent, i.e. fix the problem, or move out.  If the tenants don’t respond to the three-day notice, the eviction process can begin.

Termination of Tenancy

In this case, the tenant has done nothing “wrong;” but the lease calls for the tenancy to end by a certain date, and the landlord also wants the tenant to move out.  The eviction process can begin when the tenant stays in the property after he or she is supposed to move out. Continue reading “Three Situations that Can Trigger Eviction in Colorado” »

“And Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite”

Filed Under (Uncategorized) on 01-05-2012

Q. My tenant has lived in my rental for 6 months.  Recently, the tenant complained about bedbugs.  What should I do? If there’s a costly, extensive extermination, who pays for it?

A. Colorado’s Implied Warranty of Habitability Act says that as a landlord, you promise that your unit is fit to be lived in.  Habitability is defined, in part, as providing a dwelling that is generally pest-free and rodent-free.

Further, the Warranty of Habitability Act says that if a tenant reports a “breach” or violation of the habitability standard, you are responsible for remedying it.  So if your tenant reports signs of bedbugs, you need to call an extermination service, regardless of whose fault it is.

At the same time, the Warranty of Habitability Act requires that tenants maintain a property in a reasonably clean and sanitary condition.  So, if you can prove that the tenant in some way caused the bedbugs to enter the property, you may be able to ask your tenant to help pay for the extermination.

In addition, your tenant may need to help by removing clutter from rooms, providing access for insecticides, laundering garments at high temperature and throwing away infested items that can’t be cleaned. Continue reading ““And Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite”” »

The 3-Day Notice: How To Start A Colorado Eviction

Filed Under (Eviction, Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 17-04-2012

The rent is late.  Your tenant is smoking in a non-smoking house.  Whatever the cause, the first step in the eviction process is to serve your tenant a 3-day notice (also called an eviction notice, pre-litigation notice or notice to pay or quit). Under Colorado law it is technically called the “Demand for Compliance or Possession.”

It gives your tenant three days to fix the problem or move out.

For instance, if you find unauthorized pets living in the house, your tenant has three days to relocate these animals to a new home. If the problem is overdue rent, your tenant has three days to pay or move out.

And, while you might not plan on evicting your tenant right now, if you don’t  serve the demand, you won’t later be able to proceed in an eviction until you do thus delaying the process even more.

Also: while 3 days is the default deadline set forth in Colorado law, please review your lease agreement and see if it requires a longer notice deadline. Note that the notice period can be no less than 3 days, no matter what your lease says.

What’s in the 3-Day Notice, aka Demand for Compliance or Possession? Continue reading “The 3-Day Notice: How To Start A Colorado Eviction” »

What Landlords Need to Know About Medical Marijuana in Colorado

Filed Under (Uncategorized) on 27-03-2012

In light of the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries near Colorado schools, landlords may be wondering if they can and should bar pot smoking on their property.

In Colorado, patients with a medical need can possess up to two ounces of marijuana. Individuals deemed “caregivers” can also possess up to six plants. As of last November, more than 161,000 Coloradans had applied for state cards as certified marijuana users. So what does this mean for residential landlords?

Q. Because of the law – and the number of people with “certified user” cards – am I now required to rent to medical marijuana users?

A. No. First, just because something is legal under Colorado law doesn’t mean you have to allow it in your property – for instance, you can prohibit smoking, or dogs and cats, or loud parties.

The only thing you must do is follow the federal Fair Housing Act, and local ordinances in specific Colorado counties, that bar landlords from discriminating against potential tenants because of race, color, sex, marital status, family status, disabilities or religion. Continue reading “What Landlords Need to Know About Medical Marijuana in Colorado” »

Bedbugs in Your Colorado Rental Properties

Filed Under (Uncategorized) on 06-03-2012

Unless you were alive during World War II, you’ve likely never seen or experienced Cimex lectularius – the common bedbug.  Due to international travel and reduced use of DDT, bedbugs are back. Small, reddish-brown and oval, these bloodsucking pests are showing up in apartment units, movie theatres, hotels and college campuses nationwide. 

Not only do bedbugs bite and leave red bumps that swell and itch for up to a week, they are difficult and expensive to eradicate.  Once they are in a property, they can migrate from unit to unit. 

As a landlord, your first concern should be preventing bedbugs’ arrival.  And, if your tenant reports bedbugs, you should take immediate steps to eradicate them. A second concern may be creating a framework that limits legal liability in the event of an infestation and requires tenants to take preventive measures against bedbugs.

Pests and Colorado’s Warranty of Habitability Law

Colorado’s Implied Warranty of Habitability Act  says, in essence, that when you sign a lease, you promise that your unit is fit to be lived in.  These requirements call for extermination services if there is any sign of pests, rodents or other infestation.

If you suspect bedbugs on your property, schedule a proactive extermination.  Some pest control firms use dogs to sniff out the bugs and can provide a certificate attesting that your unit is pest-free. Continue reading “Bedbugs in Your Colorado Rental Properties” »

Real Estate Record-Keeping for Colorado Landlords
(Part III)

Filed Under (Uncategorized) on 03-01-2012

For many landlords, perfect records are an ideal to be aimed for, perhaps not ever achieved. We know how it is. You’re busy; things get lost; and you have a generally good relationship with your tenants. In two previous posts, we talked about keeping property maintenance records, landlord-tenant correspondence, a rent ledger and rental criteria/property showing records.

In this final post on landlord record-keeping, we focused on something that directly affects your bottom line: a record of income and rental tax deductions.

Income and expense records

Even the most laid-back landlords can appreciate the importance of tracking income and expenses–because doing so can help you pay fewer taxes. For best results, track rental income and expenses every month. Don’t wait until the end of the year to do this because you’re likely to forget about small outlays.
Some common landlord rental tax deductions include:
Continue reading “Real Estate Record-Keeping for Colorado Landlords<BR>(Part III)” »

Real Estate Record-Keeping for Colorado Landlords (Part II)

Filed Under (Uncategorized) on 08-12-2011

In an earlier post, we talked about why it is important for landlords to keep accurate records.  Using records, you can keep track of repairs and prepare for upcoming expenses.  You can defend against discrimination claims. And you can minimize your tax payments.  Of the four types of records landlords should keep, two are discussed here: individual property maintenance records and tenant correspondence.

 

Continue reading “Real Estate Record-Keeping for Colorado Landlords (Part II)” »

Real Estate Record-Keeping for Colorado Landlords
(Part I)

Filed Under (Uncategorized) on 05-12-2011

Owning a rental property is like running a business.  Keeping accurate records is key to measuring return on investment. It’s also crucial as a means to keep track of repairs and to defend against discrimination claims. Here is the first of four types of records landlords need to keep: a record of showing and leasing an individual property.

Federal, state, and local laws bar discrimination

When it’s time to find a tenant, savvy landlords know to show and rent their properties fairly and without discrimination. This is because federal, state, and local laws prohibit certain discriminatory acts in the leasing process. For instance, the Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against tenants on the basis of race or color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, and disability.   This means you can’t advertise your property as “great for families” or decide you only want to rent to married couples.

What’s more, Colorado law prohibits discrimination against potential tenants on the basis of ancestry, creed, or marital status.  And local city and county ordinances may grant additional protections to potential tenants. For example the City of Boulder also prohibits discrimination based on: “race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender variance, genetic characteristics, marital status, religion, national origin, ancestry, pregnancy, parenthood, custody of a minor child, or mental or physical disability of the individual or such individual’s friends or associates. . . .”

But landlords can use objective, non-discriminatory tenant criteria

At the same time, landlords are allowed to develop some criteria for tenants. In other words, landlords can be selective based on objective non-discriminatory criteria.  In selecting tenants, you can consider their bankruptcy history and FICO scores, criminal history, job history, and/or income. 

The problem is, how do you prove you’re not discriminating against tenants while still maintaining some rental criteria?

Important records to keep

One possible approach is to write down your rental criteria before you list the property for rent. You could keep these criteria in a document in your computer and files. Then, once the property is listed, keep scrupulous records of:

•    who contacted you;
•    when they contacted you (in chronological order);
•    when you called potential renters back;
•    when a potential renter saw the property;
•    who filled out a rental application and when;
•    the results of any rental screening report;
•    and, if someone was rejected, why the tenant did not meet your rental criteria.

Keeping such records will allow you to prove that you are, indeed, not discriminating.  In the next post of this series, learn about three other kinds of records that are important to keep.

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

Do Your Homework Before Raising the Rent

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 22-11-2011

With Denver metro area residential vacancy rates at a ten-year low, many Colorado landlords are dreaming of raising the rent.  But many might wonder, when and how?

When you can raise the rent depends upon the type of tenancy you have. If there is a lease, the lease typically will not let you change the rent until after the term expires.  In fact, some leases contain specific language as to when and how much you can increase the rent. So, assuming there are no specific provisions regarding this matter, you may want to talk about the rent 30 days before the lease ends. 

It’s best to have an in-person conversation with your tenant followed by written notice.  At the same time, your tenant can let you know if he or she wants to renew for another year. If you agree on the new rent, make sure to put the amount into a new lease or an attachment to your existing lease.

What if you don’t have a written lease and are on a month-to-month basis? 

Technically speaking, you only need to give your tenant 10 days notice before the end of the rental period to terminate the tenancy (usually 10 days before the end of the month). So, the same time period would apply to increasing the rent. But it makes sense to start talking about rental matters well before this time, so that both you and your tenant can plan appropriately.

Perform a rent survey
Take some time to know exactly what’s happening in your zip code before having that talk. A little research will inform you how your property compares to market rates, making a powerful business case for a rent increase.

A rent survey is a simple tracking tool that allows you to keep up with trends in your neighborhood.  It’s best to start creating yours three to four months before the tenancy ends.

Start by defining your property. Is it a single family home or condo? How many bedrooms and baths? Does it have a finished basement and/or two-car garage?  Note amenities such as a yard, fireplace, extra family room or living room.  Is it in good, fair or poor condition?  Do you take Section 8?

When you know what you’ve got, research comparable properties.  To find comparable houses, drive around the neighborhood, look at signs and scan Craigslist. To find comparable condos, look at www.forrent.com.

Notice when new properties are put up for rent and how quickly the signs or notices go away.  If the signs don’t last very long, it means the properties are renting quickly at that price. Notice also when a property sticks around for a long time, it might not mean the price is totally wrong, but perhaps the property has a defect, like a weed-strewn front yard; on a busy street; or unfinished basement.

Over time, you’ll build a database of comparable properties and prices. Data in hand, you can more comfortably broach a rent increase.

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

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