Excerpt from Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Evictions
One sure way for a landlord to turn the bad situation of a defaulting tenant into a worse situation is to undertake a self-help remedy without carefully and thoroughly considering the lease, the law, and the facts involved in the particular case. In landlord/tenant disputes self-help is the practice of “taking the law into your own hands” and attempting to enforce a lease without court assistance. The case reports are filled with horror stories of landlords who wrongfully entered the leased premises and were held liable for such wrongful acts as trespass, conversion, and outrageous conduct. Several of these cases resulted in large punitive damages being assessed against the landlord.
Many leases contain provisions allowing the landlord to undertake self-help remedies. In the past, commentators and case law were divided as to whether such self-help was allowed under Colorado law. The legislature has recently resolved this issue, at least with respect to residential tenancies. As of September 1, 2008, self help (including lock-outs and related actions) are illegal and subject to serious legal recourse, except in very specific circumstances. There are only three circumstances in which a landlord may use self-help to re-take possession of the premises:
• When it is done with the mutual consent of the landlord and tenant.
• When the premises are being used for an illegal drug laboratory (e.g., meth lab) and the landlord has been notified by a peace officer or government agency.
• When the tenant has abandoned the premises.
Self-help measures includes the willful termination of utilities or the willful removal of doors, windows, or locks to the premises other than as required for repair or maintenance. If the landlord willfully and unlawfully removes the tenant from the premises or willfully and unlawfully causes the termination of heat, running water, hot water, electric, gas, or other essential services, the tenant may seek any remedy available under the law.
For more information about Colorado Evictions, check out the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Boehler, Certified Paralegal.