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