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.