Bedbugs in Your Colorado Rental Properties

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 06-03-2012

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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” »

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.

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