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Landlord Tenant Disputes?

Disputes--actual and potential--come in all shapes and sizes for landlords and tenants. Whether it's a disagreement over a rent increase, late rental payment, questions regarding responsibility for repairs or return of a security deposit, rarely should lawyers and litigation be the first choice for resolving a landlord-tenant dispute. Here are some useful resources and links to help residents with a variety of legal and resident right issues:

Tenant's Rights Resources

ENGLISH VERSION     SPANISH VERSION


RENTERS F.A.Q (FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS)

The landlord's right of access depends entirely upon what the lease provides. If the lease is silent on the issue, the tenant has exclusive rights to the leased premises during the leased term, and the landlord has no more rights to enter the leased property than does any stranger on the street. However, most leases provide the landlord with some rights of entry. The level of entry depends entirely on the lease. Some leases provide that the landlord's can only enter after prior notice, or in the case of emergency. Other leases provide that the landlord may enter for various reasons without any notice at all. 

If your lease is silent on the issue, by Colorado statue the landlord has only 30 days to either return the security deposit or a written explanation of why the deposit is being retained. The deposit or statement is to be mailed by the landlord to the tenant's last known address. However, the statue also provides that the landlord and tenant can agree to a longer period, up to 60 days. It is very common for a lease agreement to provide that the landlord has 60 days to return the deposit or provide notice. 

Generally speaking, no. By signing the lease contract you have obligated yourself to perform pursuant to the terms of that contract. If you breach that contract by terminating early, you will be responsible to the landlord for the damages caused by the breach. In the case of an early termination of a lease, those damages are primarily the cost of lost rent while the landlord finds a new tenant, and also the cost of marketing the property. Some lease contracts have pre-agreed upon lease break fees. To the extent these fees significantly exceed the landlord's actual cost of lost rent and other recoverable damages, or marketing expense, these fees maybe unenforceable. 

Generally speaking, yes. If the condition of the property is bad enough to make it unfit for the purpose the property was leased (generally unfit to live in) the legal theory of "constructive eviction" will allow you to move out of the property and no longer be obligated to pay rent. However, you are not allowed to remain in the property and not pay rent or unilaterally determine a revised rent amount. Some judges, based on the legal principle of mitigating the damages, will allow the tenant to fix the problem and then deduct the cost of the repair from the rent. However, this is a relatively dangerous strategy. As there is no statutory basis to allow it and many leases specifically prohibit it. Before making a repair and potentially embarking down the road to an argument, you should be very sure that the disrepair was not caused by you, that the landlord is clearly obligated to make the repair pursuant to the terms of the lease, and that you have a long paper trail of requesting that the problem be dealt with by the landlord. Remember, an eviction action is not a level playing field. If the tenant wins, the tenant gets the requested reduction in the rent. If the landlord wins, all the tenant's possessions are thrown out in the street and the tenant is homeless. 

Normal wear and tear is that amount of physical depreciation that a leased premise can reasonably be expected to suffer, when used for the purposes that it was leased, by a reasonably prudent tenant. Of course, as with all issues, what is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another, including the judge. However, nothing lasts forever. Consequently, courts reasonably expect that carpets will wear out (approximately every seven years), major appliances will cease functioning (approximately every twelve years), and that premises will need to be repainted (approximately every five years). 

The obligation for payment of utilities is purely a function of what the lease contract provides. Virtually all leases specify whether the landlord or the tenant will be responsible for utilities. Consequently, the issue of who pays if there is no agreement comes up rarely. If the lease contract is silent on the issue and there is no indication that the landlord has agreed to pay for the tenant's utilities, generally those utilities will be the tenants' responsibility. One possible exception to this presumption is the water bill. Water represents the only utility for which the utility provider, if the bill is unpaid, can place a lien on the landlord's property. Because of this (and because up until several decades ago, most water bills were fixed monthly charges) many landlords have built the cost of water into there lease rates. Among realtors a presumption has developed over the years regarding the sale or leasing of property, that unless otherwise agreed to, the owner of the property will be responsible for water. One could considerably argue that by industry custom the landlord is responsible for water when the lease is silent on the issue. However, we are aware of no published case which would support that position. Consequently, such an argument is a relativity risky proposition. The much better practice is to make sure your lease agreement clearly spells out who is and is not responsible for all the various utilities. 

Neither the tenant nor the landlord can unilaterally change the terms of the lease during the lease term. The lease represents a contract that both the tenant and the landlord have agreed to abide by for its full term. However, the tenant and the landlord are always free to negotiate and reach a modification of the lease that is acceptable to both. At the expiration of the existing lease, both the landlord and the tenant are free to refuse to sign a new lease unless new terms, more to that party's liking, are agreed to. If the landlord refuses to make a tenant's requested changes, the tenant is free to move away and do business with someone whose terms are more to the tenant's liking. If the tenant refuses to make a landlord's requested changes, the landlord is free to find a new tenant whose terms are more to the landlord's liking. There is one small exception to this general rule. Many leases provide that the landlord has the right to promulgate rules and regulations for an apartment community and can change those rules upon notice to the tenant (usually thirty days) even during the term of the lease. Consequently, many tenants have contractually given the landlord the right to make some changes to the terms of the parties' agreement before the lease expires. 

Yes, but only to extent those rules are reasonably related to the safety of the tenant or to the safety of the landlord's property. A landlord must be very careful not to use age limitation on usage as an excuse to discriminate against families with children, which is a protected classification under federal and state Fair Housing laws. Obviously a rule that says a six year old cannot be unattended when near a pool would be held reasonable in virtually anyone's eyes. Conversely, a rule that says no one under the age of 21 could use any facility would be unreasonable in anyone's eyes. The exact line of reasonability of a particular age requirement is always a tough question. The Association generally recommends age 14 as the age that a child should be expected to reasonably use most communal facilities. 

Federal regulation provides that a landlord cannot absolutely prohibit the use of a satellite dish by a tenant. However, the regulation also specifically provides that the landlord can refuse to allow any holes to be placed in the landlords' exterior surface and that the landlord can require that the entire dish be located within the leased premises. The "leased premises" does include exterior spaces that are reserved for the exclusive use of the tenant (balcony for example). However, the dish cannot be installed in such a way that portions of it protrude outside of that area. As a practical matter if a landlord strictly insists that the dish remain completely inside the leased premises, you may not be able to install your dish in such a way as to point it at your desired transmitting satellite.

It depends on what your lease says. Most leases provide that it is a violation of the lease to engage in conduct that unreasonable disturbs the rights and comforts of others near the leased premises. If your lease contains such a provision, then unreasonably loud music or noise would violate that lease. If the lease provides nothing about noise, you may still have a problem. Most leases also provide that the tenant will not engage in unlawful activity. If the noise is sufficient to represent violation of the law (disturbing the peace) it could represent a lease violation as well. If the landlord believes there's been a violation, before evicting you, the landlord must first give you notice of the violation with three days to cure the violation. If the violation is not cured or if the violation occurs again, the landlord is then free to provide a notice to quit and then evict. However, parties are free to agree to any terms that they choose, and if your lease provides that you are free to make unreasonable amounts of noise, the noise would not be a violation of the lease.