Q: What does Colorado’s new “Warranty of Habitability” law to do for tenants?
A: This new law cuts both ways: It adds protections but also imposes new duties onto tenants. The new law, passed last year, applies to leases entered into on or after Sept. 1, 2008.
Protections: Landlords have to provide “habitable” properties, including weather protecting roofs; unbroken windows and doors; good working plumbing, gas and heat facilities; running and hot water; electrical lighting up to code; common areas kept clean and free of trash; extermination of pests and rodents; enough outside trash receptacles; floors, stairs and railings in good repair; locks on all exterior doors; locks or security systems on windows designed to be opened; and compliance with all city codes.
Tenants can give written notice to the landlord within 30 days of when an uninhabitable condition arises. If the landlord doesn’t fix the condition within 5 business days, the tenant may terminate the lease by giving up possession of the property (moving out, turning in keys and giving written notice).
Beware, not all troublesome conditions will meet the test for “uninhabitability.” Check with Student Legal Services before you rely on a condition to move out.
Tenant Duties: You have to keep the place reasonably clean, safe and sanitary, dispose of garbage properly, use appliances and facilities reasonably, refrain from disturbing your neighbors’ peace and quiet, promptly notify landlords of bad condition and refrain from damaging or removing any part of the premises.
Bottom line: This new law raises as many questions as it answers. For example, how clean does a tenant have to keep the property before the landlord has a right to begin the eviction process? How bad does a condition have to be before it is considered “uninhabitable?”
Don’t rent a property that starts out in bad condition. Before you sign a lease, thoroughly inspect and try out all the appliances, including the heating, cooling, and plumbing systems. Look for signs of pest infestation, mold and water stains that might indicate sewage problems. Ask the landlord a lot of questions. They have a legal duty to disclose known defects.
If you end up with a problem, get advice from SLS in Room 182 of the Lory Student Center. Three experienced lawyers are on staff to help you – free to fee-paying students and available for a nominal fee to students who don’t pay student fees.
Kathleen Harward is the director of Student Legal Services. SLS’ column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Send your burning legal questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.