Colorado Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent

When a landlord violates the warranty of habitability in Colorado, a tenant might be able to withhold rent.

Colorado tenants are legally entitled to livable rental property that meets basic structural, health, and safety standards and is in good repair. If a landlord fails to take care of important maintenance, such as a leaky roof or a broken heater, tenants have several important legal rights, including the right to withhold rent until repairs are made.

When Are Tenants Justified in Withholding Rent in Colorado?

Before you withhold rent, you need to:

  1. be certain that state law allows tenants to withhold rent as a remedy,
  2. make sure that your circumstances meet the requirements for legally withholding rent, and
  3. learn and follow the legal procedures for withholding.

Colorado Law on Rent Withholding

Tenants may deduct from one or more rent payments the cost of repairing or remedying a situation that qualifies as a breach of the warranty of habitability. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-507(1)(e).) Colorado Revised Statute section 38-12-503 sets forth situations that violate the warranty of habitability, including the presence of hazardous mold, lack of weather protection, lack of running water, insufficient heating, and anything else that materially interferes with the tenant’s life, health, or safety. (Also see Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-505 for conditions that make a residence uninhabitable.)

Tenants cannot withhold rent if they themselves, a member of their household, or a guest caused the harmful condition (unless the condition is the result of domestic violence of which the landlord has been made aware of). (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-503(3).)

Tenants must provide landlords with at least ten days’ written or electronic notice of their intent to withhold rent. The notice must meet certain requirements—for example, it must contain a copy of at least one good-faith estimate of costs to repair or remedy the situation, and the date of the tenant’s notice. After the tenant provides this notice, the law lists many other steps that both the landlord and tenant must perform. See Colorado Revised Statute section 38-12-507 for the full list of requirements, or consult a local landlord-tenant attorney for assistance.

Colorado law also specifies situations under which tenants may terminate the lease or rental agreement (without penalty) due to the landlord’s breach of the warranty of habitability. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-507(a).)

Other Resources for Colorado Tenants

The State of Colorado’s website contains resources for landlords and tenants, including a description of the warranty of habitability in Colorado, a Colorado Renter’s Guide, and a Landlord-Tenant handbook. (Search “landlord tenant” in the site’s search box.) Also, the nonprofit Colorado Housing Connects can assist renters in the Denver metro area, and their website offers resources for landlords and tenants throughout Colorado.

Also, check your local housing ordinances for any city or county rules that cover tenant rights when it comes to repairs. Contact your local building or housing authority. To find yours, call your mayor or city manager’s office or check your city or county website.

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