Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Colorado

Find out key laws every Colorado landlord and tenant needs to know.

By , Attorney

Colorado is gradually becoming a more tenant-friendly state. However, many aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship aren't controlled by state law. Rather, the state has left many areas open to be legislated—or not—by local governments.

Colorado Rental Application and Tenant Screening Laws

Can Colorado landlords charge an application fee?

Colorado landlords can't charge an application fee unless the landlord uses the entire amount of the fee to cover the costs of processing the rental application. Colorado landlords must also:

  • charge every applicant the same application fee
  • provide applicants with a disclosure of the anticipated expenses that the fee will be used for or an itemization of the actual expenses incurred
  • give every applicant a receipt for the application fee, and
  • return any part of the application fee that the landlord doesn't actually use.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-903 (2022).)

Can Colorado landlords ask about an applicant's criminal history?

Yes, Colorado landlords can ask about an applicant's criminal history. However, they can't ask about arrests that didn't lead to convictions, and can consider only convictions that occurred in the five years before the application, unless the applicant has earlier convictions:

  • for manufacturing or selling methamphetamine
  • for unlawfully possessing materials to make methamphetamine
  • that required the applicant to register as a sex offender, or
  • relating to certain drug offenses.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-904 (2022).)

Colorado landlords should check to see if there is a city or county law that prohibits landlords from asking about applicants' criminal history.

Even if there are no laws prohibiting landlords from considering applicants' criminal histories, landlords must be careful. When landlords consider criminal history, they must do so in a consistent, nondiscriminatory manner. If a landlord's practice of considering criminal history has a discriminatory effect—for example, if the landlord asks only applicants of a certain color for criminal history information—the landlord is engaging in illegal discrimination and can be subject to penalties. Also, landlords can't reject applicants for past convictions that aren't directly related to the application. In other words, landlords can reject an applicant for a conviction that doesn't affect a legitimate business concern of the landlord.

Can Colorado landlords ask about an applicant's immigration or citizenship status?

No, Colorado landlords can't demand, request, or collect information regarding the immigration or citizenship status of an applicant or tenant. However, landlords can request information or documentation necessary to determine the financial qualifications (such as a social security number or taxpayer identification number) of an applicant, as long as the landlord asks for this information from all applicants. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 38-12-1201 through 38-12-1205 (2022).)

Colorado Security Deposit Laws

What is the maximum security deposit a Colorado landlord can charge?

Colorado law doesn't put a limit on how much landlords can charge for a security deposit.

Do Colorado landlords have to pay interest on security deposits?

State law doesn't require landlords to pay interest on security deposits. However, many cities require landlords to pay interest on security deposits. For example, Boulder requires landlords to pay interest of 0.06% (for 2022).

Can Colorado landlord charge nonrefundable cleaning fees? Pet fees?

There is no law prohibiting Colorado landlords from charging nonrefundable cleaning fees or pet fees.

How long do Colorado landlords have to return a security deposit?

Colorado landlords must return a security deposit—or provide a written statement of what's being deducted from the deposit—within one month of when the lease ends or the tenant leaves (whichever is last). The lease can extend the amount of time to return the deposit up to 60 days at the longest. If the landlord is withholding money for nonpayment of rent, repairs, or another allowed use, the written statement must list the exact reasons, and be accompanied by payment of the difference between the total deposit and the amount retained. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(1) (2022).)

What happens when a Colorado landlord doesn't return a security deposit?

When the landlord doesn't return the security deposit within a month (or whatever deadline is specified in the lease), the landlord loses all right to withhold any portion of the security deposit. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(2) (2022).) To get the security deposit back, though, the tenant might have to send the landlord a notice that demands the return of the security deposit in full and informs the landlord that if the deposit isn't returned, the tenant will sue the landlord.

A tenant can sue a Colorado landlord who "willfully" withholds the security deposit past the due date for treble (three times) the amount of the portion wrongfully withheld. The landlord will also be responsible for the tenant's attorneys' fees and court costs. In order to sue, the tenant must first give the landlord written notice of their intent to file a lawsuit at least seven days before filing. The intent of this notice is to give the landlord one last chance to return the wrongfully withheld amount before having to go to court. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(3) (2022).)

A landlord "willfully" withholds the security deposit if they receive the notice and still don't return the security deposit. The statute doesn't clarify how notice should be sent—tenants should read their lease to see what it says about providing notice to the landlord. Some leases allow notices by email, but most require notices to be sent by U.S. Mail. Tenants should closely follow the guidance in their lease to send the notice, but if the lease doesn't mention how to give notice, the tenant should send the notice by registered mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of the receipt to prove that the notice was sent and received. Another possible way is to personally deliver to—or even serve—the landlord with the notice. No matter how you deliver the notice, be sure to document it so you can show the judge.

For most Colorado tenants, it's easiest to sue their landlord in small claims court.

Required Landlord Disclosures in Colorado

Under state law, Colorado landlords must disclose specific information to tenants.

  • Contact information for the landlord. Written rental agreements and leases must include a statement of the name and address of the person who is the landlord or the landlord's authorized agent. If this person's identity changes, the tenants must be notified of the new contact person within one business day after the change, and the landlord must post the identity of the new landlord or authorized agent in a conspicuous location on the rental premises. (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-12-801(2) (2022).)
  • Bed bug history. Upon request from prospective tenants, landlords must disclose whether the unit for rent contained bed bugs within the previous eight months. If requested, landlords must also disclose the last date (if any) the unit being rented was inspected for, and found to be free of, bed bugs. (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-12-1005 (2022).)
  • Rental application fee expenses. Landlords who collect a rental application fee must disclose the anticipated expenses for which the fee will be used or itemize the actual expenses incurred. When landlords charge application fees based on the average cost of processing rental applications, they must explain how they determined the average rental application fee. (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-12-903 (2022).)
  • Reason for denial of rental application. Landlords who deny rental applications must give rejected applicants a written notice of the denial that states the reasons for the denial. If a landlord cannot site the specific screening criteria because of the use of a proprietary screening system, the landlord must instead provide the rejected applicant with a copy of the report from the screening company. Landlords can provide electronic versions of the denial notice, but must provide a paper denial notice upon request. Landlords must make a good-faith effort to provide the notice within 20 calendar days of the denial. (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-12-904 (2022).)

Small Claims Lawsuits in Colorado

What is the limit a landlord or tenant can sue for in Colorado Small Claims Court?

Both landlords and tenants can sue for up to $7,500 in the small claims division on Colorado county court (the court that handles small claims lawsuits in Colorado). Landlords can't use the small claims courts for evictions, but can use them to sue for security deposit disputes.

Colorado Late Fees and Other Rent Rules

Can Colorado landlords charge tenants late rent fees?

Colorado landlords can charge tenants late rent fees when a rent payment is late by at least seven calendar days. However, landlords can't:

  • charge a late fee that's more than the greater of $50 or 5% of the amount of the past due rent
  • require the tenant to pay a late fee unless the late fee is disclosed in the lease or rental agreement
  • start the eviction process just because the tenant doesn't pay one or more late fees
  • terminate a tenancy because the tenant doesn't pay one or more late fees
  • impose a late fee for the late payment of any portion of the rent that a rent subsidy provider (rather than the tenant) is responsible for paying
  • impose a late fee more than once for each late payment (except when the total fees don't exceed the limit)
  • require a tenant to pay interest on a late fee, or
  • charge a late fee unless the landlord has provided the tenant with written notice of the late fee within 180 days after the rent payment due date.

Any lease or rental agreement that contains clauses that violate these rules is void and unenforceable. Landlords who wrongfully charge a late fee must pay the tenant $50 for each violation. And, if the tenant provides the landlord with written or electronic notification of the violation, the landlord has seven days to fix the issue. If the landlord doesn't fix it, the tenant can sue for damages, penalties, and attorneys' fees. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-105 (2022).)

Can Colorado landlords raise the rent?

Colorado landlords can't raise the rent during the term of a lease unless the lease specifically allows them to do so. And, Colorado landlords can't increase the rent more than one time in any 12-month period of consecutive occupancy by the tenant. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-702 (2022).)

Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in Colorado

What is a tenant's remedy when a landlord doesn't make repairs?

If a landlord breaches the warranty of habitability, the tenant must give written notice to the landlord specifying the breach and giving the landlord five days to remedy the breach. If the landlord fails to remedy, the tenant can terminate the tenancy by leaving the rental at some point between 10 and 30 days after the notice. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-507(1)(a) (2022).)

The tenant can also seek an order from the court requiring the landlord to stop the violation of the warranty of habitability.

Finally, a tenant can deduct from one or more rent payments the cost of repairing a condition that violates the warranty of habitability—but only when the tenant provides proper notice to the landlord of the violation and the landlord fails to start or finish the repairs within the amount of time required by statute. (The deadlines for how long a landlord has to make the repairs depends on the situation, and are outlined in Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-503 (2022).) The tenant must notify the landlord that they intend to withhold rent. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-507 (2022).)

Colorado Termination and Eviction Rules

State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. The procedures for terminating a tenancy depend on the reasons why the landlord is ending the tenancy.

Failure to pay rent

When a Colorado tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord must give the tenant a 10-day notice to pay rent or quit (move) before the landlord can file an eviction suit. Landlords who own five or fewer single-family rental homes may state in the lease or rental agreement for a single-family home that only five days' notice to pay rent or quit is required. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-104 (2022).)

Lease violation

When a Colorado tenant violates a term of the lease—such as having a pet in violation of a no-pets policy—the landlord must give the tenant a 10-day notice to cure (fix) the problem or quit. Landlords who own five or fewer single-family rental homes may state in the lease or rental agreement for a single-family home that only five days' notice to cure or quit is required. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-40-104(1)(e), (5)(b) (2022).)

If the lease violation is substantial—such as destroying the landlord's property—the landlord can give the tenant a 3-day notice to quit, and doesn't have to give the tenant a chance to fix the problem. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-40-104(1)(d.5), 13-40-107.5 (2022).)

Unconditional quit notice

Landlords can give tenants notice to quit without giving them a chance to fix the problem when the tenant:

  • commits a substantial violation of the lease (see above) or
  • repeatedly violates a clause in the lease.

For repeated lease violations, the landlord can give a 10-day unconditional quit notice. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-107.5 (2022).) Landlords who own five or fewer single family rental homes may provide in their lease or rental agreement for a single-family home that only 5 days' notice is required. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-104 (2022).)

After receiving any of these termination notices, if the tenant doesn't cure (if possible) or move out by the deadline in the notice, the landlord can begin the eviction process.

Colorado Rules About Landlords' Access to Property

In all states, even in the absence of a statute, landlords can enter a rental without giving notice in order to deal with a true emergency (an imminent and serious threat to health, safety, or property); and when the tenant has abandoned the property (left for good).

Colorado law doesn't specify how much notice landlords should give before entering into a property—unless the entry is to inspect for or treat the presence of bed bugs. In this situation, the landlord must give the tenant written or electronic notice at least 48 hours before entry. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-1004 (2022).)

Other Colorado Landlord-Tenant Laws

Does Colorado have rent control?

No. Colorado does not have statewide rent control, nor does it allow cities or counties to enact their own rent control laws. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-301 (2022).)

Where to Find Colorado Landlord-Tenant Statutes

If you want to read the text of a law itself, such as state security deposit rules, start by checking citations for Colorado landlord-tenant statutes. To access the statutes themselves, see the state section of the Library of Congress's legal research site. You can search the table of contents for the landlord-tenant statutes. Or, if you don't know the exact statute number, you can enter a keyword that is likely to be in it, such as "nonpayment of rent."

Local Ordinances Affecting Colorado Landlords and Tenants

Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and anti-discrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites—just search for the name of a particular city in Colorado, and then do a search when you're on the site.

State and Local Government on the Net and Municode (click on "Code Library" in the main menu) are good sources for finding local governments online. Also, your local public library or office of the city attorney, mayor, or city or county manager can provide information on local ordinances that affect landlords and tenants in Colorado.

Federal Landlord-Tenant Laws and Regulations

Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have enacted laws and regulations that apply to the landlord-tenant relationship in Colorado. These laws and regulations address topics such as discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.

The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 53 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). To access the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations online, see the federal section of the Library of Congress's legal research site.

Nolo Resources on Legal Research and Landlord-Tenant Law

For more information on legal research, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias (Nolo). This nontechnical book gives easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions on how to find legal information.

You'll also find a wealth of information in Nolo's landlord-tenant books.

For landlords:

For tenants:

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