When evicting tenants in Colorado, landlords must carefully follow the rules and procedures set forth by Colorado law. Otherwise, the court can dismiss the eviction suit, allowing the tenant to remain until the landlord (properly) restarts the eviction process. This article will explain the basic rules and procedures landlords and property managers must follow when evicting a tenant in Colorado.
For a landlord to evict a tenant in Colorado before the tenant’s rental term—no matter whether it’s a fixed-term lease or a periodic rental agreement (one that renews automatically after the end of each term)—has expired, the landlord must have legal cause. Colorado state law has defined legal cause as the tenant failing to pay rent, violating the lease or rental agreement, or committing a serious act, such as a crime or violence toward another resident. To evict the tenant for one of these reasons, the landlord must first terminate the rental agreement or lease. This happens when the landlord gives the tenant a notice.
If the tenant has not paid rent or has violated the lease or rental agreement, then the landlord must give the tenant a ten-day notice. The tenant can either pay rent or fix the violation within the ten days or move out of the rental unit. If the tenant does neither, then the landlord can terminate the lease or rental agreement and file an eviction lawsuit with the court. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-40-104(d) and (e).)
The tenant can also be evicted for committing more serious acts, such as violence toward another tenant, drug-related activity, or criminal activity at the rental unit or on the premises. If the landlord is evicting the tenant for any of these reasons, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to quit. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-107.5(4)(a).) The landlord does not have to give the tenant any opportunity to fix the violation (sometimes known as an unconditional quit notice). If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit by the end of three days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-104(d.5).)
If a landlord does not have cause to evict a tenant, then the following rules apply.
If the landlord wants to evict a tenant with a fixed-term lease but does not have cause, then the landlord must simply wait until the lease has expired. In this case, the landlord does not need to give the tenant notice to quit unless the terms of the lease specifically require the landlord to do so. Otherwise, the landlord can expect the tenant to move by the end of the lease term.
In Colorado, if the tenant has a rental agreement—an agreement to rent for a certain period of time that renews automatically—then a landlord who wants to end the tenancy without cause must give a certain amount of written notice to terminate. (Tenancies that renew automatically are also called periodic tenancies in Colorado.)
The amount of notice required depends on the length of the rental agreement’s term. For example, if the landlord wants to end a month-to-month tenancy (the most common periodic tenancy) but does not have cause, then the landlord must give the tenant a 21-day notice to quit. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-107(1)(c).) The notice must describe the property and the particular time when the tenancy will terminate, and be signed by the landlord or landlord’s agent. If the tenant doesn’t move out by the deadline in the notice, the landlord may evict the tenant. (As a side note, the same notice requirements apply to tenants wishing to end a periodic tenancy without cause.)
Even though a landlord might have a valid legal reason to evict a tenant, the tenant can still choose to fight the eviction. The tenant could have a valid legal defense, such as, the landlord failing to maintain the rental unit or the landlord retaliating against the tenant. This decision to fight the eviction could increase the cost of the lawsuit or increase the amount of time the tenant has to remain in the rental unit. Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Colorado has more information.
The only person who is authorized to remove a tenant from the rental unit is a law enforcement officer. Under Colorado law, it is never legal for a landlord to attempt to force the tenant to move out of the rental unit, and the tenant could sue the landlord for trying.
After an eviction, the landlord might find that the tenant has left behind personal belongings. Unlike most states, the landlord is not required to contact the tenant before disposing of the property. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-122.) The property is considered abandoned, and the landlord can immediately dispose of it. If the landlord does choose to store the property until the tenant claims it, the landlord can charge the tenant the costs of the storage. However, the landlord is not liable to the tenant for any damage that may come to the property while the landlord is storing it. Handling a Tenant’s Abandoned Property in Colorado has more information on this topic.