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. Here's what Colorado landlords and tenants need to know about ending tenancies with and without cause.
For a landlord to evict a tenant in Colorado before the tenant's rental term has expired, the landlord must have legal cause—no matter whether it's a fixed-term lease or a periodic rental agreement (one that renews automatically after the end of each term). Under Colorado law, a landlord can end a tenancy for cause when the tenant:
To evict the tenant for one of these reasons, the landlord must first terminate the rental agreement or lease by providing the tenant with a notice that provides a reason for the termination.
When a landlord wants to terminate a tenancy because the tenant hasn't paid rent, the landlord must serve the tenant with a 10-day notice to pay rent or quit (move out). (The notice might be called a Demand for Compliance or Right to Possession Notice.) If the tenant doesn't pay in full the rent owed before the end of the 10 days, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (also called an "unlawful detainer" suit).
Colorado landlords who have an exempt residential agreement can shorten the notice period by serving a five-day notice to pay rent or quit.
(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-104(1)(d) (2022).)
The tenant can avoid eviction by paying the rent owed in full at any time before the court enters a judgment for possession.
When a landlord wants to terminate a tenancy because the tenant violated a portion of the lease or rental agreement, such as a no-pets policy, the landlord must serve the tenant with a 10-day notice to cure (fix the problem) or quit (a Demand for Compliance or Right to Possession notice). If the tenant doesn't fix the problem before the end of the 10 days, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
Colorado landlords who have an exempt residential agreement can shorten the notice period by serving a five-day notice to cure or quit.
(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-104(e) (2022).)
If a landlord has already served a notice to cure or quit for a lease violation, and the tenant repeats the same violation at a later time, the landlord can send the tenant a notice to quit without an opportunity to fix the matter (sometimes called an unconditional notice to quit). A good example of such a situation is when a tenant has received a notice to cure or quit for violating a no-pets policy by having a dog at the rental. If the tenant removed the dog after receiving the notice, but then brings in a cat, the landlord doesn't have to give the tenant another chance to follow the no-pets policy.
To terminate the tenancy, the landlord simply needs to serve a 10-day written notice to quit. (A five-day notice to quit can be served if it's an exempt residential agreement.) (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-104(e.5) (2022).)
Special rules apply for terminations and evictions caused by "substantial violations" of a lease or rental agreement. Colorado law defines a substantial violation as an act or series of acts by the tenant (or their guest) that occurs:
Landlords can serve tenants who substantially violate the lease or rental agreement with a three-day notice to quit. 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, 13-40-107.5 (2022).)
When a Colorado landlord doesn't have a legally recognized reason (cause) to evict a tenant, the landlord's options for ending the tenancy depend on the type of tenancy.
Unless a Colorado landlord has cause, they can't end the tenancy until the lease expires. The landlord doesn't have to give the tenant a notice to quit or other notice that the lease is about to end, unless the lease specifically requires notice. Otherwise, without a renewal of the lease, the landlord can simply wait for the lease term to end, and the tenant must move out.
If the tenant fails to move out when the lease expires, the landlord can immediately file an eviction lawsuit, without giving the tenant any notice to leave. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-104(1)(c) (2022).)
A periodic tenancy is one that is typically for a short amount of time, but renews automatically under the terms of a rental agreement. The most popular form of periodic tenancy is month-to-month.
In Colorado, landlords who want to end a periodic tenancy without cause must give a certain amount of written notice to terminate.
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 without cause, the landlord must give the tenant a 21-day notice to quit. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-40-107(1)(c) (2022).) 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.
After the time in the notice to quit has passed (and, if the tenant hasn't cured when given the opportunity to do so), the landlord can file an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. The court will set a date for a hearing on the matter, and the landlord must serve notice of the lawsuit on the tenant.
If a tenant doesn't appear at the hearing, the court will most likely enter a default (automatic) judgment for the landlord. The court will enter the judgment into the official court records.
Colorado courts issue a writ of restitution 48 hours after the judgment is entered. The landlord can then take the writ of restitution to a law enforcement officer (usually the sheriff), and the sheriff will then be responsible for the physical removal of the tenant. Only a law enforcement officer can carry out the physical eviction—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.
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.
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 (2022).) The property is considered abandoned, and the landlord can immediately dispose of it. If the landlord chooses 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.
You can find forms and detailed information about the eviction process in Colorado on the Colorado Judicial Branch's website. Nolo's Legal Resources for Tenants provides advice on how renters can find legal help and other assistance, and the Landlords & Tenants section provides more information about landlord-tenant laws and the landlord-tenant relationship.