Know These New Laws or Risk Running Afoul

Colorado has steadily been fine-tuning and increasing tenant rights over the course of the last few years. We’ve seen bills limiting the amount of late fees and application fees, new laws allowing emotional support animals in no-pet rentals, and legislation increasing a landlord’s responsibilities in a warranty of habitability situation, among others.

In 2023 new bills that are in place, or that will take effect soon, include the following:

House Bill 23-1254, about warranty of habitability, requires landlords to respond more quickly when tenants report an inhabitable condition in the rental. This new law requires landlords, or their agents, to respond within 24 hours. The response must include: details of the landlord’s intentions to remedy, an estimate on when repair will commence, and an estimate of when the repair will be completed.

HB23-1095 prohibits penalties for eviction notices and actions, and bans clauses in leases that state renters must pay legal fees in any dispute—even if they prevail.

HB23-1068, which commences Jan. 1, 2024, limits to $300 the amount of pet deposit a landlord can charge and that no portion of a pet deposit may be non-refundable. It also limits the amount of pet rent to $35 or 1.5% of monthly rent.

SB23-206 requires landlords to include a radon disclosure with all rental leases. This bill requires any contract that transfers interest in a property, whether a sale or a lease, to contain a disclosure with a warning statement about radon’s dangers, any knowledge the seller or landlord has regarding the property’s radon levels and whether any mitigation has been done. Landlords or their agents must also present the buyer or tenant with the state’s most recent brochure about radon in real estate transactions. A tenant may void a lease based on warranty of habitability of a landlord fails to provide disclosure or fails to mitigate a radon issue after 180 days. After January 2026 a tenant can void a lease on these grounds only if the lease is longer than a year.

Here is a brief overview of laws that passed in previous recent years. This is only a recap. Refer to Nexis Lexis, the Department of Regulatory Affairs, a competent attorney, or another source for the full info on all of the laws mentioned in this article.

HB22-1102 makes it illegal to discriminate on an applicant based on military status. Since active duty military people can legally abandon a lease if they get transferred to a new location, this change may be relevant to some. For the purposes of this law, an applicant who was dishonorably discharged from the military, does not have a military status.

HB21-1121 established that residential landlords cannot increase rent more frequently than once a year. In cases where the tenant is not on a lease landlords must give 60 days notice for rent increases.

SB21-173 set limits on the amount of late fees landlords can charge. To be compliant landlords mustn’t charge more than the greater of $50 or 5% of rent. Also, late fees cannot commence until the 8th day of being late. Eviction is also no longer an option for renters who fail to pay late fees. Until now it’s been common for leases to declare that late fees are considered additional rent and subject to further late fees if not paid, which is no longer allowed.

HB20-1332 states that landlords who own more than three rental units cannot discriminate based on source of income. This law was born out of a concern that landlords discriminate against housing voucher renters, also called Section 8.

My two cents on this one is that it’s a good thing. But I will say, having overseen several Section 8 renters, that the whole process of dealing with the agencies is excessively paper-work- and time-heavy, especially at the start. In a hot rental market like we’ve had for a few years, non-state-funded renters can get their paperwork in order much more quickly and there is no need to wait for the slow wheels of government. But it is a kindness to try to help these financially compromised people and I support any of my clients who want to help Section 8 renters.

SB20-224 states that landlords may not request a renter’s immigration status. A landlord can, of course, verify an applicant’s means to pay rent, but the landlord must use the same criteria for all applicants.

One newer law that I believe is well in order, HB19-1106, is a limit on how much landlords and rental communities can charge for application fees, including a stipulation that if applications are processed in-house rental managers can’t make applicants pay a fee. If an applicant requests a receipt for any fee charged, the lessor must provide proof of having incurred the expense for any application fee charged to the public.

I’ve seen a housing complex in Longmont charge an application fee of $200 to a renter and then immediately decline the application. I tried to reach that company directly because I was outraged on behalf of the very financially strapped applicant. I found layers of subterfuge concealing the headquarters. In the end I found no direct way to contact anyone in the company, and I have a bachelor’s in journalism which is a lot like being a private investigator. These types of businesses are not only unethical, they do a disservice to honest residential rental management companies and landlords by sowing general renter distrust.

Laws passed between 2016 – 2021 include: the mandate that any renter in a domestic abuse situation can terminate a lease without penalty after providing proof; and a requirement that landlords give renters a copy of the lease within 7 days of consummation and provide written receipts to any renter who pays in cash or with a money order. At Smiley & Associates we decline to accept cash for rent except as one-time exceptions when deemed appropriate. It’s too much liability.

By Published On: September 19th, 2023