Warranty of Habitability Laws for Investment Property Owners - What You Need to Know

Being a landlord can be a difficult job. When you’re a landlord, there are several things to know to ensure you comply with the law. One of the many laws that you need to be aware of is known as warranty of habitability. We spoke to local Denver attorney Kyle Bachus of Bachus & Schanker about everything landlords should know about this essential law for property owners. 


What Is the Warranty of Habitability?

The warranty of habitability states that a landlord must provide a tenant with a place that’s fit to be occupied. In other words, a rented property must meet minimally acceptable standards. There cannot be a condition on the property that endangers the life, health, or safety of the tenant. The warranty of habitability is a law that requires the landlord to keep their property in acceptable condition for the tenant.


Colorado Warranty of Habitability Laws

The Colorado warranty of habitability law is the stated in Residential Tenants Health and Safety Act, Colorado Revised Statutes 38-12-503, and Colorado House Bill 1170. The law requires landlords to guarantee that a property is a fit place to occupy. The warranty of habitability is implied between every landlord and tenant. The Colorado warranty of habitability law requires the property owner to fix any dangers to life and safety that exist with regards to the property.


Changes to the Colorado Warranty of Habitability Laws

Recent changes to the Colorado warranty of habitability laws put additional requirements on the landlord when it comes to ensuring safe conditions on the property. Under the old law, warranty of habitability was a rather vague concept. The law only said that the property must not be uninhabitable or unfit for occupation. The law defined uninhabitable as having a dangerous condition that impacts life, health, or safety. The law gave landlords a reasonable amount of time to remedy the dangerous condition.


The old warranty of habitability law left a lot of room for interpretation. When does a dangerous condition affect life, health, and safety? What is a reasonable period to fix a condition that makes a property uninhabitable? The lack of clarity left a lot of room for inconsistent decisions that negatively impacted tenants.


The New Warranty of Habitability Law in Colorado

Colorado’s new warranty of habitability law answers these questions. Both the landlord and the tenant now have clear rules to follow when it comes to warranty of habitability issues in a leased property.


Timelines to Report a Dangerous Condition

The first change in the new law is that the tenant may report their concern to the landlord by email. The tenant must explain the specific reason to the landlord. They may not just say that the property is unfit.


Timelines for the Landlord to Respond

 A landlord must respond quickly when they receive a report of a dangerous condition on the property. In general, the landlord has 24 hours to respond to a report of a dangerous condition that endangers the life, health, and safety of the tenant. They have 96 hours to respond if the condition is simply a dangerous condition on the property. 


Additional Conditions That Make a Property Uninhabitable

In addition to the timeline changes in the new warranty of habitability law, there are also additional conditions that would render a property as uninhabitable. The first of these conditions outlined explicitly in the new law is regarding the lack of functioning appliances that conform to current requirements in place being kept in good working order. 


Secondly, the new law makes mold associated with dampness or other situations that lead to dampness, a condition that would render a property uninhabitable. 


Breach of Warranty of Habitability Conditions

Here are some of the conditions that may place a landlord in violation of the warranty of habitability:


  • Leaking roofs or windows

  • Plumbing defects

  • Lack of running water

  • No heat

  • Lighting problems (must conform to legal requirements at the time of construction)

  • Dirty or unsanitary common areas

  • Infestations

  • No trash receptacles available for tenants (must be in reasonable condition)

  • Loose or broken floors, stairways or handrails

  • Exterior doors and windows without locks

  • Non-compliance with health and building codes

  • Mold

  • Appliances that fail to comply with legal requirements at the time of installation

  • Other conditions that make the property unfit


Exceptions to Warranty of Habitability Laws in Colorado

There are a couple of exceptions in Colorado’s warranty of habitability laws. If the property is uninhabitable because of casualty or catastrophe to the unit itself, the landlord is not in breach of warranty of habitability laws. In that case, the landlord is free to terminate the lease without fault on their part.

 The landlord and tenant may not contract away the warranty of habitability. A landlord may not agree with a tenant to have the tenant take care of certain maintenance items or maintain the condition of the property at their own expense. In most cases, these kinds of agreements are unenforceable. There are some exceptions for specific repairs and single-family residences. Landlords should be careful and thoroughly investigate their rights and obligations before making an agreement regarding tenant maintenance.


Who Pays When a Landlord Is in Breach of the Warranty of Habitability?

When a property is uninhabitable, the landlord must move the tenant to a comparable property or a hotel. The landlord chooses the alternative property, and the landlord has to pay for it. Generally, a problem with the conditions of the property is not a defense to not paying rent. However, a tenant may bring a court action to terminate the lease, or get injunctive relief to require repairs or demand damages. 


Usually, the tenant must give notice to the landlord and give them a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem. There is no requirement that a tenant notifies any government agency before seeking an injunction. If the same condition occurs again within six months, except for a non-functioning appliance, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement with a 14-day notice.


Understanding Warranty of Habitability Laws for a Tenant

Warranty of habitability laws protects both landlords and tenants. Both parties should understand their rights and obligations. New Colorado laws create clear standards that define uninhabitable conditions and timelines for responses when problems arise.

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