Landlord Retaliation and Tenants' Rights in Colorado

Reasons a Landlord Seeks Revenge and How Tenants Are Protected

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Colorado tenants have the right to file a complaint against their landlord if the rental property is not being maintained according to the health and safety codes of landlord tenant law. The landlord may become aggravated by these complaints and may choose to retaliate against the tenant. Learn how Colorado law protects tenants against a landlord’s revenge.

3 Tenant Actions That Could Trigger Landlord Retaliation in Colorado

A landlord loves when a tenant pays rent on time and renews their lease.

There are other actions, however, which can leave a landlord and tenant at odds, even though the tenant is within his or her right to commit the action. Examples of these legal tenant actions include: 

  • Tenant Complaining to Government Agency about a Breach to the Warranty of Habitability
  • Tenant Complaining to the Landlord About a Breach to the Warranty of Habitability
  • Tenant Joining or Organizing a Tenant’s Union

What Is a Warranty of Habitability?

In Colorado, rental property must meet certain standards. By signing a lease with a tenant, a landlord is confirming that the property is in a safe and habitable condition. A unit meets the warranty of habitability if it is free from dangers or hazards to the tenant’s life, health or safety.

The unit must also meet certain characteristics that are necessary for basic quality of life. This includes:

  • Waterproof Roof and Windows
  • Functioning Plumbing, Gas and Heat
  • Running Water and Access to Hot Water
  • Proper and Functioning Sewage Disposal System
  • Electrical Fixtures in Good, Working Order
  • Common Areas That Are Clean and Free From Debris
  • Appropriate Number of Waste Receptacles
  • Functioning Locks on All Exterior Doors and Windows
  • All Floors, Stairways and Railings Must Be Kept in Good Repair
  • Timely Extermination if There Is Evidence of Vermin or Rodent Infestation
  • The Unit Must Comply With All Building, Housing and Health Codes

In most cases, a tenant cannot claim a breach of a warranty of habitability for a common area. The exception to this would be if the condition of the common area significantly limits the tenant’s ability to use his or her unit.

3 Colorado Landlord Actions That Can Be Considered Retaliation

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines retaliation as getting revenge against someone who has wronged you. There are times that a landlord may try to retaliate against a tenant in an attempt to make the tenant’s life more difficult or to get the tenant to move from the property. Under Colorado state law, acts of retaliation are illegal.

Colorado’s statute specifically includes three landlord actions that can be considered retaliation. These are:

In addition to these acts listed, there are several other ways a landlord may try to retaliate against a tenant. These include:

  • Refusing to Perform Necessary Repairs on a Tenant’s Unit
  • Removing the Tenant’s Possessions From the Unit
  • Changing the Locks on the Tenant’s Doors
  • Harassing the Tenant- In Person, By Phone, Internet or Mail

Time Frame for Landlord Action to Be Considered Retaliation

Certain states will place a time limit on when a landlord’s action can be considered an act of retaliation. For example, in California, if a landlord commits an action that could be considered retaliation within 180 days of the tenant filing a complaint against the landlord, or taking some other legal action, the landlord’s action is automatically considered an act of retaliation unless he or she can prove otherwise.

Colorado’s rules actually favor the landlord, not the tenant. If a landlord commits an action that is within his or her legal right, such as raising rent or filing for an eviction, it will not be considered retaliation simply because it occurred shortly after a tenant’s complaint occurred.

It will be presumed that the landlord acted within his or her legal right and will therefore be on the tenant to show that the act was actually an act of retaliation.

Tenant Burden of Proof

In Colorado, the tenant will bear the burden of proving that a landlord acted in retaliation. Before a court will even consider an act of retaliation, the tenant must first prove that the landlord violated the warranty of habitability

  • Warranty of Habitability

The tenant must first provide proof for their complaint that their unit is not meeting the warranty of habitability. Once the tenant’s complaint is found to have merit, then the court can move on to determine if a landlord’s action was truly an act of retaliation.

  • Act of Retaliation

Once a landlord has been deemed to have violated the warranty of habitability, the court will look at the landlord’s action to determine if it truly was an act of retaliation. For actions such as increasing rent or terminating a lease because of lease violations, it will be presumed that the landlord acted in good faith, unless the tenant can prove otherwise.

Colorado’s Code on Landlord Retaliation

If you would like to view the original text on Colorado’s Statute about landlord retaliation, please consult Colorado Revised Statutes §38-12-503 and §38-12-509.