Every residential tenant in the state of Colorado rents their dwelling under an agreement with someone in charge of the property. That may be the landlord or a property manager acting for the landlord. It might also be a master tenant who sublets to them.
The tenant or subtenant is required to follow the terms of the lease agreement, including paying rent in a timely fashion. When they don't, they can be evicted. The person authorized to evict the roommate under Colorado state law depends on whether the roommate is in contract with the landlord or managing agent, or sublets from a master tenant.
Landlord/Tenant Relationships in Colorado
Throughout the United States, people who need a place to live enter into rental agreements with those who own dwelling units. These agreements are termed residential rental contracts and can be valid and binding whether they are written or oral. Only leases for over a year need to be in writing under the statute of frauds, and most rental agreements in Colorado are written.
While the owner of the dwelling unit is usually a party to the rental contract, this is not always the case. The owner may rent a large unit to a tenant who then finds other roommates to move in and share the rental payments. In that case, the tenant having a contractual relationship with the landlord is termed the master tenant. Those renting from the master tenant are termed subtenants. In this case, the master tenant is in charge of regulating roommate behavior in the unit.
Enforcing Colorado Rental Agreements
A Colorado landlord has the authority to enforce their rental contract with their tenants. They do this by communicating with the tenants and, if necessary, taking them to court. If a tenant cannot or will not abide by the terms of the agreement, the landlord removes them from the unit by a legal process called eviction.
If a landlord rents to a master tenant, that tenant, if not prohibited under the rental agreement, may be able to bring in various roommate tenants to share the dwelling and the rent responsibilities. But the master tenant stands in the place of the landlord in some ways and can evict their subtenants for contract violations, including failure to pay rent. In that way, a master tenant is charged with enforcing the rental obligations when it comes to subtenants. This includes taking a subtenant to court and even evicting them if they are unable or unwilling to abide by the terms of the rental contract.
Landlord Self-Help Prohibited
While unpaid rent and broken agreements are frustrating, neither the landlord nor the master tenant has the right to use self-help measures to get rid of a problem roommate. In Colorado, it is illegal for a landlord or a master tenant to change the locks and dump a roommate's belongings on the sidewalk. In fact, this is the law across the country – eviction is strictly a legal process.
In Colorado, evictions are covered by the Colorado's Landlord and Tenant Act. This law sets out the permissible reasons for evictions, as well as the procedure a landlord or master tenant must follow. Generally, evictions without cause are not permitted during a lease term, but terminations of tenancy without cause are allowed with proper notice.
Termination of a Tenancy
If a tenant in Colorado leases a rental unit for a year and abides by the contract and pays timely rent, the landlord cannot evict them during that year. However, the landlord is not obliged to continue renting to them when the lease term comes to an end. The same is true of a subtenancy for a set period. If a master tenant sublets to a roommate for a term of a year, they cannot kick them out during that period as long as the subtenant follows the rules in the contract.
What about a month-to-month contract? A month-to-month residential rental agreement can be viewed as a series of one-month lease terms. Each month the tenant pays for that month up front in exchange for the right to live there that month. In a subtenancy, the subtenant does the same, paying the master tenant for the right to live there for a month. Any party to a rental agreement can, with appropriate notice to the other party, terminate a month-to-month rental agreement at any time.
Colorado Eviction Process
Under Colorado law, written notice is required when a landlord or master tenant wishes to terminate a lease or periodic tenancy when it comes to an end. The eviction notice must be completed in the form required by law and served on the tenant. To terminate a lease of a year or more at its termination, the landlord or master tenant must serve a Notice to Quit at least 91 days before the end of the lease term.
To terminate a month-to-month rental agreement, a landlord or master tenant must serve the tenant with written notice of their intention to terminate at least 30 days before the termination date. For example, the master tenant can give notice on June 29 that the month-to-month tenancy will terminate as of August 1.
Some commentators term this type of rental termination an eviction without cause. While it is true that no cause is required to terminate a tenancy, serving a notice to quit does not necessarily result in an eviction. Many times the tenant simply moves out in response to the notice. The procedure becomes an eviction only if the tenant does not vacate the premises, and the landlord or master tenant must go to court.
Notice of Unpaid Rent
Evictions for cause in Colorado are mostly cases where the tenant or subtenant fails to pay rent. But nonpayment of rent is not the only possible reason for an eviction. Any serious breach of the rental agreement is sufficient. It is also sufficient cause if a tenant was given a notice that their tenancy would be terminated at the end of the term and they failed to move out.
In Colorado, a landlord or master tenant must provide written notice to a tenant or subtenant before filing eviction papers. Colorado law specifies the length of the notice, what it must contain and how it must be served.
For example, if a tenant is behind in their rent even by one day, the landlord can serve them with a notice to pay or get out. The length of this notice depends on whether the landlord has five or fewer rental properties. If so, the landlord must serve a 5-Day Notice to Pay. If this is not the case, the landlord must serve a 10-Day Notice to Pay.
Avoiding Eviction by Paying Back Rent
If the renter pays the amount due within the time period, they avoid eviction. The notice gives the tenant the option to pay the past due amount in full within a five day grace period to avoid eviction. If the tenant does not pay the rent due by the end of the notice period and doesn't move out, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process. However, under recent Colorado laws, if the tenant comes up with the back rent before the court signs off on the eviction, the landlord must allow them to remain as tenants.
Other Breach Notices for Lease Violations
A tenant can be evicted in Colorado if they breach any of the important obligations in their rental agreement, including keeping a pet when they are forbidden, smoking in a nonsmoking building or parking illegally in front of the door. These issues can be the basis for eviction, but landlords in Colorado must give tenants a period of time to cure the violation. These time periods are the same as for unpaid rent: five days if the landlord has five properties or less; 10 days otherwise.
Like with unpaid rent, if a tenant does not cure the issue or leave within the time frame of the notice, the landlord can begin the eviction process. Note that these same rules apply to a master tenant and subtenant.
Subtenants and Eviction Issues
If the roommate is a subtenant, it is the master tenant who must prepare and serve the roommate with these preliminary notices because the rental contract is between the roommate and the tenant. If the roommate is a tenant rather than a subtenant, meaning that the rental contract is between the roommate and the landlord, it is the landlord who must act. The other tenants are co-equal tenants with the roommate and cannot file for the roommate's eviction.
It is obvious that one co-tenant might have trouble getting the landlord to evict a second co-tenant for breaches that do not involve money or issues important to the landlord. For example, even if the rental agreement specifies that everyone must pitch in to keep the kitchen clean, a landlord will not necessarily be as concerned about this issue as the co-tenants.
Forcible Entry and Detainer
Filing an eviction complaint is the next step in the Colorado eviction procedure. The landlord or master tenant must go to the Colorado Justice Court and file a complaint for a Forcible Entry and Detainer. There are also filing fees to pay.
The court clerk assigns a date for the eviction hearing. In Colorado, this is usually between seven and 14 days from the date of filing. A copy of the complaint and a summons, which sets out the hearing date and place, must be served on the roommate by a neutral third person who is 18 years or older. There are several ways service can be accomplished, including handing a copy to the tenant in person. This must be done at least seven days before the date of the eviction hearing.
The roommate has the right to file a response to the document. If they do not do so, the court can enter a judgment against them. If either party fails to show up at the hearing, the court can enter a judgment against that party.
Eviction Hearing and Execution
Generally, both parties show up at the eviction hearing. They can present evidence and witness testimony supporting their cases. For the landlord or master tenant, evidence can include the rental agreement, the notices sent, and the record of rent payments or breaches. For the tenant, this might be evidence that the landlord or master tenant is trying to evict them as retaliation for exercising their rights, which is illegal.
If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the court issues a writ of restitution. This order allows a sheriff to physically remove the person from the property.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.