CBA – Colorado Bar Association
CBA Article: Landlord-Tenant Rights and Obligations of Tenants
The relationship between a tenant and a landlord is defined in the lease, which is a legally binding agreement. It is very important, therefore, that a tenant read a proposed written lease very carefully, and that the tenant fully understand what is contained in the lease. If there is a later dispute about what is meant in the lease, a tenant will not have much luck relying on the defense that he or she did not understand or read the lease. <>…<>
Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment of the Premises
Colorado landlord-tenant law holds that the landlord promises (“covenants”) that the
tenant will have the quiet and peaceable possession and use of the premises, a condition called “quiet enjoyment.”
Under the doctrine of the covenant of quiet enjoyment of the premises, where serious or long-standing repairs have not been made by the landlord, and the tenant has not expressly agreed to make such repairs, the landlord may be responsible for such repairs.
This is related to the doctrine of “constructive eviction” that has been applied in situations when a residence is not considered habitable. For example, courts have found a constructive eviction took place in situations where a commercial tenant complained of noise from another tenant and the landlord took no action to prevent the noise; where a landlord built an obstruction to a space rented for advertising purposes; where a landlord negligently hired a subcontractor who caused a fire in the tenant’s premises; and where a landlord added a second story to a building that interfered with a tenant’s use of his part of the building. In all these cases, the tenant moved out without liability for the remainder of the lease.
The tenant may also be entitled to damages in the form of a reduction in rent equal to the decrease in the fair rental value of the premises caused by the landlord’s breach. However, tenants who take this approach should be aware that they are risking eviction proceedings, that they may have to go to court to defend their actions, and that the judge may or may not agree that the needed repairs were serious enough to justify reducing or failing to pay rent.
Warranty of Habitability
The warranty of habitability is an implied promise that a rentable property is suitable to live in. Although at least 43 other states have accepted, in various forms, the doctrine of an implied warranty of habitability, the Colorado Supreme Court has not. The state legislature has also refused to enact any such legislation.
Therefore, in Colorado, there is no implied promise from a landlord that the apartment or house is in a livable condition. However, as discussed in the previous section, there may be circumstances in which the landlord’s failure to maintain the property breaches the covenant of quiet enjoyment if it interferes with the tenant’s right to quiet and peaceable possession and use of the premises.
Control of Common Areas
If a landlord retains control of parts of an apartment building for the use and benefit of all tenants, the landlord has a duty to keep those areas safe. For example, courts have required landlords to keep parking lots, sidewalks, and stairways in safe condition.
Dangerous Conditions and Latent Defects
In general, if a tenant is injured because of a defect in the property that was visible and obvious to the tenant before the property was rented, the landlord is not at fault, with exceptions discussed above.
But when a defect is not apparent, and the landlord fails to reveal it to the tenant, the landlord may be liable if the tenant is injured, or if the tenant discovers such a hidden major defect and moves out. If the landlord then sues the tenant for the remainder of the rent, the existence of the defect may provide a defense. If the tenant knew about the defect but rented the property anyway, the landlord is not responsible for subsequent injuries unless the landlord agreed to repair the defect.