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Law Enforcement

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Civil Fugitives- Landlord/Tenant Relationship - Liens

In Colorado, landlords of apartments, rooms and trailer space automatically have a lien against some of the personal property of a tenant for the amount of any unpaid rent. Unfortunately, the statute creating this lien is vague and somewhat ambiguous. A landlord should cautiously exercise these lien rights to avoid exposure to damage claims or loss of the lien altogether.

A LANDLORD WANTING TO ENFORCE A LANDLORD'S LIEN BY SEIZURE, FORECLOSURE, AND/OR PROCEEDINGS AGAINST ABANDONED PROPERTY SHOULD NOT RELY SOLELY ON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS GUIDE. THE LEGAL PROCEDURES MUST BE FOLLOWED CAREFULLY. ASSISTANCE FROM AN ATTORNEY IS ADVISED

WHAT PROPERTY IS COVERED BY THE LIEN?

  • The lien covers the household furniture, goods, appliances, and other personal property of the tenant and household members located in the unit when the lien is asserted. The lien does NOT cover the following items: small kitchen appliances, cooking utensils, beds, bedding, necessary wearing apparel, personal or business records and documents, and the personal effects of the tenant and household members. These items are considered "exempt" from the lien.

WHAT IS THE AMOUNT OF THE LIEN?

  • The amount of the lien cannot exceed the amount of unpaid rent plus reasonable costs incurred in enforcing the lien, not including attorney's fees. If the value of the seized property is more than the amount of the landlord's valid claim, the tenant can assert claims against the landlord for conversion, trespass or repletion.

HOW MAY THE LIEN BE ENFORCED?

  • The landlord must first have a claim for unpaid rent from the tenant. The landlord may then enter the unit at a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner and take the property that is covered by the lien. The value of the seized property should not exceed the amount of the lien. Do not seize "exempt property." If the landlord substantially interferes with the tenant's right to reasonably occupy and enjoy the unit, the lien is forfeited and the tenant may have an action against the landlord for damages. If the tenant has vacated the unit, the landlord must give the tenant access to the unit at any reasonable time and in a reasonable manner to remove any property not covered by the lien.
  • If the amounts due are not paid within 30 days, the landlord may begin a personal property foreclosure action. The landlord must file a foreclosure action within 60 days from the date the claim arose or forfeit the lien and possibly become liable for damages for wrongfully withholding the tenant's property.
  • A landlord that prevails in the foreclosure action may then sell the seized property at a public auction after giving ten days notice of the sale in the local newspaper. Any proceeds from the sale must be used to pay the lien, with any excess returned to the tenant.

WHAT CAN THE LANDLORD DO IF THE TENANT ABANDONS PROPERTY?

  • The landlord does not need to follow all of the foreclosure procedures for property covered by the lien that the tenant has abandoned. Property is presumed abandoned if the tenant fails to contact the landlord for at least 30 days and the landlord, in good faith, has no knowledge of any evidence indicating that the tenant does not intend to abandon the property.
  • If the property has been abandoned, the landlord must give at least 15 days prior notice to the tenant before selling or disposing of the abandoned property. This notice may be sent to the tenant's last known address, by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, signed by the addressee only. If the notice is returned unclaimed, the landlord must publish the notice at least one day in a newspaper in the county where the property is located. The landlord must keep proof of published notice for at least one year.

For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Colorado Civil Rights Commission 303.894.2997 or the United States Fair Housing Enforcement Center 303.672.5437.

NOTE: This is intended only to be a guide for both landlord and tenant. This information is provided to you as a service of the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office. Should you still need further assistance in regard to legal matters mentioned in this guide, please contact an attorney of your choice.

 

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Pueblo County Sheriff's Office