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Civil Fugitives- Landlord/Tenant Relationship - Repairs and Maintenance

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR REPAIRS?

  • The general rule in Colorado is that the landlord is not responsible for maintaining or repairing the unit. There are only a few limited exceptions to this general rule:
  • If the landlord is not available to do the walk through, the tenant should complete the checklist anyway and give the landlord a copy. Try to get a friend to witness the condition of the unit or take pictures, specifically of any damaged or defective item in the unit. This information can prove invaluable when trying to get a return of the security deposit. Photographs and witnesses can prove that a condition existed at the beginning of the lease term
    • The parties have agreed otherwise, and the lease so provides
    • The landlord is responsible for maintaining the parts of the building which are under the landlord's exclusive control. For example, the landlord maintains the stairwells, hallways, laundry rooms and roof of an apartment building since these are part of the building under the landlord's control. However, since the roof of a single-family house that is rented entirely, to one tenant is not under the landlord's control, the landlord has no obligation to repair it unless the parties have agreed otherwise
    • The landlord must repair hazardous conditions caused by gas-burning equipment
    • The landlord must correct dangerous, latent conditions

CAN A TENANT MAKE REPAIRS AND DEDUCT THE COST FROM RENT?

  • Yes, IF (AND ONLY IF) THE LANDLORD EXPRESSLY AGREED TO MAKE REPAIRS, then tenant may deduct from rent the reasonable costs of making the repairs that the landlord promised to do. Remember, in the absence of an express agreement to perform any particular repair, the landlord is not obligated to make the repair. Maintenance and repairs are the tenant's responsibility and the tenant must pay for them. Deducting the cost of repairs from the rent payment is very risky and if done without the legal right to do so, the tenant may be evicted for non-payment of rent. Before "repairing and deducting" the tenant should first discuss the matter with the landlord, then if no satisfaction is reached, get legal advice
  • If the landlord has expressly promised to make repairs and has failed to fulfill that promise, the tenant has several options in addition to "repair and deduct." The tenant may be able to terminate the lease and move out of the unit without liability or may sue the landlord for damages. The tenant should always seek legal counsel before breaking a lease and moving out

WHAT IF THE TENANT IS INJURED BY AN UNSAFE CONDITION IN THE UNIT?

  • The landlord is not responsible for damages resulting from unsafe conditions that exist or develop in the unit, if the tenant knew of the dangerous condition or could have discovered it from an inspection. However, if the dangerous condition is latent, that is, the tenant does not know about the condition and could not reasonably discover it and the landlord does know of or should reasonably know of it, then the landlord must repair it or face liability to the tenant if physical harm results from the conditions. Also, if the lease expressly requires the landlord to make specific repairs or to keep the unit in good repair, the landlord is liable for damages or injuries resulting from the failure to make those repairs or the failure to make the repairs properly

WHAT IF DAMAGE RESULTS FROM PROBLEMS IN THE COMMON AREAS?

  • The landlord must keep that part of a building under the landlord's control in a safe condition for use by all of the tenants. Failure to do so makes the landlord responsible for resulting injuries to people and damage to their property. For example, a water pipe that is part of the heating system of the apartment building is in the exclusive control of the landlord. It burst and caused water to come through the floor of a tenant's apartment. The landlord was under a duty to keep the pipe in reasonably safe condition. The landlord's failure to inspect and repair the pipe after receiving notice of defective condition was negligent. The landlord is liable for damage to the tenant's personal property

WHAT CAN THE TENANT DO IF THE UNIT FALLS INTO DISREPAIR?

  • If the lease does not provide for the landlord to repair the unit, the tenant must make and pay for repairs. There is not much that a tenant can do to hold the landlord responsible for minor repairs
  • The tenant may have some very limited recourses in cases where a landlord's failure to make repairs resulted in serious long-standing habitability problems such as rodent infestation, no working plumbing, or generally abysmal conditions
  • In every lease agreement (unless expressly agreed otherwise) there is an implied covenant of enjoyment. This means that the tenant has a right to have possession of the unit without interference or disturbance by the landlord. For serious problems that make the unit unlivable, a tenant may be able to invoke this covenant, refuse to pay rent, and move out. However, the tenant is not allowed to refuse to pay rent because of the problems and then continue to live in unit
  • A tenant may contact the local or state health department or the local housing department to report
  • Hazards in the unit that pose a threat to health or safety . Although enforcement varies from locality to locality, a report to the appropriate department can prove helpful. The landlord may be fined for failing to correct a code violation. Be aware that some departments will declare a unit unfit for occupancy if the landlord fails to correct the code violation, leaving the tenant with no choice but to move

ARE GAS-RELATED REPAIRS TREATED DIFFERENTLY?

  • A recent statute places the burden for certain gas related repairs on the landlord regardless of what the lease says. Under the Gas Equipment Hazards Act, the landlord has 72 hours after receiving notice to have a professional make any repairs necessary to alleviate a hazardous condition of a gas appliance, piping or other gas equipment. If the landlord fails to timely make the repairs, the tenant may move out, the lease is void and the security deposit must be returned to the tenant

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