Leases - General Information
Authored By: Colorado Legal Services
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What are some general rules when moving in?
When moving in:
1) Be sure to read the lease very carefully and get a copy of the lease upon signing it.
2) Make sure you get a copy of what rules your Landlord may have, especially if you are living in an apartment complex. These community policies or rules may be in a separate document than the lease. For example, a rule might be that no pets are allowed. Make sure you have read these rules before you sign the lease.
3) Make sure that you understand your financial obligations (what you will have to pay for). Do you pay utilities? If so, you should call the utility company (Xcel Energy) to find out how much utilities are so you can put that cost into your budget. Are you responsible for water, sewer, trash or other charges? Are the provisions in the lease for late fees reasonable?
4) Always get promises made by the Landlord or Manager in writing. If the Landlord or Manager promises to clean or make repairs before you move in and/or at any time during your lease or if the landlord tells you that he will not hold you to a provision of the lease, get that in writing.
5) Before you move in, make a list of all the damages in your home. Give one copy to the Landlord or Manager and keep a copy for yourself. Ask the Landlord to sign and date your copy of the list of damages.
6) If there is furniture, make a list of all of the furniture in the rental unit and its condition. Ask the Landlord to sign it so you will not get charged for furniture that was never in the unit or that was worn or damaged when you rented the premises.
7) Know who is responsible for what repairs before moving in and during the lease/tenancy.
8) Know when the Landlord can enter your rental unit. For example, does the lease say the Landlord needs to give advance notice? Does that notice have to be in writing? There are no laws in Colorado concerning when and under what circumstances a Landlord can enter your home, so your lease will control this issue.
9) Consider purchasing renters insurance. This is extremely important because Landlords are typically not liable for damages caused to your possessions unless you can prove that the landlord was negligent. Google "renters insurance" to learn more about it.
10) Make sure to get a detailed receipt from the Landlord stating the amount of money that you paid and how it was applied (to the security deposit, 1st month of rent, application fees, etc.)
11) If there are any provisions in the lease that you do not feel are reasonable, ask the Landlord to change that provision and have the Landlord and Tenant initial the change.
What about when you have moved into your rental unit?
Pay rent in full and on time and always get a receipt. Keep the receipt for your records.
It is never a good idea to pay your rent in cash. If you insist on paying in cash, you must get a receipt from the Landlord at the time that you pay the rent. This will protect you in case there is a dispute over whether you paid.
Paying with a check is recommended because it is another form of proof that you have paid your rent. If needed, you can call your bank and they can provide you with a statement showing when your rent check cleared. Nonetheless. even when paying with a check, you should try to get a receipt from your Landlord. A money order stub is not a receipt because it only shows that you purchased the money order, but does not show that it was received by the Landlord.
An easy way of getting a receipt is to make a photocopy of your check or money order and get the Landlord to sign or stamp the copy indicating the date received.
Can you tell me about Leases?
Leases are written or oral contracts. A lease should protect both the Landlord and the Tenant. Most written leases last either six months or one year, but can be month-to-month or week-to-week. (If you do not have a written lease you are probably a month-to-month tenant.)
The fewest problems will arise if both parties know and understand the terms of the lease. The Landlord should explain these terms so you as the Tenant clearly understand them. If you do not agree with parts of the lease or feel uncomfortable with a portion of the lease, you should negotiate with the Landlord. For example, if you do not get your paycheck or monthly benefit check until the 3rd day of the month, ask the Landlord to change your payment date for the rent from the 1st to the 4th or 5th of the month. If you come to an agreement with the Landlord and change a portion of the lease, BOTH you and the Landlord should initial the change on the written lease.
To avoid disputes, the lease should state who is responsible for the following: utilities (including but not limited to gas, electricity, water and sewage); any repairs for appliances, plumbing, heating, etc.; yard care, trash removal, snow removal, etc.
If either the Landlord or Tenant agrees to do any work or furnish materials connected with work benefiting the premises, make sure it's in writing and states a time for completion. Also, if an agreement has been made, the exact amount of rent reduction due to the Tenant for cost of repairs (including supplies, the Tenant's time and anything that is agreed upon) should be in writing and signed by both parties at the beginning of the lease.
The lease should contain a fixed due date for rent. If there is a grace period and/or a late penalty fee, it should be specified in the lease. Any late penalty fee must be reasonable so make sure you check before signing.
Where there is no written lease, the Tenant is normally holding the premises on a month-to-month tenancy (if the rent is paid monthly). That means the Landlord can raise the rent at any time, with ten days notice provided at the end of the term (typically ten days before the end of the month). The Landlord can also demand that the Tenant move (and file an eviction action if the Tenant doesn't move). On the other hand, the Tenant can move out, without providing a reason so long as the Tenant gives ten days notice before the end of the term (ten days before the end of the month).
What clauses should I be aware of when signing a lease?
All clauses in a lease are subject to negotiation before the lease is signed. However, both the Tenant and Landlord need to agree to the changes. If you do not feel comfortable signing a lease with a particular lease provision you should negotiate with your Landlord and try to get that clause changed or taken out of the lease. Always make sure that any changes are in writing and initialed by you and the Landlord.
The Colorado State University (CSU) Cooperative Extension has flagged clauses to look for when signing a lease and how to make those clauses fair to the Tenant and Landlord. Some examples are:
1. "Tenant accepts the premises 'as is'." This clause can be problemmatic because if a defect existed at the time you signed the lease, getting the Landlord to fix it during your occupancy may be difficult.
2. "Tenants acknowledge that the premises are in good order and repair at this time." If you do not list small defects or problems that your rental unit had when you moved in, you may be charged for problems that you did not cause when you move out. Rewrite the clause to read, "Premises are in good order and repair EXCEPT the items listed below or on the attached document." You should make a list of problems or defects on the lease itself or attach the list to both your copy as well as that which the landlord will keep. Again, it would be best if both you and the Landlord sign and date the list of problems with the rental property.
3. "The Tenant agrees to keep improvements upon said premises in good repair at the expense of the Lessee (the renter)." You should rewrite that sentence to read "Landlord will be responsible for necessary repairs to the sewerage, wiring, plumbing and appliances, unless such damages is caused by the negligence of the Lessee (the renter)."
4. "The Landlord is not responsible for injury to the Tenant or the Tenant's property." Add the words, "unless such damage was caused by the negligence of the Landlord."
5. "Tenant agrees to comply with all printed regulations now made or subsequently furnished." Cross out the words 'subsequently furnished.'
6. "Landlord reserves the right to enter the premises under reasonable conditions for the purposes of official business." Make sure you and the Landlord agree what 'official business' and 'reasonable conditions' are, and include those definitions in the original signed lease. Add "with advance notice to, and consent by, the Tenant, except in case of an emergency."
Go to the CSU Extension website for more information.
How do I know if I am a month-to-month Tenant?
If you do not have a written lease and pay your rent monthly, you are most likely a month-to-month Tenant. Alternately, if you have stayed, with the approval of your Landlord or Manager, after your six- or twelve-month lease has expired and pay your rent monthly, then you are probably a month-to-month Tenant.
However, to make sure you should review your expired lease for any provisions that may address this issue.
I am a month-to-month Tenant, what else should I know?
A month-to-month tenancy is also called a periodic tenancy. Your month-to-month lease is automatically renewed at the end of each month unless proper notice is given by you or the Landlord to terminate the tenancy.
I am a month-to-month Tenant. How much notice do I need to give before I move out?
If you would like to end your month-to-month lease, you will need to review your expired (old) lease to determine what type of notice is needed for you to terminate it. If the lease does not address this issue, or if you never had a written lease, then you will need to give your Landlord/Manager a written notice to vacate 10 days before next month's rent is due. If you do not provide proper notice your lease is automatically renewed for another month until a proper notice to vacate is given to your landlord.
I am a month-to-month Tenant. What rights does my Landlord or Manager have?
The Landlord has the right to raise your rent at the end of each month with as little as 10-days notice. The Landlord is allowed to do this is because each month is essentially a new one-month tenancy. Accordingly, a court may find that the Tenant has consented to a rent increase if the Tenant has been notified of the increase and remains in the rental unit. The Landlord has the right to evict you at the end of every month with as little as a 10-day notice.
I am a month-to-month Tenant, so what procedure does the Landlord have to follow if he/she is going to increase my rent?
The law is not clear as to the proper method. If a Tenant was originally residing under a written lease and stayed on after the lease expired, you should look closely at the expired (old) lease to see if it addresses the issue of rent/rent increases after the expiration of the lease. If it does not address this issue or if you do not have a written lease, some Colorado courts will find that if you received written notice of the rent increase at least 10 days before the new month and you stayed in the rental premises, you will have to pay the increased rent.
When is the Landlord allowed to raise my rent?
Rarely. Because rent is a term of a lease, it generally cannot be changed without consent by both parties. However, the Landlord can raise the rent in some circumstances. There may be a lease provision, for example, that allows for rent increase after the lease has expired. Once the lease has expired, or if there is no written lease, the Landlord may be able to raise the rent any time after the end of the lease by giving a written notice at least 10 days before the next payment is due.
Note: The Landlord cannot raise your rent during the period of the lease.
How often can the Landlord raise my rent?
Your Landlord can raise your rent whenever your lease term has expired. (For month-to-month tenancies, that can mean each and every month).
Review the terms of your lease. The agreed upon rent cannot be changed without a mutual agreement between you and your Landlord.
What can I do if I do not agree with the rent increase?
If the term of your lease is ending and your Landlord has given you a proper notice of rent increase, you can either agree to pay the increased rent and continue living there, or you can move out at the expiration of the lease. You can also put in writing to the Landlord that you do not consent to or agree with the rent increase. In that instance, a Landlord may be able to evict you if you do not move at the expiration of your tenancy, but may not be able to recover the increased rental amount.
This communication is made available by Colorado Legal Services, Inc., (CLS), as a public service and is issued to inform not to advise. No person should attempt to interpret or apply any law without the assistance of an attorney. The opinions expressed in this communication are those of the authors and not those of CLS or its funding sources.
D-31 original author; V_6 updates; D_39 posted updates