In Colorado, evictions are sometimes referred to as “forcible entry & detainer” or “FED”. The process for evicting a tenant is governed by statute. Landlords are not entitled to “take matters into their own hands” and use physical force to evict a tenant. They must follow a specific legal process, which is set forth in C.R.S. 13-40-101-127. The eviction statute can be found here:
I) Terminating a Lease with No Expiration Date.
Leases, even written leases, sometimes have no expiration date. In such cases, the lease can be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant by serving what’s called a “Notice to Quit” on the other party. The Notice to Quit, when given by the landlord, informs the tenant that he or she must vacate the premises no later than a date certain. In Colorado, the time frames for providing a Notice to Quit are as follows:
- One year or longer: 91 days
- Six months or longer but less than 1 year: 28 days
- One month or longer but less than 6 months: 21 days
- One week or longer but less than 1 month: 3 days
- Less than one week: 1 day
If the tenant then fails to vacate by the specified time, the landlord can then proceed to evict the tenant pursuant to the eviction process set forth below.
While the statute for month-to-month leases requires 21 days’ advance notice of termination, 30 days’ notice is customarily given for unwritten month-to-month leases.
II) The Eviction Process
Tenants can be evicted for any number of reasons, including:
- Expiration of the lease;
- failure to pay rent (i.e., monetary defaults) (C.R.S. 13-40-104 subsection (1)(d));
- failure to comply with other terms of the lease (e.g. not maintaining the leased premises in a clean condition or other so-called “non-monetary” defaults (C.R.S. 13-40-104 subsection (1)(e));
- A public trustee sale (i.e. foreclosure) of the property being rented (C.R.S. 13-40-104 subsection (1)(f)); and
- A “Substantial Violation” of the lease – e.g. violent, criminal or anti-social acts (C.R.S. 13-40-104(1)(d.5); 13-40-107.5).
The eviction process is commenced by the landlord serving on the tenant a “Demand for Possession or Compliance” in cases where the tenant is in monetary or non-monetary default or there’s been a “Substantial Violation” of the lease by the tenant. Demand must be served on the tenant at least ten (10) days prior to filing an eviction claim (C.R.S. §13-40-104). Service is only valid if the notice is (a) physically handed to the tenant, (b) set down in front of the tenant if the tenant refuses to accept the documents, (c) left with a family member over the age of fifteen (15) at the premises, or (d) posted in a conspicuous place on the premises (i.e., the front door) (C.R.S. §13-40-108). If the ten-day notice period ends on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, then the period is automatically extended to the next business day.
If the tenant does not rectify the lease compliance issue during this ten-day period, the landlord may file the following three forms with the correct county court: (a) Complaint in Forcible Entry and Detainer (JDF 99), (b) a Summons in Forcible Entry and Unlawful Detainer (CRCCP Form 1A), and (c) Answer Under Simplified Civil Procedure (CRCCP Form 3). In Denver, the Denver Probate Court handles eviction cases Eviction forms can be found here:
Within one (1) business day after filing the claim, the landlord must mail a copy of the Complaint, Summons and Answer, including all exhibits, to the tenant(s) via first class mail with pre-paid postage. Additionally, personal service (as detailed above) of the Complaint, Summons and Answer must be made to the tenant. The clerk will schedule an initial hearing for a date that is seven (7) to fourteen (14) days after the initial filing, but the tenant must have received the Complaint, Summons and Answer at least seven (7) days prior to the hearing (C.R.S. §13-40-112).
At the initial hearing, if the tenant does not appear in court and does not timely file an Answer with the court, the court will grant summary judgment to the landlord.
If, however, the tenant does appear or does timely file an Answer with the court, then there are several options. The tenant can agree to voluntarily vacate the property or the parties can agree to certain conditions to enable the tenant to remain in the property. This agreement should be put into writing in the form of a “Stipulation in Forcible Entry and Detainer” (JDF 102) and filed with the court. The court can also suggest mediation for the parties to resolve the lease issues.
If the parties cannot come to a resolution, or if the tenant has timely filed an Answer responding to the allegations in the Complaint, then a possession hearing and/or a court trial regarding money issues will be scheduled. The tenant may request a jury trial in his or her Answer. At the trial, both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence to support their claims.
If the landlord receives a summary judgment or prevails in court, the landlord can then file for possession of the property by completing the Motion for Entry of Judgment (JDF 104). The court will then review the Motion for Entry of Judgment and, upon approval, will execute an Order for Entry of Judgment (JDF 107). After the Order has been executed, the tenant will have forty-eight (48) hours to vacate the premises.
If the tenant does not vacate the premises within forty-eight (48) hours, then the landlord will complete the Writ of Restitution (JDF 103) and provide it to the court. The court will then issue the Writ of Restitution and the landlord must contact the sheriff’s department to execute the Writ, which means forcibly removing the tenant. The entire eviction process will usually take between 45 and 60- days, depending on whether the eviction is contested by the tenant.
IIC) Collection of Monetary Judgment and Attorneys’ Fees.
If the lease states that the prevailing party is entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, then those costs may be requested on the Motion for Entry of Judgment (C.R.S. §13-40-123).
Collecting damages (such as unpaid rent) requires a separate court trial regarding money issues. The landlord can file for garnishment of wages and/or a lien on the tenant’s unclaimed property during such trial.
III) Tenant Defenses and Other Rights
IIIA) Implied Warranty of Habitability. CRS 38-12-509 prohibits landlords from taking retaliatory action (such as eviction) against tenants for filing a complaint with a landlord or to any government agency over violations of the implied warranty of habitability – e.g., that the unit is not in a livable condition. See CRS 38-12-503 and 505). The burden of proof, however, lies with the tenant.
IIIB) Discrimination. Landlords cannot discriminate against a tenant on the basis of race, color, familial status, disability, religion, sex, or national origin. These are all protected classes under the federal Fair Housing Act. In addition, Colorado law prohibits discrimination on the basis of ancestry, creed, belief systems, marital status, or sexual orientation. Some cities have added additional protected classes to state and federal laws (e.g., source of income for payment of rent).
IIIC) Domestic Violence. Under certain circumstances, a tenant that is a victim of domestic violence or abuse has the right to unilaterally terminate his or her lease and cannot be declared in default by the landlord for doing so. CRS 38-12-402(2)(a). In such cases, the tenant is obligated to pay the landlord one month’s rent within 90 days following the tenant’s vacation of the premises. CRS 38-12-402(2)(b).
IIID) Return of Security Deposits. The deadline for returning a residential security deposit is one month, unless the lease provides for a longer period, not to exceed 60 days. If the landlord does not return the security deposit or does not send an itemized list of deductions within the required time period, or if the tenant disagrees with the deductions made by the landlord, the tenant may initiate a security deposit action to recover the disputed funds. If the landlord wrongfully withholds a residential security deposit, it may be liable for three times the amount of the wrongfully withheld deposit plus the tenant’s reasonable attorneys’ fees. CRS 38-12-103(3).
IIIE) Application Fees. Landlords are regulated under CRS 38-12-903 in the application fees they can charge prospective tenants and how such fees must be used.
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This website presents general information about landlord-tenant law and is not intended as legal advice nor should you consider it as such. You should seek the advice of legal counsel before acting upon this information.