Understanding the Eviction Process in Colorado: Expert Guidance

Kayla Banzali
By: Kayla A. Banzali
PublishedMar 13, 2024
9 minute read

Eviction is often an undesirable last resort for landlords seeking to address lease violations. The process may seem intimidating given the time, cost, and procedures involved. But sometimes eviction is the only way to deal with a serious tenant issue and to protect your property investment. 

Bottom Line: 

Evictions are only successful if you can prove the tenant has violated a provision of the lease agreement. If you’re a landlord, it’s incredibly important to follow the proper eviction steps.

In this Legal Guide: 

When Can I Legally Evict a Tenant?

You can only evict a tenant if they have demonstrably breached the lease agreement in a way that significantly impacts your rights as a landlord or the property’s condition. C.R.S. 13-40-101

Some of the most common reasons landlords pursue evictions include:
  • non-payment
  • major lease violations
  • tenant staying beyond their term C.R.S. 13-40-104

Eviction timelines depend wildly on those factors because they dictate what type of eviction you’re filing and how long the notice needs to be. Remember: Eviction is a drastic remedy. The court won’t grant it unless the tenant has substantially breached the lease agreement. 

Also, eviction and the process of finding a new tenant are both time-consuming and expensive. Try to resolve the issue with the tenant first. A successful negotiation could save saving you a ton of time, money, and energy. 

Here’s a hypothetical scenario where you might consider giving your tenant a second chance: 

Scenario 1:

Your renter has always paid their rent on time, every month. But this month, before rent was due, they told you they needed an extra week to get the money together. 

Instead of calling your lawyer to get a jump start on the eviction process, you might consider giving this renter an extension. In this instance, beginning eviction proceedings may not be worth the hassle with an otherwise reliable tenant. 

Don’t Be Taken For A Fool

A tenant who has fallen significantly behind on rent is unlikely to catch up. In this case, it would be wise to begin the eviction process and find a better tenant. The eviction process takes time and the longer you wait to evict the tenant –the more damages you will accumulate while you go through the eviction process. 

How Closely Do I Have to Follow the Eviction Process in Colorado?

The answer is simple: To a T.

Colorado law mandates a defined, multi-step process for eviction. Because of this, the court is unlikely to order the tenant to leave if these steps are not followed. Eviction action dismissals are frustrating and costly. Often a dismissal means that the Landlord has to start back at square one. 

Delinquent Tenants Cost Landlords

It’s common for a landlord to use rent money from tenants to pay the property’s mortgage. If the tenant doesn’t pay, the property owner may struggle to keep current on mortgage payments. 

Here’s a worst-case scenario you could run into if you fall behind on your property’s mortgage: 

Scenario 2:

You receive a notice in the mail from your loan servicer. It says your loan is in default, and that you have 30 days to cure it. If you don’t, your lender may ask for the entire amount due at once. If you don’t have the funds, you face foreclosure.  

I don’t want this to happen to you. 

Here’s how to avoid the worst-case scenario: 
  • ask the tenant to pay the delinquent rent
  • evict and find a more responsible renter

How to Evict Someone in Colorado

The eviction process in Colorado involves specific steps that culminate in a judge determining whether a tenant’s actions—or inactions—can result in their right of possession. This is the only way a tenant can be evicted.

In most cases, the notice must contain an opportunity to cure. This will technically be the first step. In other words, the renter must be given a chance to fix the problem by issuing a default and proper notice

Step 1: Deliver The Right Default and Proper Notice

The type of notice you’ll give your tenant depends on what type of rental property you own and why you’re evicting the tenant. Don’t make the mistake of giving your tenant the wrong notice, otherwise you’ll have to start from scratch, which could be awkward to say the least. 

Eviction Notice Period

Eviction notices used to be referred to as three-day notices. That’s because the most common timeframe before you could take steps to evict was historically three days. But that’s changed. 

Back in 2017, Colorado General Assembly passed a law changing the required notice period for the termination of a month-to-month tenancy. Additionally, in 2019, the Legislature passed additional laws to protect tenants and increased the cure period for most evictions based on failure to pay rent or failure to comply with the Lease. 

In 2021, Colorado General Assembly passed even more laws that changed several policies related to evictions, including the timing considerations for evictions, late fee restrictions for Landlords, and penalties to Landlords for violating some of these new restrictions.

Notice Rules For Apartments and Single-Family Homes

Renters of an apartment must be given a 10-day notice for rent and non-monetary violations. Tenants of a qualifying single-family home must be given a five-day notice for falling behind on rent or other lease violations. (To qualify, you must meet the definition of an exempt residential agreement.)

After receiving proper notice, your tenant must resolve the breach within that timeframe. If they don’t, you can proceed with the eviction. 

The Holdover or The Month-to-Month Renter

A notice to quit is normally used to terminate a holdover tenancy or a month-to-month lease. This is the formal document, which must be given to the tenant with enough time before the expiration of the next rental period or as specified in the Lease. It spells out the amount of time the tenant has to move out after receiving the notice, calculated against the duration of the lease agreement. The duration can vary from three days to three months. C.R.S. 13-40-107

Myth: Tenants Who Stay Longer Automatically Get More Time

Tenants tend to think that longer tenancy equals more time between when they receive the notice and when they actually have to leave. But that’s not always the case. For instance, a tenant who’s been on a month-to-month lease for years will not get years to vacate. They will get 21 days.

The Violent or Disruptive Tenant

You can give them a more specific notice to quit for substantial violations. A substantial violation is generally a violent or anti-social act that makes the tenant unsuitable to rent. 

Typically, a substantial violation:
  • occurred on or near the premises
  • involved something dangerous to a person or – in more limited circumstances – their property
  • often involves a violent or drug-related felony 
Substantial Violations Speed Up The Eviction Process

There is no cure period for a substantial violation. This notice only requires three days’ notice before the tenancy is terminated. C.R.S. 13-40-107.5

The Renter With an Unauthorized Roommate or Pet 

You can give this renter a demand for compliance notice. This warns the tenant their lease will be terminated if they do not comply with the lease terms. 

Note: this notice can also be given to the tenant who is behind on rent. 

A demand for compliance can be a good option if you’re open to letting the tenant stay. But a demand for compliance can also work in your favor if you’re looking to get the tenant out quickly. 

It all depends on how much flexibility you can afford to give. 

The Renter Who’s Living on a Foreclosed Property

Give this occupant a demand for possession notice. This notice is specifically for occupants who are living in a property that has been sold following a foreclosure or the death of a former owner whose estate administrator is pursuing the probate process. 

Filing an Improper Eviction Notice Will Set You Back

If you choose to evict a tenant and you don’t follow the steps, you’ll lose more money and time because the eviction will likely fail. 

For instance, if the notice you serve is legally insufficient or improperly served, you will have to start over. This delay can end up costing you a substantial amount of money. 

Step 2: File A Case With The Court

At this point, your tenant has not responded to your demand or notice to quit. It’s now time to initiate the formal eviction process by filing your case with the court. 

Once you take this step, your tenant will receive a summons, informing them of their initial court date and the complaint describing the breach. C.R.S. 13-40-111 

Colorado law now allows tenants to decide whether to attend a remote eviction hearing or in person. This information is now included in the summons.

What if My Renter Pays Up After I File? 

If you file for an eviction due to nonpayment and the tenant pays the full amount owed before a court signs off on the eviction, you must accept the money. Subsequently, the eviction is dismissed. 

Tenants used to have a 10-day “cure” period to resolve outstanding debts, but now the tenant has up until the judge enters a judgment to pay the demanded rent and any other amounts due and owing. 

I should also note that you’re only obligated to accept the full amount owed – not partial payments. In fact, accepting a partial payment during the eviction process could force you to start the process over. 

Step 3: Learn Renter’s Intent

Within seven to 14 days of filing your eviction case with the court, the tenant will answer your eviction notice. In other words, will they fight the eviction? This occurs at the return appearance, which is now held virtually. You may not have to appear at all. 

Eviction Possession Hearing

Depending on your case, you may need to attend an eviction possession hearing. This is really just a step in the process that gives the tenant a chance to be heard by the court. During these hearings, tenants tend to bring up issues about a landlord’s accounting style, or claim retaliation.

This hearing should take place within seven to ten days after the tenant files an answer to the notice. This timeline can be difficult for county courts to meet, which could make evicting a bad tenant a little more difficult.

However, this process can work in a landlord’s favor. The sooner it happens, the sooner a judgment can be entered and you can recover your property. 

Also, eviction possession hearings can put an eviction on the tenant’s record. This will effectively warn other landlords that there has been an issue with this potential tenant in the past. 

Step 4: Make Your Case for the Eviction 

Up next is the evidentiary hearing, which will take place a week after the last court date. An evidentiary hearing is much what it sounds like. You show proof that the tenant has failed to pay rent or has damaged your property in some way, and the court will hear the case and decide whether you can evict. 

Again, you can appear in person or remotely for this hearing as well. C.R.S. 13-40-113.5

When You Can Expect Your Renter Out

If the court rules in your favor, you must wait at least 48 hours before getting a writ of restitution against the tenant. You take this document to the sheriff to schedule a lockout of the renter. The Writ of Restitution will allow the Sheriff to evict as soon as 10 days after the Court enters a judgment for possession. 

Note: You’re a bit at the mercy of the sheriff’s schedule here. So after your hearing, expect that your tenant may be on the property for at least ten days, if not a few more. The Sheriff has up to 49 days to execute a Writ of Restitution. 

Recovering Money for Damage to Property

If your evicted tenant left the property damaged beyond normal wear and tear, you can request a money judgment from the court. This is an additional court proceeding. 

If Your Case Gets Dismissed

It gets worse if your tenant hires an attorney to represent them in court. If the court finds your claim insufficient, you may have to pay your renter’s attorney fees and/or court costs.

What are the Most Common Tenant Defenses? 

In an eviction proceeding, the tenant has the right to defend against the eviction. If the court determines the renter has not breached the lease or been afforded due process, it will not evict them. 

Here’s an example of a scenario where the tenant fights the eviction: 

Scenario 3:

Let’s say you discover, much to your surprise, that your tenant has a dog. Because you didn’t authorize this, you decide to seek an eviction. But in court, the renter is able to provide suitable evidence from the lease agreement that you permit pets.

In such an instance, the court might find the landlord’s stated reason to evict was not a breach of the lease agreement and that the renter has the right to stay. C.R.S. 13-40-116

The Discrimination Defense

A recent ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court will likely make it more difficult for landlords to evict. The court’s decision in Miller v. Amos gives credibility to tenants using discrimination or retaliation as a defense in eviction cases – specifically concerning the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA). 

The court held that a tenant can assert a landlord’s alleged violation of the CFHA as an affirmative defense to an FED eviction. The court noted that the purpose of the CFHA is to prevent discriminatory practices. Therefore, a tenant must be able to use it as a shield against a discriminatory eviction.

“In our view, a landlord’s violation of the CFHA – an unfair housing practice – raises significant equitable concerns. The General Assembly’s primary purpose in enacting the CFHA is turned on its head if a landlord is simultaneously prohibited from and allowed to engage in a discriminatory or retaliatory eviction.” 

The Health-And-Safety Defense 

The court will consider this a valid argument regardless of settling any rental debts. This didn’t used to be the case, but it is now. 

Don’t let this happen to you. 

How Do I Protect Myself From Bad Tenants?

Here are a few ways to help ensure your rental property investment doesn’t turn into a financial nightmare. 

Require a Written Application

Make sure the application is completed and signed. 

Charge an Application Fee to Cover Your Costs

Professional property managers require one. So should you! While you cannot charge an application fee beyond what you actually spend – there is no reason those costs should come out of your pocket! 

Check References

If the best reference the potential renter can provide is mom, well, that can be a red flag. 

Run a Background Check

The inquiry should include bankruptcy, criminal, and credit. 

Don’t Rush It

A tenant who brings a U-Haul to the property showing is can also be a red flag, and is unlikely to be a good renter. 

Demand the Full Deposit

Don’t give away the keys to the property until you’ve been paid. 

Do Due Diligence

Check the applicant’s photo ID against their application. 

Call the Previous Landlord

This is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself against a bad tenant.

Hire an Eviction Lawyer

Don’t try to evict a renter without following the steps outlined in Colorado’s legal process. If you do, your attempt to remove the problematic renter will fail, costing you thousands of dollars in litigation and judgments. 

Robinson & Henry, P.C. has years of experience handling landlord-tenant matters including, evictions, leasing, screening, and property management. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment now. 

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