Updated Nov. 16, 2021
The residential eviction process can be a daunting experience for both the tenant and the landlord. Often, eviction is a last resort to attempt to collect rent or enforce a lease provision. However, sometimes eviction is the only way a landlord can successfully deal with a problem tenant.
The process of evicting a resident can be a stressful experience. If you’re a landlord, it’s incredibly important to follow the proper eviction steps or your attempt to remove the renter will fail.
When Landlords can Legally Evict a Tenant
Evictions can only happen if you can prove the tenant has broken a provision of the lease agreement. For example, if a tenant does not pay rent or gets a pet in violation of the lease’s no pets provision, you have the right to evict.
However, you cannot evict a tenant for no reason.
The most common reasons for eviction include:
- Tenant is not paying rent
- Renter violated a substantial provision of the lease
- Tenant has stayed past the lease term
Remember, eviction is a drastic remedy. The court won’t grant it unless the tenant has substantially breached the lease agreement.
Additionally, the eviction process and finding a new tenant take a significant amount of time and money. Sometimes, it is better to negotiate with the tenant to resolve the issue instead of initiating a judicial eviction.
Here’s a scenario when landlords may provide a second chance:
The renter has a history of paying on time every month. But one month they need an extra week to pay you. Instead of beginning the eviction process, the landlord may consider an extension as long as the tenant follows through. In this instance, beginning eviction proceedings may not be worth the hassle.
However, a tenant who is significantly behind on rent is unlikely to catch up. In this case, it may be wise to begin the eviction process and find a better tenant.
The Importance of Following the Process
Colorado law details very specific steps you must take to evict someone. If the steps are not followed, the court is unlikely to order the tenant to leave. Eviction action dismissals are frustrating and costly.
Delinquent Tenants Hurt Landlords
It is not unusual for a landlord to use rent money to pay the mortgage on the property. If the tenant does not pay rent, the property owner may struggle to make the mortgage payment.
You’ll want to take care of the issue as quickly as possible if this happens to you.
You have a couple of options:
- Ask the tenant to pay the delinquent rent
- Evict and find a more responsible renter
Improper Notice Will Cost You
If you chooses to evict and you don’t follow the appropriate steps, you’ll lose more money and time because the eviction will likely fail.
The first step in a residential eviction process is to properly serve the tenant with a notice stating they are deficient. This informs the tenant he or she must either catch up or get out.
If the renter fails resolve the matter during the period allowed in the notice, you can initiate the formal eviction process. But, you’ll have to start over if the notice is legally insufficient or improperly served. This delay can cost you substantial money.
Steps of Eviction Process
There are several different forms of notice, and this is where many do-it-yourself landlords lose their eviction case. The notice will not be enforced if it is not legally sufficient.
A tenant can only be evicted after he or she no longer has the right of possession. This normally occurs as a result of a default and proper notice.
In most cases, the notice must contain an opportunity to cure. In other words, the renter must get a chance to resolve the problem. Let’s take a look at some of the most common notices.
- Notice to Quit. This is normally used to terminate a holdover tenancy or a month-to-month lease. It must be delivered before the beginning of the next rental period. The notice must be timely delivered; this can vary from three days to months.
- Notice to Quit for Substantial Violation. A substantial violation is generally a violent or anti-social act that makes the tenant unsuitable to rent. There is no defense for a substantial violation. This notice only requires three days of notice before termination of the tenancy.
- Demand for Compliance. This warns the tenant they will be terminated if they do not comply with the terms of the lease. This notice is generally used when the renter has gotten an unauthorized pet or roommate. It can also be used when the tenant is behind on rent.
- Demand for Possession. This notice should only be used after a property has been sold following a foreclosure or the probate of an estate.
Eviction Notice Period
In the past, the above notices were often called three-day notices. That’s because the most common time frame before you could take steps to evict was three days. That has changed.
In 2021, Colorado General Assembly passed new laws that changed several policies related to evictions including the timing and penalties as well as late fee regulations. Let’s take a look:
- If a landlord files for an eviction due to nonpayment but a tenant comes up with the full amount owed before a court signs off on the eviction, the landlord must accept the money and the eviction is cancelled. Previously, there had been a 10-day “cure” period for tenants to resolve outstanding debts. Now there is no particular deadline. It’s important to note that the landlord is only obligated to accept the full amount owed. The landlord is not required to accept partial payments.
- Tenants are able to use a health-and-safety defense in court regardless of settling any rental debts. Previously, if a tenant facing eviction over nonpayment complained to the court about the state of their home for health or safety concerns, like a landlord neglecting mold or not fixing a broken heating system, the tenant would have to pay most of their due balance to stay in their unit.
- Late fees are capped at $50 or 5 percent of a tenant’s outstanding rent balance, whichever is higher. Landlords can assess these fees only once per late payment. Previously they had been allowed to charge unlimited fees for every day of missed payment. Landlords must now wait seven calendar days after rent is due to charge a late fee.
- Landlords can no longer initiate eviction proceedings against a tenant solely due to a tenant not paying late fees.
- 10-Day Notice – Renters of an apartment must be given a 10-day notice for rent and non-monetary violations.
- 5-Day Notice – 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.)
The Colorado Statute lays out the eviction process in detail. Here are some important steps that you should be aware of:
- Notice to Tenant. Before beginning eviction proceedings, you must notify the tenant of the breach. When the renter is given this notice, he or she has five or ten days to come into compliance with the breach, such as pay late rent. If the tenant does not comply, the landlord can proceed to evict.
- Forcible Entry and Detainer. At this court proceeding you get a summons from the court to the complaint that initiates the formal process. The summons informs the tenant of the initial court date, and the complaint describes the breach.
- Court Hearing. If you and the renter can’t reach an agreement before the hearing date, the court will hear the case and decide whether you can evict.
Recover Money for Damage to Property
You can request the court for a money judgment if later you discover the evicted tenant left the property damaged outside of normal wear and tear. This is an additional court proceeding.
A well-crafted initial complaint will make this second proceeding much easier. If the process isn’t properly followed the tenant must be re-served. That means means additional court costs for the landlord.
Tenants Can Defend Against Eviction
In an eviction proceeding, the tenant has the opportunity to defend against the eviction. If the court determines the renter has not breached the lease or has not been afforded due process, the court will not evict the resident.
Let’s take a look at an example:
A landlord might try to evict someone for having an unauthorized pet on the premises. However, the renter could produce evidence that shows the pet does not violate the lease. In this instance, the court might find that the landlord’s stated reason was not a breach of the lease agreement and the tenant has the right to stay.
In this instance, the tenant may counterclaim for attorney fees. So, if you initiate an eviction action which ultimately fails and the tenant hires an attorney to defend him, you may be stuck with the renter’s attorney fees.
How to Protect Yourself in the Future
These are a few of the ideas that will help to ensure that your rental property does not turn into a financial nightmare.
- Require a written application. Make sure the application is completed and signed.
- Charge an application fee. Professional property managers require one and so should do-it-yourself landlords.
- Check references. If the best reference the potential renters has is mom, well, that can be a red flag.
- Run a background check. The inquiry should include bankruptcy, criminal, and credit.
- Don’t be in a rush. A tenant who brings a U-Haul to the property showing is unlikely to be a good renter.
- Demand the full deposit. Don’t surrender the keys to the property until you’ve been paid.
- Do your due diligence. Check the applicant’s photo ID against the application.
- Most importantly, call the previous landlord!
Hire an Eviction & Landlord-Tenant Lawyer
One of the most important things you need to know about evictions is not to evict or attempt to evict without going through the formal legal process. Doing so might solve your problem more immediately; however, it may subject you to thousands of dollars in litigation and judgments.
Robinson & Henry, P.C. has years of experience in landlord tenant matters including, evictions, leasing, screening, and property management.
Schedule your consultation with one of our lawyers online or call us at (303) 688-0944. We have offices throughout the Front Range, including Denver, Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, and Colorado Springs.