It seemed like a cool arrangement at first. You and a friend decide to move in together, share expenses, and perhaps afford a better place jointly than you could have separately. However, it turned into one of those roommate horror stories, where the person overstayed their welcome, and you’re not sure how to kick them out without making things worse. This legal guide lays out what to know about roommate evictions in Colorado.
In this Article:
Roommate Classification and the Eviction Process
There are two types of roommates to consider when discussing whether and how to evict one: roommates as co-tenants and roommates as tenants.
Roommates as co-tenants is a situation where all occupants are listed on the lease and pay rent to a landlord who does not live with them. The roommates share equal power and each is obligated to the landlord. It is far more difficult to evict a co-tenant than a sub-tenant. Co-tenants can be:
- friends who rent together
- Adult unmarried family members
- Unmarried partners who rent together
Roommates as tenants is where the homeowner or primary tenant on a lease has the power to evict the other(s) because they are only roommates, and are not listed on the house deed or the property lease. The roommate could be paying rent to the homeowner, simply living with them, or contributing to rent owed by the primary tenant on a lease. In any case, the roommate is considered a tenant, and has entered an agreement, even if verbal, directly with the head of the home.
Tenant roommates can include individuals who do not pay rent to the master tenant, such as adult children living with parents or romantic partners.
What is Eviction?
An eviction is a civil process by which a landlord, or master tenant, may legally remove a tenant from their rental property. An eviction can occur for any of the following reasons:
- the tenant stops paying rent, without cause
- the tenant breaches one or more terms of the rental (or lease) agreement
- the tenant is engaged in criminal activity
In Colorado, a roommate eviction for any of the reasons above requires at least 10 days’ advance notice before beginning legal proceedings. There could be a longer period of notice required depending on the length of the lease.
What You Cannot Do to Make a Roommate Leave
As irritating as it can be living with a disruptive roommate who won’t pay or contribute to rent, neither a landlord, master tenant, nor co-tenant has the right to take matters into their own hands. That is called ‘self-help’ and it is against the law.
It is illegal to kick out a roommate by changing the locks or dumping their belongings onto the sidewalk. This is the law in all 50 states, not just Colorado. Eviction is strictly a legal process.
How to Evict a Co-Tenant Roommate
Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.
When two or more tenants sign a lease or rental agreement, each of them is a co-tenant with equal rights and obligations. Even if each tenant agrees to pay an equal portion of the monthly rent, each is liable for the entire amount of rent due. This means that if one tenant stops contributing his or her portion, the other(s) must still pay the entire amount, or the landlord can evict the whole lot.
You Must Get the Landlord’s Help
Only the landlord has the power to legally evict a tenant whose name is on the rental or lease agreement. Therefore, the only way to remove a troublesome co-tenant is to enlist the landlord’s cooperation.
Unfortunately, the last thing most landlords want is to get in the middle of a dispute between tenants. It’s not impossible, however. If you can demonstrate that the troublesome roommate not only refuses to pay his or her share of the rent, but has:
- breached the lease agreement in one or more ways,
- has threatened or attempted violence against you or other tenants,
- has caused damage to the unit, or
- has been engaged in criminal activity,
… then there is a slight possibility the landlord will take action only against your troublesome roommate. The possibility is stronger if you can demonstrate that you have otherwise been an exemplary tenant.
The Risks of Attempting to Evict a Co-Tenant
The most obnoxious co-tenants usually think they’re still contributing something to the arrangement. In fact, even if the troublesome roommate leaves messes everywhere, rarely comes up with their portion of the rent, and makes noise when you’re trying to sleep, they can still fall back on the relationship that brought about the co-tenancy in the first place.
Would You Kick Out Your Own Friend?
It’s difficult enough to evict a co-tenant. It’s especially difficult to evict a friend. So that’s the first risk to keep in mind. Is kicking out a troublesome roommate worth the potential of ending your friendship?
Of course, it’s more common nowadays for unmarried adults to become roommates first, and friends later, if they are able to live together harmoniously. If you’re not even friends with your troublesome co-tenant, then this isn’t a risk to worry about.
Does the Landlord Need This Drama?
The landlord would rather not get dragged into squabbles between you and your co-tenant. You see a deadbeat roommate. Your landlord sees unreliable tenants who don’t get along, who might stop paying rent, or worse, could end up in a fight that damages the property. Because of this, the landlord might evict everyone in the home and start fresh or decide against renewing the lease once it runs out.
Remember, only the landlord can begin eviction proceedings against a co-tenant. If you intend to ask the landlord to do such a thing, it’s important to demonstrate that removing the bad roommate will only improve the overall situation, including the reliability of on-time rent payments.
How to Evict a Tenant Roommate
It’s easier to get rid of a troublesome roommate who is not on the lease. If you take on a roommate — a friend, relative, or romantic partner — with the express or implied permission of your landlord, then you have become a subletter, and you can evict the tenant roommate provided you follow the right steps.
Step one: Provide Legally Sufficient Notice
You must let the tenant know, in writing, that they are in default of the lease agreement. The proper form is called a Demand for Compliance or a Right to Possession. It serves notice that the roommate, or subtenant, has violated the terms of their tenancy agreement.
It does not matter if the original agreement was verbal or written, although it’s always better to have it in writing. A tenant can default on this agreement in a number of ways, such as:
- not paying rent or their share of it
- causing damage to the property
- making excessive noise or being disruptive to co-tenants in other ways
Depending on the situation, you may have the right to evict a tenant even without cause, as long as you provide proper notice. This goes especially for when there is no written lease, or when the terms under which you’ve allowed someone to stay with you are on a month-by-month basis.
However, if a written lease or agreement is in place, you can only evict your roommate if you have a good reason, or cause.
What is Sufficient Notice?
If you have cause for a roommate eviction, you still must give them at least 10 days’ notice so they can find a new place and move out. You cannot begin the legal eviction process until the notice has expired. To avoid disputes, it’s best to put the notice in writing and have it delivered to the roommate by certified mail. This way, the notice is documented and cannot be disputed in court.
Twenty-One Days for Month-to-Month Tenancies
A month-to-month tenancy can be created in a couple of ways:
- a written term lease has expired and not been renewed by new writing, or
- a friend has allowed another friend to move in with them, but the other friend won’t move out when asked to leave.
Colorado courts generally say that a month-to-month tenancy begins at the first of every month and ends when the month does. If you plan to evict someone who is on a month-to-month agreement, you need to give notice at least twenty-one days before the end of a month.
Step Two: File a Notice to Quit
You’ve served the eviction notice, but the troublesome roommate still won’t leave your property. Now it’s time to file a Notice to Quit with the local county clerk.
You can download a Notice to Quit form from the web or, if you want to make sure it’s done correctly, have an eviction attorney draw one up. If you do it yourself, make sure the notice includes the following information:
- name of tenant and other persons who need to comply with the order or vacate the property
- address of the rental property
- reason for ending the rental agreement
- number of days the tenant has to correct the issue
- date for tenant to vacate the property if the problem cannot be resolved
- date that Notice to Quit is served
- signature of person serving Notice to Quit
After giving notice with a Demand for Compliance letter, then following up with a Notice to Quit, you will have made it clear to the roommate that you want them to leave. So, what if they still refuse to vacate the property? You can obtain the right to secure the property.
Step Three: Obtain a Forcible Entry and Detainer
You have followed all the legal steps and the problematic roommate still won’t budge. Now it’s time to go to court and make your case for why the subtenant should be forcibly removed from the property.
To secure a Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) order, explain your situation to the court as clearly as possible. Present any and all documents that prove your case, including:
- copies of notices you served on the troublesome roommate, and
- a copy of the original tenancy agreement, if one was written.
Free at Last
Once you have obtained the FED, local law enforcement will show up and force the defiant roommate to leave the premises. The roommate also may be ordered to pay back reasonable rent, plus late charges, for the period they remained on the property without having the right.
As the master tenant, you also could be entitled to recover damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and court costs.
Dealing with a Hostile Roommate
Sharing residence with an uncooperative and disruptive roommate is certainly uncomfortable. Living with someone who knows you’re trying to evict them? That could be worse than awkward. It could be dangerous. If that’s the case, you essentially have three choices:
- temporarily move out of your home during the eviction process,
- tough it out and live with the troublesome, and now-hostile roommate, or
- obtain a restraining order.
Roommate eviction should be a civil process. By following the legal steps, you are taking the high road and respecting your roommate’s basic rights and property. In return, they should show you the same consideration. If they don’t, then the third option is the way to go.
Getting a Restraining Order
If the roommate you are trying to evict becomes violent, or even threatens violence, you can go to court and file the necessary forms to obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO). This can remove the person from your property while the eviction proceeds.
Generally, when cause is shown, the court will issue such an order immediately.
When the temporary order is issued, the court will next schedule a future hearing to determine if the order should be made permanent. The hearing will also give the restrained person an opportunity to defend themself.
Note: Even though a restraining order effectively forces the hostile roommate to leave the residence, it only creates the opportunity to obtain a legal eviction. It does not create an eviction action by itself. You must continue the legal process, step by step, until the tenant agrees to move out.
Roommate and Cohabitation Agreements
Living together with a friend, one or two strangers, or a romantic partner is a great way to get your own place and split costly expenses like rent, food, and utilities. However, just because you get along with someone doesn’t mean they’ll be a good roommate.
This is why it’s a good idea to draw up and make sure all parties sign a written contract before moving in together. Not only can having a written, signed agreement strengthen your hand if a roommate or co-tenant stops contributing rent or becomes unbearable to live with, it can also set out what happens if one of you should vacate the home before the lease is up.
Who Should Get a Roommate Agreement?
A roommate agreement is a contract that specifies the rights, liabilities, and duties between two or more roommates who are not romantically involved. It is an agreement only between the persons living together, unlike a lease, which is an agreement between a landlord and tenants.
Roommate agreements are legally binding in court except for clauses that detail who must do which chores. A court doesn’t care who takes out the trash or washes dishes, but will generally uphold other key parts of the agreement, such as:
- what happens to the security deposit if a roommate moves out during the lease
- who pays the remaining rent and utilities if a roommate moves out during the lease
- what recourse one tenant has if the other stops paying rent and/or violates conditions of the lease, or the roommate agreement
In other words, you may be able to sue a co-tenant for damages if they breach their part of the agreement and stick you with all the costs. You can find roommate agreement forms online or have an attorney draft one specifically for your situation.
A cohabitation agreement is everything a roommate agreement is and more. It is a written contract between romantic partners who choose to live together without planning to marry in the near future.
A cohab agreement sorts out what happens if one of the roommates moves out early, and it comprehensively details what happens to shared property, such as bank accounts, motor vehicles, joint assets, pets, and even shared children if the couple decide to split up.
Both roommate and cohabitation agreements protect you if a roommate should move out or must be asked to move out. It’s better to have a contract in place than to find out later you’re responsible for the remaining rent and utilities. Make sure an agreement is drawn up and signed even before deciding to live together.
We Can Help With Your Roommate Eviction
If you’re a Colorado tenant or homeowner having a difficult time evicting a bad roommate, reach out to our Evictions & Landlord Attorneys. Our experienced team has handled many cases like yours, and can surely help you. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.