One of the most important aspects of any state's landlord-tenant law is the termination/eviction guidelines. In some cases, tenants may try to break the lease agreement earlier than what was agreed on, which may make the landlord lose time and money.
Colorado state law offers tenants a few options to break their rental agreement early. However, if these conditions aren't met, they may have to pay penalties to their landlord.
The following page will cover everything you should know about breaking a lease in Colorado. This will allow landlords and property managers to prepare more appropriately if their tenants seek an early lease termination.
Let's address the notice requirements for breaking a lease in Colorado before jumping into the rest of the page. According to landlord-tenant laws in the state, Colorado tenants must provide a particular amount of notice depending on the type of lease they currently have (as long as it's a periodic lease agreement):
- Leases That Last One Week or Less - One day of notice.
- Leases That Last from One Week to One Month - Three days of notice.
- Leases That Last from One to Six Months - 21 days of notice.
- Leases That Last from Six to 12 Months - 28 days of notice.
- Leases That Last 12 Months or More - 91 days of notice.
Colorado law doesn't ask tenants to provide written notice for fixed-term leases. There, the lease ends on the date set in the agreement.
Breaking a Lease Early
According to Colorado law, a tenant can break a lease early as long as they give their landlord written notice and meet one of the requirements we'll mention below. If they break the lease without a valid reason, they may have to pay a penalty for moving out of the rental property earlier.
Early Termination Clause
Many landlords include an "Early Termination Clause" in their lease for protection. There, they state the terms and consequences that come from breaking a lease early. Tenants who want to move out of the rental unit sooner must look for any language that explains how they can do it.
In most cases, the landlord may ask the tenant to pay a penalty for leaving earlier. It's important to note that tenants are committing to pay rent for a specified time when they sign a lease, and leaving early suggests the landlord may not get the total rent payment they asked for their rental property in the first place.
The penalty is often used to cover unpaid rent, re-advertising costs, new tenant screening costs, and others.
There are some cases where the tenant may not have to pay a penalty for breaking a lease early. The landlord-tenant law in Colorado allows tenants to negotiate with their landlords to come up with a mutual termination.
If both parties agree to a mutual termination, then they must write down the terms and sign the document to make it legal. However, keep in mind that you, as a landlord, aren't obligated to agree to a mutual termination request.
All states in the U.S. (including Colorado) have certain health and safety codes that everyone must follow to prevent any hazards during the lease term. Landlords in Colorado are required by law to meet these health and safety standards before renting their unit to a new tenant.
Moreover, tenants have the legal right to request repairs if they find any potential health/safety hazard in the property. If the landlord fails to provide these repairs promptly, the tenant may be able to leave the rental unit without paying a penalty.
The Colorado Revised Statutes consider the following to affect a unit's "habitability:"
- Water - Landlords must provide running water (hot and cold) to all the necessary fixtures. Moreover, the running water should be connected to an approved sewage disposal system.
- Weather Protection - The unit's roof and exterior walls should be in good condition; this includes the doors and windows.
- Utilities - Landlords must keep the unit's structure and utilities in "good working order." These include: plumbing, gas, electrical systems, floors, stairways, etc.
- Heating - All heating systems should be kept in good condition.
- Extermination - Landlords must make a reasonable effort to handle any infestation problems including vermin or rodents.
- Common Areas - All the common areas within the property should be kept sanitary and clean.
- Security Locks - Exterior doors and windows must have a lock or other security system installed. Landlords are also required to keep them in good condition.
Overall, if the landlord repeatedly violates any of those safety/health codes, the tenant will have the right to request a lease termination.
Active Military Duty
Some tenants get protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Specifically, it protects active members/commissioned corps of the:
- Armed Forces
- Public Health Service
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- National Guard
In order to break a lease early under this act, the tenant must prove they signed the lease before entering active duty. Furthermore, they must prove they will be on duty for at least 90 days after they send the notice.
It's important to note that tenants may only break a lease under Active Military Duty 30 days after the next rent period begins.
Tenants who can prove their landlord was harassing them or violating their privacy in any way may be able to break the lease, according to the state's landlord-tenant law. There are two main examples of harassment, which we'll cover below:
- Changing the Locks or Unlawful Removal - It's illegal for landlords to shut off utilities, change the locks, or remove windows and doors without the tenant's consent. If this happens, the tenant will be considered "constructively evicted," meaning they may be able to break the lease early.
- Landlord Entry - Even though landlord-tenant laws in Colorado don't specify a notice period for entering the rental property, it's considered appropriate to notify the tenant at least 24 hours before doing it. Not providing enough notice repeatedly may give the tenant the right to end the lease, as that would be considered a violation of privacy.
Gas-Related Problems and Hazards
Colorado law requires tenants to inform their landlords if they notice any problems with the piping or any gas appliances. In these cases, the landlord will have 72 hours to get the hazard repaired. Keep in mind these 72 hours exclude weekends and legal holidays.
If the landlord fails to get these repairs done within the specified period, and the unit is still having gas-related hazards, the tenant may be able to leave the unit without paying penalties. Furthermore, they may be able to ask for their security deposit back.
Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault
Tenants who are victims of domestic violence or assault may be able to break the lease early as long as they provide their landlord with proof.
Overall, the tenant should send the landlord written notice with a copy of the legal order or police report that proves they're a victim of domestic violence. If the landlord isn't able to prove the tenant's claims, they may make them pay a penalty.
These are some additional arguments tenants may use to try to break their lease, although they may have to go under a court's approval first:
- Repeated violations of the lease agreement
- Illegal contracts
- Landlord's failure to provide mandatory disclosures
Moreover, if the property isn't ADA-compliant, a tenant with a qualified disability may request an early termination.
Yes, there are a few reasons that won't be valid to break the lease, as most of the time, those arguments will not be valid on their own. This means that tenants who try to break their lease under those arguments will not have legal protection against potential penalties:
Transferring to another school voluntarily or involuntarily.
- Transferring to another job location.
- Moving to another property because of a marriage (or divorce).
- Moving to another property to be closer to a family member or close friend.
- Upsizing or downsizing.
- Losing a roommate.
- Losing a job.
- Criminal activity around the area.
Delivering a Lease Notice
In Colorado, tenants can either serve the notice letter in person or by registered/certified mail. Not serving the notice with any of these "legally compliant" methods may cause the tenant to pay for early termination penalties.
Landlords can get compensated through penalties or by suing their tenants. These penalties are often used to cover:
- Owed rent
- Any expenses associated with finding a new tenant
However, tenants may be able to pay less money in penalties by doing any of the following:
- Familiarizing themselves with the lease terms to understand the consequences of breaking a lease earlier.
- Sending proper notice.
- Helping the landlord find a suitable tenant to replace them.
- Negotiating with the landlord for a mutual agreement.
Enforcing Penalties and Preventing Tenants from Breaking a Lease Early
The best way to prevent tenants from breaking their lease before it ends is to include a detailed "Early Termination Clause" in the agreement document. This clause will explain all the provisions necessary surrounding this scenario.
If the tenant ever tries to break the lease, then they must follow the conditions you already established in the agreement, as they agreed to them when they signed the lease. Now, if the tenant doesn't comply with your termination terms in any way, you could file a lawsuit to get compensated for all the money and time you lost.
Finding a Replacement Tenant
Yes. Landlords in Colorado must do a reasonable effort to find a replacement tenant as a way to mitigate damages.
In essence, a landlord who is able to re-rent their property can credit the new rent payment to the debt owed by the previous tenant.
Subletting the Unit
Tenants may be able to sublet the property as long as they get permission from their landlord. Some landlords already include a subletting clause in their lease, but if they don't, the tenant may still be able to ask for permission.
It's important to note that landlords have the legal right to refuse the tenant's request to sublet, as long as the refusal is based on reasonable factors.
The process of breaking a lease in Colorado doesn't have to be as stressful as some people make it to be. As long as you negotiate with your tenant and establish reasonable early termination conditions in your lease document, you will be more likely to avoid any problems in the future.
DoorLoop hosted this webinar with attorney Michael Larranaga from Larranaga Law to help answer many of your legal questions. Michael specializes in real estate law and evictions in Colorado and we covered:
- Landlord-tenant issues and laws
- Grounds to evict a tenant
- Eviction process
- Preventing delays or fines
- Hiring an Attorney vs DIY
- Post COVID legal changes
Feel free to learn more and watch this webinar for free.
How Much Notice Does Someone Need to Break a Lease in Colorado?
It depends on the type of lease. The notice period ranges from one day for leases that last less than a week up to 91 days for leases that go over a year.
There aren't any notice requirements for fixed-term leases.
Is It Possible for a Tenant to Break a Lease without Penalty in Colorado?
Yes, as long as they meet one of the conditions mentioned on this page.
Can a Landlord Withhold Part of the Security Deposit as a Penalty?
Yes, landlords may be able to keep the security deposit if the tenant tries to break the lease without a valid reason.
Can Tenants Break the Lease Due to Mold?
Colorado's "Warranty of Habitability" covers certain mold-related problems. Specifically, it covers mold conditions associated with dampness that affects the tenant's health or safety.
The tenant has the legal right to request a repair within an appropriate period. If the landlord fails to do it, then the tenant may have the right to break the lease.
- Breaking a Lease in Colorado Webinar with Attorney Michael Larranaga
- Colorado Eviction Laws: The Process & Timeline In 2023
- Colorado Landlord Tenant Laws & Rights for 2023
- Colorado Security Deposit Laws | Deductions & Rights
- Colorado Squatter's Rights & Adverse Possession Laws
- Colorado Rent Control Laws (2023) | The Complete Guide
- Colorado Tenants and Landlords Laws - 2020 Colorado Revised Statutes Title 38, Article 12 - Tenants and Landlords
- What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? | ADA National Network
- Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) | United States Courts