Landlords in Colorado can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Colorado.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated November 11, 2021
Many people will face the threat of eviction at some point. Often people believe there’s nothing they can do to stop an eviction. But Colorado’s laws provide many protections and rights for Coloradans facing eviction. If you’re renting in Colorado and your landlord has threatened you with eviction, if you owe money in back rent, or if your lease is near its end, this article is for you.
What Is Eviction?
An eviction is a legal process where a landlord seeks to force a renter from their property. In order to complete the eviction process, the landlord will need to first give the tenant an eviction notice. Then they’ll need to file for eviction with the local county court system and ultimately receive a judgment from a court ruling.
If your landlord tries to evict you without a court order, then they’ve broken the law. This is sometimes called an “illegal eviction” or “illegal lockout.”
There are three main types of evictions in Colorado.
Who Can Be Evicted in Colorado?
If you’re a tenant in a landlord-tenant relationship, you can be evicted. There’s often a lease agreement governing this relationship. In general, people living in the property can be evicted, even if they aren’t on the lease.
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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Colorado
There are three main things that you can be evicted for in the state of Colorado:
Nonpayment of rent: If you don’t pay what you owe, are late in paying rent, or outright don’t pay rent for a certain amount of time, you can be evicted.
Lease violation: If you violate the terms of the lease, you can be evicted. Examples include doing drugs on the property or having a pet when you’re not supposed to.
Lease expiration: If your lease expires but you refuse to leave, your landlord can evict you.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
Under state law, you can be evicted for late rent as soon as the day after it’s due unless your lease explicitly gives you a grace period. The only additional time that you’ll be afforded is the amount of time that the notice provides. For late rent, the landlord needs to give you 10 days’ notice. During this time, if you pay the rent due you’ll stop the eviction.
Lease Expiration or Termination
In Colorado, the landlord has the right to evict a tenant when the lease expires or is terminated. In these situations, the landlord claims that the tenant has no right to live at the property, even if they’ve paid their rent in full. Lease termination and expiration are different.
A lease expiration is when the lease period has run out. If you’re on a fixed-term lease, the landlord has a right to evict you immediately. If you’re on a month-to-month lease, the landlord needs to provide 21 days’ notice.
If you violate a lease as a tenant, your landlord can terminate or end your lease and evict you. If the lease violation isn’t a criminal act, your landlord needs to give you 10 days to fix the issue so you can avoid eviction. If you do drugs on the property or commit a criminal act, the landlord doesn’t have to let you fix the issue. They must give you only three days' notice to leave.
The Colorado Eviction Process
This section will give you an overview of how evictions work in Colorado to help you navigate the process.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
To start the eviction process, your landlord must give you notice. If you’re behind on rent or you’ve violated the lease, then the landlord must give you 10 days to fix the issue before pursuing an eviction.
If you’ve done drugs on the property or committed an illegal act on the property, the landlord only needs to provide you with three days' notice to vacate the property before pursuing eviction.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
After the notice period expires, the landlord has to make an eviction filing in court. After filing the complaint, the landlord needs to serve it to you. They can post the notice on your property, provide it to you in person, or give it to a member of your family who is older than 18.
After that, there will be an eviction hearing. The hearing will happen 7-14 days after you receive the summons. When you receive the summons, you can file an answer with the court. But if you don’t answer, you can still raise objections and defenses during the trial. That said, it’s in your interest to file an answer. If you file an answer and appear at court, then there will be a second hearing scheduled, extending the amount of time you can stay in the property. Additionally, filing an answer ahead of time will provide you with more access to defenses.
You can file your answer using a form provided by the Colorado court. When you file this form with the court, you have the opportunity to file defenses that answer the landlord’s claim, along with raising your own claims against the landlord.
If you don’t file an answer, there will only be one hearing. You can raise objections at the hearing, but the judge will rule that day. If you don’t file an answer and don’t show up at the one hearing, there’s a good chance that the landlord will receive a default judgment. This means you lose the case simply because you didn’t show up.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
The main ways you can defend yourself when facing eviction are through an affirmative defense or a counterclaim. Affirmative defenses are reasons why you shouldn’t be evicted. Counterclaims are when you sue the landlord for damages. You can raise defenses and counterclaims as part of your answer to the summons. You must do this by the date of the eviction hearing.
The landlord didn’t provide the required notice.
The property you’re renting is unsafe.
You needed to fix the property and deducted the costs of fixing it from your rent.
The landlord is discriminating against you.
Your landlord is evicting you in retaliation for you advocating for your rights.
You can also bring counterclaims, where you sue for damages. You can’t use counterclaims to stop the eviction, but they may allow you to recoup rent losses.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
The court’s ruling is called a judgment. It will be entered at the last hearing. The court will enter a writ of restitution at least 48 hours after the judgment. Once the writ of restitution is entered, you can immediately be removed from the property. It will typically take a few days after the writ of restitution because the landlord will need to arrange a formal removal with the court. Colorado law does allow for you to pay back the rent up until the writ of restitution is ordered. You’ll pay this to the landlord. If you plan to appeal, you must file with the court within 14 days of the judgment.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Colorado
There are practical steps you can take to avoid or fight an eviction.
Gather evidence like documents, photos, and videos to support your claims about the state of the property. You can also have a municipal building inspector look at the property and issue a formal report.
If you can’t make the scheduled hearing, you should contact the court and see if they’ll delay it. If not, ask what options you have to avoid a default judgment.
If you’re facing eviction over not paying rent, you should try to pay the back rent and get current with your landlord. Colorado law allows you to pay the rent you owe up until the writ of judgment is issued to avoid being evicted. If you do make payments on past-due rent, be sure to keep records of the rental payments.
Stay in contact with your landlord to see if you can avert any conflicts. You should try to avoid an eviction at all costs. Having an eviction filing on your record makes it difficult to rent in the future.
Similarly, you can try to negotiate with your landlord or their attorney if they bring an eviction lawsuit. The landlord may be willing to drop the suit if you agree to leave ahead of the eviction.
If you come to any agreement with your landlord, be sure to have it in writing with both your and your landlord’s signatures.
Tenant Resources in Colorado
The Latest on Gov. Jared Polis' Executive Order regarding the eviction moratorium for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau information on the CDC eviction moratorium