Colorado’s Landlord/Tenant Laws Protect Tenants who are Victims of Domestic Violence

Colorado’s landlord/tenant laws give special protections to victims of domestic violence and abuse, including early termination rights.

If you are facing a domestic violence situation, and you want to end your lease early and vacate your house or apartment because you fear that you and/or your children face imminent danger, then follow these steps:

  • Write a letter to your landlord notifying him/her that you are a victim of domestic violence/abuse requesting early termination of your lease; and
  • Give your landlord evidence of the domestic violence/abuse by providing him/her with a police report (dated within the last 60 days) or a valid protection order. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-402(2)(a).

You may still owe your landlord one-month’s rent:

If you follow these steps and terminate your lease early, you may be responsible for an additional one-month’s rent after leaving the property. You will need to pay the one-month’s rent to your landlord within ninety days of leaving. Your landlord does not have to refund your security deposit until the one-month’s rent is paid. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-402(2)(b).

Other protections for tenants who are victims of domestic violence:

  • Your lease cannot prohibit you from calling the police in response to domestic violence or abuse or penalize you for doing so.
  • Your right to call police or emergency assistance is non-waivable, which means that you will always have the right to call for help in an emergency even if you sign a lease that prohibits you from doing so.
  • Your landlord cannot terminate your lease or evict you solely because you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse.

Are you unsure of whether you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse?

Under Colorado law, “domestic violence” means any act (including threatened acts) of violence against a person who is or was in an intimate relationship with the actor. Domestic violence is broadly defined and can include crimes against property or animals when used to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or to seek revenge against a person who is or was in an intimate relationship with the actor. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-800.3(1).

“Domestic abuse” means any act (including attempted or threatened acts) of violence, stalking, harassment, or coercion against someone who is related to or used to be related to the actor, someone who lived with or used to live with the actor, or someone who is involved or used to be involved in an intimate relationship with the actor. It can also include acts against children, and under some circumstances, animals belonging to either party. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-101(2).

For more information and resources regarding domestic violence, please visit the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Time Limits on Lawsuits by Debt Collectors

One way debt collectors try to get repaid is by bringing a lawsuit against the debtor in court.  If the debt collector is successful in the lawsuit, the debt collector may be given permission to take special steps to collect on the amount owed.  (Such steps might include garnishment of wages, or the freezing and seizure of funds from the debtor’s bank account.)  But when it comes to lawsuits against the debtor, time may be a deciding factor in the outcome.

State laws limit the amount of time a debt collector has to file a lawsuit with the court. When this time limit has passed, the law says the debtor may have the lawsuit thrown out for not meeting the applicable time constraints.  This concept of a legal time limit for the debt collector to sue is called the Statute of Limitations.  In legal terms, when the time limit has passed, it is said that “the statute of limitations has run.”

This blog takes a look at the rights and obligations of a debtor when the time limit to sue has passed. Below are some questions and key points to remember about your debt after the statute of limitations has run.

When the time limit to sue has passed, and a debt collector can no longer sue in court, what does that mean about the underlying debt?

  • The debt still exists, or put another way, the debtor’s promise to repay the debt still lives on. However, the debt collector no longer has the ability to sue or ask the court for permission to take the special steps mentioned above.  (That’s not to say some debt collectors still won’t try to bring a lawsuit.  It is always important to pay attention to notices from a debt collector because one might include a notification of a lawsuit .  If a debt collector sues outside of the time limit, you should not rely on the courts to enforce the statute of limitations on the debt collector.  In fact, many states require the debtor to prove that the time limit has expired.  For more details on these situations and possible legal support check out the this page at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

What can the debt collector do after the time limit to sue has passed?

  • After the time limit has passed, and even though the debt collector cannot sue or take action in court, the debt collector may still contact the debtor. The debt collector may ask the debtor to repay the debt in full or setup a repayment plan or attempt to recover a portion of the debt. It’s important to remember that such contact is still governed by federal and state fair debt collection laws. The debt collector must still follow the rules. For a good summary on these rules visit another article on this website: Dealing with Debt Collection.

Should the debtor worry about the debt if the law won’t make him repay it?

  • Outstanding past-due debt may still have an adverse impact on a consumer’s ability to borrow in the future. Other creditors, banks, and financial institutions may be more reluctant to make loans or extend credit when they know a consumer has a history of unpaid loans.  After the time limit to sue has passed, the debtor may voluntarily decide to repay the debt but the courts cannot make him do so.  If a debtor is going to make payment to a debt collector after the statute of limitations has run, the debtor should seek legal advice.  The Federal Trade Commission has a helpful page explaining why repayment after the statute of limitations can be complicated, here.

So should a debtor just wait until the statute of limitations runs, and ignore any attempts by the debt collector to get the debtor to repay?

  • The debtor should never ignore the status of his outstanding debt. Up until the statute of limitations has run, a debt collector can bring legal action for repayment, and if the debtor has ignored important notices about the legal action, the debtor could miss out on his day in court (to dispute the debt or make other arguments against the debt collector). Therefore, it is always important to pay attention to correspondence received regarding an outstanding debt. While the debtor has the right to tell the debt collector to leave him alone, doing so does not mean the debt collector can’t take legal action before the statute of limitations is out.

So how do you know if the statute of limitations has run? (How do you know when the creditor can no longer take legal action regarding repayment of the debt?)

  • It is not within the scope here to explain how to determine the time limit a creditor has to take legal action. However, a quick search of the internet using queries such as “Statute of limitations and debt collection,” “Time-barred debts” and “Statute of limitations for old debts” all will provide helpful resources on the topic. Generally, the debtor should check his state laws to find out the length of time a debt collector has to pursue legal action. This length of time varies by state and by the type of debt or loan the consumer entered into. Also, different events trigger the clock on the statute of limitations.

Ultimately, if a debt collector has run out of the time allowed to sue a debtor, the debt collector can no longer use the law to force payment.  Nevertheless, a debtors should still be aware of their rights and existing obligations even after the statute of limitations has run.

A Colorado Tenant’s Guide to Security Deposits

A security deposit is any amount of money that your landlord collects from you (the tenant) and holds on to until you move out, to ensure that you pay rent, utility bills, and any damage charges. Your landlord keeps the deposit while you are renting, but it is technically still your money. A security deposit is often one-month’s rent. Colorado Legal Services.

When should you get your security deposit back?

Your landlord must return your security deposit (or a written statement itemizing deductions from your deposit) within one month of the end of your lease, unless your lease allows more time (not exceeding 60 days). Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(1).

How much of your security deposit should be returned?

Your landlord may be able to keep some or all of your deposit for the following reasons:

  • to make up for missed rent payments
  • to cover unpaid utility charges
  • to repair damage to the apartment
  • to clean the apartment, if you agreed to it in your lease

Your landlord cannot keep any portion of your deposit for “normal wear and tear.” This can include faded paint, worn hinges on doors or locks, and old and worn carpet. See

If your landlord does have a good reason to keep some or all of your deposit, then she must give you a written statement itemizing the specific deductions from your deposit. Also, your landlord must return to you the remaining portion of your deposit with that written statement. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(1).

What steps can you take early on to make sure that you get your security deposit back?

As discussed above, when you move out, your landlord will charge you for any damage to the apartment. However, your landlord cannot charge you for “normal wear and tear.” You should document the state of your apartment when you move in, as well as when you move out, in case you and your landlord disagree about the presence of any damage.

General rule: If you leave the apartment in the same condition as when you moved in, you should get your security deposit back (as long as you paid your rent, paid your utilities, etc.). See Colorado

To document the condition of your apartment, follow these steps:

  • Before you move in: Walk through the apartment with your landlord and point out any damage that you see. Make a list of any issues and have your landlord sign it. Take pictures of each room and the specific damage.
  • When you move out: Again, take pictures of the apartment. Keep these pictures in case your landlord does not return some or all of your deposit.

What if your landlord doesn’t return your security deposit?

If your landlord doesn’t return your deposit or give you a written statement of the itemized deductions within one month of the end of your lease (or within 60 days if the lease permits) then your landlord loses her right to keep any portion of your deposit. You should get the full amount of your deposit back. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(2).

If your landlord willfully and wrongfully kept your deposit, you may be able to sue your landlord for three times the amount of the deposit. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(3)(a).

To try to get your deposit back, follow these steps:

  • Send a letter to your landlord using certified mail demanding the deposit.
    • Here is a sample seven-day demand letter for when your landlord does not send you your deposit or a written statement listing itemized deductions.
    • Here is a sample letter disputing the charges for when you don’t agree with your landlord’s itemized deductions.
  • If you don’t hear from your landlord within seven days, consider pursuing the matter in Small Claims Court. See Colorado Legal Services for more information on filing a claim in court.

Can the Better Business Bureau Help Me?

Have you ever felt cheated by a company? It can happen to anyone. And although many companies focus on resolving customer problems, other companies ignore customer complaints. When this happens customers often feel helpless, thinking: “I’m just one person; how can I get the attention of this big corporation?”



Enter the Better Business Bureau (“BBB”). This non-profit organization, founded in 1912, tries to keep markets fair by increasing trust between buyers and sellers. To accomplish this, the BBB rates businesses on a scale of A+ to F. The BBB gives high ratings to companies which build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, promote transparency, honor promises, respond to customer complaints, protect privacy, and embody integrity. Though companies have no obligation to work with the BBB, many seek a rating from the the BBB in the hope of attracting new customers.

The BBB considers 16 factors when deciding how to grade each company, including the number of complaints lodged against a business. By tracking and resolving customer complaints, the BBB gives customers the power they need to challenge corporate practices. Though the company may not care about losing a few customers from its bad service, it could lose many customers if its BBB rating falls.


How the BBB can help:

The BBB provides three useful tools for consumers. First, consumers can use BBB ratings when deciding which companies to do business with. For example, a consumer who is searching for a contractor might type several names into the BBB’s website and choose the one with the highest rating. Consumers can generally assume that businesses with a high BBB rating will be honest, respond to complaints, and act with integrity. Further, a good rating from the BBB suggests that the company has not had many complaints lodged against it.

Second, the BBB gives consumers another avenue to resolve complaints. Consumers are almost powerless when a company refuses to respond to their complaint, but the BBB turns up the pressure on companies to respond to individual customers. The BBB can also provide mediation and arbitration services which can help resolve customer complaints, even when the company has been hard to deal with. The BBB reports that it helps parties settle almost 80% of the customer complaints it receives.

Finally, the BBB can keep companies accountable. A company who is accredited by the BBB might try harder to resolve your concern, knowing that your dissatisfaction could affect its rating. Say, for example, that a company with an A+ rating had a dispute with a customer. To protect this rating, the company might go the extra mile to resolve the concern. Otherwise, the company risks losing its strong BBB rating, and losing customers who rely on the rating before choosing a company.

These tools, when used properly, can help a consumer make an informed choice, and can give a consumer the power to give an informed complaint if he is wronged by the company.


Potential Problems:

Because the BBB is a private company, it needs to make money to stay viable. It doesn’t charge the consumers who use its service; instead, the BBB receives money from many of the businesses it rates. Several recent news stories report that that companies have increased their rating dramatically by paying a few hundred dollars to the BBB. In fact, the recently abandoned BBB rankings procedure actually considered whether a company paid dues to the BBB. Thus, a company might receive a lower rating just because it chose not to contribute money to the BBB. Further, those companies which were willing to pay the BBB may have inflated their prices to make up for the expense – thus harming consumers who selected BBB approved companies.

The BBB claims that it no longer gives better rankings to those companies which pay dues. But, because the BBB does not fully disclose how it calculates its ratings, consumers can’t be sure why a company is given its specific rating. And businesses who don’t pay dues to the BBB are not allowed to see or respond to customer complaints lodged with the BBB. Considering this lack of transparency, consumers should not believe that the BBB’s rating system is flawless.



The BBB is the most widely recognized name in business ratings. Still, a consumer shouldn’t use the BBB’s ratings as the final answer in corporate reviews. Instead, consumers should take the benefits of the BBB – searching a business’s history, considering a business’s rating, and (potentially) filing a grievance – and use them in harmony with other tools. Those who do this will become “informed consumers” who can stop problems before they start.

Several other ratings agencies exist, many of which are not funded by direct contributions from businesses. One popular website, Yelp, aggregates reviews submitted by consumers, thus reducing conflicts of interest and increasing transparency. But Yelp makes income from selling ads on its page, so a company can still get some preferential treatment if it pays for advertising on the site. Further, there it is unclear that all reviews are legitimate.  Google offers a similar tool to read business reviews, as does Kudzu, Angie’s List, and many more. Some of these systems are subscription based, which means that the user pays to access the content. Though this can be a small disadvantage for consumers, it can preserve the integrity of the ratings systems by preventing businesses from buying a favorable score. Still, each resource has its own pros and cons. Wise consumers will use these resources in concert when seeking business information.