You have signed a Colorado residential lease agreement and everything looks great. However, it’s not uncommon for accidents to happen.
What will happen to your lease if life throws you an unexpected event? If you experience a job loss, job transfer, death, or home purchase opportunity, can you break your lease?
You expected to stay for the entire term of the residential lease agreement. What are your rights, obligations and options to account for the unexpected?
Pull out your lease. First, determine what your financial responsibility is under the terms of the residential lease agreement. Your landlord will more than likely want you to stay for the rest of the lease. Depending on the lease you signed, you are likely responsible for the rest of the lease. But, the actual answer may be more of…….it depends on how you work to resolve the situation.
What do you do now?
Consider these issues below before proceeding to break your lease.
Your lease is binding legal document
The Colorado landlord-tenant laws protect you against unjustified actions of landlords. For example, kicking you out early for no cause. The law also protects landlords from tenants who decide they want to leave early.
When you sign a lease, you are usually committing to pay rent for the entire lease term, at a fixed amount per week or month.
This means that if you sign a twelve-month lease and your rent is $1,500 a month, you are agreeing to pay a total of $18,000 over the term. So, if you are thrown the unexpected event after two months then do you still owe $15,000?
Unless you encounter some of the circumstances below or negotiate an early out, then you probably are. What are the circumstances to consider?
1. Has your rental unit become uninhabitable?
The landlord must provide you with a safe and habitable place to live. It cannot have a leaky roof. It must have heat, hot water, doors, and windows that lock, safe stairs, working electrical systems, and be pest-free.
If after you occupy the premises and it becomes unsafe and unlivable and the landlord is not responsive to correcting the problems, you may be able to break the lease under the landlord tenant law of Colorad.
2. Have you been called up for military duty?
Under Federal law, if you are called up for military duty, you are allowed to break the lease to start active military duty, or if your orders take you farther away than approx 50 miles. This federal protection applies to people in the armed forces, the activated National Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Public Health Service.
You need to give a 30-day notice if you are leaving for military reasons before the end of your lease term. You may read about the details of this in the Guide to Renter’s Rights Under the Service Members Civil Relief Act.
3. Has your landlord become intrusive?
Once you have given the landlord money, the landlord gives up the right to enter your property at any time. Although there are times the landlord can come in, such as in an emergency or they have given you a written notice to conduct an inspection or make a repair, they cannot just come in any other time. You have a right to privacy under the landlord tenant laws of Colorado.
However, under the Colorado landlord tenant law, you still have to give the landlord a notice of their action. It is called a “notice to remedy or quit.” You must simply state what the privacy violation is and give the notice to terminate in a specified number of days.
4. Have you already moved out?
In Colorado, landlords cannot hold you to the terms of the lease while the unit is vacant, even though you may have breached the lease. The landlord must try to find a new tenant.
However, if you broke your lease without cause, a legal proceeding may find you liable for the outstanding rent and possibly damages.
Or is it?
Under Colorado law, the landlord may move to rent out the unit and still collect rent from you….
5. What can you do to help if you don’t have a clear legal reason to break your lease?
Two possible considerations are:
- Meet with the landlord and explain the situation. See if they will consider a negotiated “early termination fee.” This may include the security deposit they already hold.
- Work with the landlord to find an appropriate replacement tenant
In the end, you may be able to break the lease, however, you are subject to the terms of your lease and the specific provisions provided for under the laws of Colorado covering landlord tenant relations.
Find out how tenants can legally break their lease in Colorado.