Sooner or later, every landlord has a problem tenant. It’s just part of being in the property-leasing business, and while it may be more common in residential leasing than in commercial leasing, it happens in both.
The question is,how do you handle the problem to get the result you want? Make no mistake, there are only two results that generally come out of these situations. Either the tenant complies, or the tenant leaves.
Unfortunately, when presented with the the second situation a landlord must act with careful consideration under the Colorado landlord tenant law. The reason is straightforward—the tenant usually doesn’t leave voluntarily.
That is the reason it is VERY important to handle problems with tenants properly, starting from the very first indication there is a problem. The fact is, no one likes eviction; not the landlord, not the tenant. But they happen.
Sometimes eviction is the only solution to the problem. And evictions require the intervention of the courts. NEVER, EVER, evict any tenant without an Order from the court!
Landlords are finding that just going to court is not enough anymore. More and more often, tenants are fighting the eviction. A savvy tenant will request a hearing on the eviction. Then, at the eviction hearing the tenant will assert various defenses hoping that the court will find in their favor.
That’s what this blog post is for. To help landlords avoid problems with Colorado eviction laws.
Tenant problems are business problems
In some cases, tenant problems are very straightforward. Failure to pay rent, causing damage to the property, conducting activities in violation of an ordinance or statute, or even something else that is apparent and in violation of the lease.
Once in a while, what seems obvious to the landlord isn’t so obvious to the tenant. For example, you haven’t received the monthly rent payment. Checks do get lost, either in the mail, or dropped with someone in your office and then not credited, or whatever. However, the tenant might not know you didn’t receive the payment. It happens! Don’t wait–contact the tenant and determine if it is simply an oversight or mistake, or instead, maybe there is a bigger problem looming!
Likewise, there may be something else that is unacceptable to you, as the landlord, but which your tenant is oblivious to. Maybe the grass isn’t being mowed. Or maybe an unusual smell is emanating from one office suite, which bothers the tenants of other suites. The point is, your tenant might simply be unaware of the problem.
The first thing you, as landlord MUST do, is make sure that whatever condition you find unacceptable and want corrected, under Colorado real estate law, is addressed in the lease. Maybe it isn’t directly addressed, but a good lease will have some “Catch all” phrases about “other conditions” that impact the marketability of the property.
A Word about Having a Word with your Tenant
The second thing is often to have a word with the tenant, either in person, by phone, or even mail or email. Bringing something up as soon as you become aware of it is always advisable, and often that’s all it takes. Simply contacting the tenant and respectfully letting him/her know that some condition is in violation of the lease may get the problem solved, or at the least, it may allow you to come to some agreement with the tenant that meets both of your needs.
It is generally the least time-consuming and relationship-straining path to a solution. It costs nothing, and if an agreement is reached, you don’t have to go to the trouble of finding a new tenant.
It might surprise you how often a simple conversation will work and avoid the Colorado eviction process. I know of many cases where an honest discussion was enough to resolve the problem. Simply making one party aware of a problem is usually enough to get that problem solved and avoid using the provisions of our Colorado landlord tenant laws.
Document, Document, Document
Of course, there will be times when you won’t get that kind of cooperation. There will be times when the tenant refuses to cooperate, or won’t make any effort to comply, or feels they are within their rights to continue doing whatever they are doing.
At this point, it is usually wise to begin documenting what the problem is. At the least, collect the complaints you have had from other tenants. Other problems might be photographed, or documented and verified in some other way.
At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to have more than one person able to say, “Yes, I saw this (or heard this, or smelled this, whatever) myself, and it was that (dog, person, yard, whatever) at that property.”
The Demand for Compliance (JDF 101)
If the tenant will not address the problem, it’s time for a “Demand for Compliance.” This is a statutory Notice that is given to the offending tenant, known as form “JDF 101.” The Demand itemizes the problem(s), and sets forth that the problem(s) violate the lease–and that the offending tenant has three days to comply. The Demand must very clear about exactly what the tenant must do (or stop doing) to rectify the problem.
It is dated, and it sets a date for compliance, and is either given directly to the tenant, or is posted on the property in a conspicuous place. While a Demand for Compliance doesn’t have to be sent by mail, or signed for by the tenant, to preclude any claim that the Demand/Notice wasn’t given, or that the tenant didn’t “get it”, you should also send a copy of the Demand for Compliance to the tenant by Certified U.S. Mail, no return receipt required.
It is important to understand that this form doesn’t guarantee that an eviction will take place, and doesn’t obligate you to evict even if the tenant doesn’t comply, but the Demand for Compliance must be presented to the offending tenant before an eviction can proceed. Even the most ordinary infractions will require that a Demand for Compliance be served upon the tenant.
Doing it Right the First Time
In the end, evictions are costly and time-consuming. It is always best if they can be avoided. That’s what this blog is really about: Doing the steps properly, avoiding as many problems as possible, documenting the problem, and getting the job done right the first time. It is also important to know the timelines under the eviction proces in Colorado.
For more detailed answers to your questions, please contact me, a Denver real estate attorney, through this page, or through the form below. I look foward to discussing how I can help you.