Sooner or later, every landlord encounters the tenant from hell. This type of tenant often causes problems beyond not paying the rent. While you’re probably tempted to remove the tenant from property and change the locks, that’s not legal. Evicting a tenant in Colorado requires a court order and careful adherence to the law.
Evicting a troublesome tenant may take some time and patience, but you can get it done. An attorney makes sure the process is done correctly.
Beyond non-payment of rent, Colorado law allows landlords to evict tenants based on several circumstances. These include:
- Tenant committing criminal acts on the premises, such as using illicit drugs.
- Staying in the unit after expiration of the lease.
- Creating a public nuisance affecting the health and welfare of fellow tenants or others in the vicinity.
- Using the premises for actions other than those permitted in the lease. These are breaches of lease provisions, such as operating a business out of a residential unit or other unauthorized purposes.
Colorado Eviction Process
The eviction process for tenants who aren’t paying rent or violating the lease is fairly straightforward. The landlord gives the tenant or attaches to the door a “Demand for Compliance or Right to Possession,” often referred to as the three-day notice. The notice may be given to anyone living in the unit over the age of 18, not the tenant per se. The tenant can “cure” the situation by paying the rent due or correcting the violation within three business days. The notice must include:
- Tenant name
- Property address
- Date served
- Grounds, or reason, for eviction
- Amount of rent owed
- Demand of cure for the issue, such as rent payment
- Landlord signature
If you do not receive payment or the violation has not been corrected within the three business day period, you can start formal eviction procedures by going to the county court and filing a “Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED)” action, along with a summons. Attach a copy of the lease and the three-day notice. You must pay a filing fee with the county clerk. The clerk then assigns a court date, generally within ten days of the filing.
It is your responsibility to ensure the tenant is properly served with the lawsuit. In Colorado, this is done either by hiring either a professional process server or the county sheriff’s office to serve the tenant. You may also post the complaint and summons on the tenant’s dwelling in a “conspicuous place,” such as the front door, and then mail copies of the claim to the tenant within five business days of the court date. However, posting and mailing the claim does limit the landlord’s ability to request anything more than a Writ of Restitution from the court, basically getting the tenant off the property with an eviction order. By opting for personal service, you may also request a judgment for rent due, property damage and other fees. Otherwise, you’ll have to pursue payment in small claims court.
The tenant has the right to contest the eviction by filing an “Answer” to the complaint. The clerk then sets a trial date, usually within five business days. If the tenant doesn’t appear in court, the landlord automatically wins the trial by default.
Obviously, certain substantial lease violations, such as those involving criminal activity, aren’t “curable.” However, you can’t just claim that your tenant is engaging in criminal conduct. You must have proof, such as police reports. Videos of criminal activity or witness statements can also help. The actual tenant does not have to engage in criminal conduct, but if a tenant’s guest is doing so and the tenant is aware of the illegal activity, that is a substantial lease violation.
If the court grants the eviction, the tenant must leave the premises within 48 hours. If the tenant is not gone by that time, do not take matters into your own hands. The county sheriff’s office will conduct the eviction and ensure the tenant’s personal property is removed from your rental unit.
Contact an Attorney
If you’re dealing with a problem tenant, you need the help of an experienced Colorado landlord/tenant attorney. Contact our office today and arrange a consultation.