A tenant is someone who pays rent to live in a property (house, apartment, condominium, townhouse) that belongs to someone else.
A landlord is the owner of the property that the tenant lives in.
Sometimes, the owner of the property hires someone to oversee and manage their property for them.
A lease is a written agreement between you (the tenant) and the landlord, allowing you to live in the property in exchange for rent. For your protection, you should only enter into a written lease. The lease says what you are responsible for, and what the landlord is responsible for. Both you and the landlord sign the lease and you both must do what the lease says. Leases are often difficult to understand, even for native English speakers, so it is best to have someone you trust help you understand your lease, or contact an attorney to help you.
This is the amount of money you will pay the landlord each month. Rent is paid in advance, meaning that rent is due at the beginning of the month, usually on the first of the month, for that month. Make sure you know where and how to pay the rent — online? By check? Cash? If you pay your rent in cash, always get a receipt as proof of your payment.
This is the time period you and the landlord agree that you can live in the property, and you will pay rent. Most of the time the term is for one year, but it can be less or more if both you and the landlord agree. When this term is over, you and the landlord can sign a new lease—if you both agree—and start all over. Or, you can leave the property.
Mainly, the landlord is responsible for making sure the property is fit to live in and basic things work. Most repairs are usually the landlord’s responsibility, especially larger things like the furnace, hot water heater, air conditioner, stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, etc. Make sure the lease has either the landlord’s or property manager’s contact information—telephone number, email address, etc.—and how to contact the landlord or property manager in an emergency.
You are required to 1) pay rent and 2) keep the property in good condition. Any other responsibilities will be listed in the lease. Sometimes the tenant is responsible for minor repairs and the landlord is responsible for major repairs. Make sure you know what repairs you are responsible for before you sign the lease. The tenant is also responsible to pay for any damages that they, or any of their guests, cause.
This is money that you give the landlord to hold in case you fail to pay rent or if you damage the property. The security deposit is your money. If you do everything that the lease says you are required to do (in most cases, stay for the full term of the lease, pay your rent, and don’t damage the property) then you should get your security deposit back at the end of the lease. This must happen within 30 days after the lease has ended, or 60 days if that’s what the lease says, but it can never be more than 60 days after the lease has ended. The landlord must provide you a written statement that shows any deductions from the security deposit, and why it was deducted. Along with this statement, the landlord must give you any money that is due to you. If you do not agree with the part of your security deposit that was kept by the landlord, you can go to small claims court and have a judge decide. You can get more information about small claims court from the county in which you live. Also, see the resources listed below for more help.
Most of the time you will be required to pay the 1st month’s rent plus a security deposit, which is usually equal to one month’s rent. Sometimes it can be more. Also, if you are moving in the middle of a month, you may be required to pay rent for the part of the month you will be living in the property. For example, let’s say the rent is $1,500 per month and you are moving in on the 1st of the month. You will pay the 1st month’s rent, $1,500, plus the security deposit, $1,500, for a total of $3,000. But if you move in on the 20th of the month, you will probably have to pay $500 for the 10 days of the current month (1/3 of a month), plus the $3,000 described above.
Rent may not be all that you have to pay. Usually, most utilities—electricity, natural gas, water, internet, cable TV—are paid by you. Everything that you are responsible to pay for will be listed in the lease. Sometimes, some utilities are included in the rent, but most of the time they are not, and you are required to pay them. Make sure you understand everything that you are required to pay for before you sign the lease.
Many items in the lease are negotiable and can be changed if you and the landlord both agree. The two most common things that people try to negotiate are the term and the rent. Let’s say the landlord wants a tenant for one year, but you only want to stay for six months. The term will be decided by what you both agree to. Same with the rent. Remember, both you and the landlord must agree.
Try to communicate with your landlord in writing when possible (email, etc.) Of course, you can call, but try to follow that with an email to confirm what was said. If it is an important matter, you should send a letter by certified mail. In an emergency, call the emergency number that should be in your lease. If that number is not in your lease, ask for it before you move in.
You can file a complaint against a property manager with the Division of Real Estate.
Your landlord or property manager may want to visit the property from time to time to check on its condition, but the landlord or property manager cannot just come over whenever they want (an exception is if there is an emergency). They must give you reasonable notice or get your permission, and it must be at a reasonable time. Check your lease agreement concerning this notice and the landlord’s right to enter the property. Once you rent the property from the landlord, it is your home for the term of the lease, and you have a right to privacy.
Yes, only if your rent payment is late by 7 or more days and the late fee is stated in your lease. You must receive notice of the late fee within 180 days of the date on which your rent payment was due. Late fees charged by landlords and property managers are limited to the greater of $50 or 5% of the past due rent payment.
An eviction is a legal process that a landlord must go through to remove you from the property. This process is typically used when a tenant violates one or more lease terms, for example, failing to pay rent, not leaving the property after the lease term ends, allowing people who aren’t on the lease to stay in the property, or conducting illegal activity on the property. For information on your rights if you are being evicted, see the resources below.
The Division of Housing can determine if you are eligible for rental assistance.
Colorado Housing Connects provides resources on assistance with food, heating, and energy bills.
The below organizations can provide resources on legal matters, evictions, rental assistance, affordable housing, and tenant rights.
- Colorado Legal Services
- Metro Volunteer Lawyers
- Colorado Bar Association
- The Department of Local Affairs
- Colorado Housing Connects
Recent Legislative Bills