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Lesson 8: How should landlords respond to a renter taking action?

How landlords should NOT respond

Whether the renter is complaining about an issue or suing their landlord in court, it’s important that landlords do NOT retaliate. Landlords should stay calm and work with the renter to fix the issue as soon as possible. Examples of illegal retaliation include:
  • Increasing rent
  • Decreasing services (like water or heating)
  • Eviction or threatening to remove the renter
It’s important to remember that landlords can never remove a renter or their belongings without going through the proper court procedure first. Landlords must get a court order for an eviction carried out by law enforcement.

Responding to a complaint about an issue

If a landlord has received a written (email, letter, or text) request for repairs, they are required to:
  1. 1.
    Respond to the renter within 24 hours and include:
    • A plan for resolving the issue
    • An estimate of when the work will start
    • An estimate of when the work will be finished
  2. 2.
    Start fixing the issue within 96 hours (or 24 hours if it’s an emergency issue)
  3. 3.
    Finish fixing the issue quickly and without unnecessary delay
Landlords should also review the issue to make sure that the issue qualifies as a rental safety or "Warranty of Habitability" issue. While it’s important to keep rental units maintained, landlords may not be responsible for fixing all issues. If a landlord believes the issue is not a health or safety issue, they should still respond to the renter in writing within 24 hours.
​Review Lesson 4 to find out if the landlord is responsible for fixing the issue.

How to respond to a renter’s request

Landlords may have to provide renters another unit or hotel room, allow for a rent deduction, or permit the renters to end their lease early.

Request for another unit or hotel room

If the issue is an emergency that puts a renter’s life or health in danger (like a gas leak or other serious hazard) and the renter asks to be temporarily relocated to a similar unit or hotel room, the landlord must provide it. The landlord can choose the unit or hotel room, but it must be comparable to the renters’ current unit. The landlord is responsible for the cost of the other unit or hotel room, but renters are still responsible for paying their normal rent.
Emergency issues also change when the landlord is required to respond and fix the issue. After a landlord has received a written (email, letter, or text) notice about an emergency issue, there is a strict timeline they need to follow. The landlord must respond to the renter and start fixing the emergency issue within 24 hours.

Withholding rent for repair costs

Once a landlord receives the first letter from their renter about a rental safety issue, they are required to:
  1. 1.
    Respond to the renter within 24 hours and include:
    • A plan for resolving the issue
    • An estimate of when the work will start
    • An estimate of when the work will be finished
  2. 2.
    Start fixing the issue within 96 hours (or 24 hours if it’s an emergency issue)
  3. 3.
    Finish fixing the issue quickly and without unnecessary delay
If a landlord did not respond on time, renters need to send a second letter to their landlord, giving them one last opportunity to fix the issue. Before a renter can get the issue fixed without the landlord, they must notify the landlord of their plan by sending them a letter with an attached cost estimate by a professional. The renter must not be related to the professional.
Once a landlord receives this second letter from their renter, they are required to:
  • Get their own estimate from a professional within 4 business days (the landlord cannot be related to the professional)
  • Send a copy of the estimate to the renter
  • Tell the renter that the landlord will hire their own professional to fix the issue
  • Start fixing the issue as soon as possible
If the landlord does not get their own estimate or start fixing the issue, after 10 days the renter can:
  • Get the issue fixed by their choice of professional (the renter cannot be related to the professional)
  • Replace a broken appliance with an equivalent one instead of having it fixed
  • Deduct the cost of fixing the issue from their rental payments until it is paid off

Request to end lease early

Once a landlord receives the first letter from their renter about a breach in the Warranty of Habitability law, they are required to:
  1. 1.
    Respond to the renter within 24 hours and include:
    • A plan for resolving the issue
    • An estimate of when the work will start
    • An estimate of when the work will be finished
  2. 2.
    Start fixing the issue within 96 hours (or 24 hours if it’s an emergency issue)
  3. 3.
    Finish fixing the issue quickly and without unnecessary delay
If a landlord did not respond on time, renters need to send a second letter to their landlord, giving them one last opportunity to fix the issue themselves.
Once a landlord receives this second letter from their renter, they are required to start fixing the issue within 5 business days. If the landlord fixes the issue within 5 business days, the renter cannot end their lease early. If the landlord does not start fixing the issue within 5 business days, the renter can move out between 10 and 30 days after the second letter was sent and end their lease.

Repeat Issues

Sometimes when a landlord fixes an issue, it can be a temporary fix. The issue may come back and cause problems again. If the issue was fixed, and has come back within 6 months, renters may be able to end their lease and move out. Learn more about repeat issues in Lesson 9.
If you have questions about how this applies to your situation or if you need additional help, please contact the Colorado Poverty Law Project.