When it comes to rental property, there’s a lot that you can do upfront to help ensure that you’ll be in for a smooth and relatively stress-free journey.
Important preventative measures include having an airtight screening process, clear communication, and ensuring that you’re protected by a rental agreement.
But sometimes, despite the best efforts of even the most scrupulous landlord or property manager, there will be situations where people fall through the cracks. Even the most carefully vetted tenant can go wrong, unexpectedly failing to pay the rent on time or violating the lease.
While seeking a peaceful resolution is always the best course of action, some situations can’t be resolved. In these cases, a landlord may have no choice but to evict a tenant.
Evictions, for the most part, tend to be relatively straightforward, but this process also contains specific steps that landlords are required to follow, by law. For landlords, it’s extremely important to ensure that you operate within the requirements of the law, and always follow the correct process to the letter.
In this guide –part-one in our series, we’re going to show you the first step in beginning an eviction that’s in compliance with the law. Let’s begin with a look at the 3-day notice, the notice that landlords are required to give before they can begin the eviction proceedings.
The Eviction Process
In Colorado, the only way that a landlord can evict a tenant from any type of rental property is by going through what’s known as a ‘Forced Entry and Detainer (FED).’ This involves taking legal action to obtain a court order requiring the tenant to vacate the property. To put it another way, an eviction is essentially a lawsuit filed in court by a landlord in order to remove a tenant from a rental property.
Before a landlord can begin the eviction proceedings, though, they must first serve the tenant with a 3-day Notice. This notice should state the landlord’s intention to evict the tenant, and inform the tenant that the must fix the lease violation or vacate the property within 3 days.
Note: For tenants who are on a month-to-month lease, a landlord can terminate the lease by giving the tenant written notice of the intent to terminate ten days before the last day of the rental month. If there’s a written lease that’s for a longer time period, the notification period should be changed to the longer time.
Reasons for Eviction
While landlords are within their rights to evict tenants from their property, this can only be done for a few select reasons.
A landlord may initiate an action to evict the tenant for the following reasons:
Tenant has failed to pay rent
If a tenant fails to pay the rent on time, then a landlord can move forward with eviction proceedings.
Tenant has violated a term of the lease
A landlord can also evict a tenant if they violate the lease agreement in some way. This is one reason why it’s vitally important for landlords to ensure that they have lease agreements, in writing, that their tenant is required to sign at the time of move-in. Without an agreement, it’s much more difficult to enforce the rules, and they may not hold up in court.
Some of the most common lease violations include:
- Keeping a pet in a ‘no pets’ rental: A ‘no pets’ policy means no pets –at all. Service animals and emotional support animals fall outside of this policy.
- Adding a roommate(s) without notifying the landlord: Rental agreements contain the name of every adult tenant who is residing at the premises. Subletting the rental or having a roommate without the landlord’s express permission is a violation of the lease.
- Violating HOA covenants in a community with an HOA
- Not keeping the utilities on: If a tenant is responsible for the utilities, and falls behind in the payments or otherwise has them shut off, this is considered a lease violation as well.
- Tenant has committed a substantial violation while in possession of the rental premises.
This could include:
- A violent or drug-related felony on or near the rental property
- An act on or near the rental property which substantially endangers a person or the landlord’s property .
- Tenant refuses to leave the rental after the end of the lease, which includes a month-to-month tenant staying on after the landlord has given required notice that the lease will not be renewed at the end of the month.
Taking the Law Into Their Own Hands
While many landlords may feel tempted to proceed with evictions their own way, taking drastic measures such as forcibly removing the tenant by changing the locks, it’s important to note that this type of action is never a good idea.
For landlords, failing to follow the eviction process as outlined in the law will only delay the eviction proceedings, and could harm your case should you end up before a judge.
Here’s a look at some of the actions that landlords should never take:
- Self-help by a landlord is illegal in Colorado. This includes locking a tenant out of the property. Locking a tenant out of their property, and you’ll run the risk of the tenant filing a lawsuit against you for damages.
- Any lease clause giving a landlord the rights to bodily evict a tenant or the tenant’s possessions, or to change the locks on a rental is unenforceable.
- Physical contact or intimidation on the part of either the landlord or tenant should be reported to the police.
- If a tenant is current with rent payments but is locked out of the rental unit, a tenant may regain possession of the rental premises by obtaining a court order through the eviction process.
The 3-Day Demand Notice
So let’s get down to it. Every eviction must begin with a written 3-day demand notice. It’s the law, and following this process will keep you in compliance.
Here’s how you can start a lawful eviction process.
Before filing an eviction action in court, the landlord must give the tenant notice of their intention to evict them by serving the tenant a ‘Demand for Compliance or Right to Possession’ notice, also known as a ‘3-day Notice.’
The 3-day Notice should state that the tenant must either fix (cure) the lease violation, or vacate the property within three days (not including the date of posting).
The 3-day Notice must be written but does not have to be a formal document. It should, however, contain the following:
- The address of the rental property
- Name(s) of the tenant(s)
- Date the 3-Day Notice is served on the tenant
- Explanation of why the landlord is evicting the tenant, also known as ‘the grounds’ for eviction. Grounds for eviction can include nonpayment of rent or a violation of a lease term, and the lease terms are being violated
- Amount of rent owed by the tenant, if the eviction is for nonpayment of rent
- A demand giving the tenant three days to “cure” the lease violation by either paying the past-due rent, fixing the lease violation, or moving out
- The landlord’s signature
Serving the Notice
Serving the 3-day Notice may be done through:
- A personal service that leaves the notice with a resident of the rental household who is over 18 years old.
- Or by posting it in a conspicuous place where the tenant will have to see it. For example, by tacking it onto the front door. Take a picture of the notice posted to the front door.
As soon as possible after serving the 3-day Notice, the landlord should also mail a copy to the tenant at their mailing address. Ideally, this should be done by certified or registered mail.
Before the landlord can initiate an eviction in court, the 3-day Notice must have been posted for three days, not including the day of posting. Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays do count for the three days, but if the third day falls on a Sunday, it’s a good idea to give the tenant through Monday to pay the rent or fix the violation.
Fixing the Problem
Once you’ve posted the notice, the tenant will have a short window of time to fix the violation. This means that if they’re late on the rent, then they should pay it within the three-day window and the eviction will be called off.
It’s important to note that some lease violations cannot be cured, and therefore if the tenant doesn’t vacate the rental by the end of three days, then they can be served an eviction notice. However, even if a tenant does vacate the property during this timeframe, they are still responsible for past-due rent and for rent through the lease term. A landlord or property manager may still follow through with the eviction proceedings and could obtain a judgement for the amount that’s owed.
The Second Notice: Notice to Quit for Repeat Violation
If the tenant does not cure the violation or surrender the property, the landlord can then send out the second notice. This one is known as a ‘Notice to Quit for Repeat Violation.’ This notice does not need to give the tenant a right to cure the violation.
For this reason, it’s important to be specific regarding which terms the tenant is violating. When posting a ‘Notice to Quit for Repeat Violation,’ it is a good idea to reference the first 3-day Notice just so there’s no confusion.
Following the Law
Finally, as a landlord, you should make sure your 3-day notice contains all of required information, and is served correctly. If the document is incomplete or served incorrectly, your tenant could show up at court to contest the case. In some cases, the judge may dismiss your case and you’ll have to start over. In some cases, you could also have to pay the tenant’s litigation cost and attorney fees.
As a landlord, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the eviction process. But your best course of action is to ensure that you proceed with the eviction in a way that’s in compliance with the law. If you’re uncertain about any steps in the process, or if you’d like to ensure that you get your 3-day notice right, you could always consult with an attorney just to play it safe.