Landlords typically require a security deposit to be placed on a rental so that any possible damages that occur are covered. In fact, many landlords refer to the security deposit as a “damage deposit”. It is recommended that tenants make a list of damages and tasks that they had to undertake upon moving in – in terms of cleaning. A copy should be provided to the landlord. If you do not provide a tenant with the full security deposit upon moving out within 30 days explaining why, that tenant may take legal action upon you. A security deposit may not be withheld due to normal wear and tear for a residential unit in the State of Colorado, but what IS “normal wear and tear”? Continue reading to find out.

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What is a Security Deposit?

While we have touched on what a security deposit is, in this section, we are going to provide more comprehensive details. Specifically, a security deposit is money that is paid to a landlord to cover any damages that occur to the property and/or any cleaning that is required. It may not be withheld for normal wear and tear.

If the property is as good as it was when a tenant moved in or better, the security deposit must be returned. All or part may be kept by a landlord if a tenant has been negligent, careless, or intentional in the abuse of the property. A landlord holds the burden of returning a security deposit. If the landlord does not return the deposit, they then have the burden of proving that they have a right to keep it.

How is “Normal Wear and Tear” Defined in Colorado State Law?

According to Colorado State Law, “normal wear and tear” is defined to mean any deterioration of the property based on the use of the rental as it is intended without the result of the tenant or members of his household, invitees, and/or guests being negligent, careless, or abusive. One example of normal wear and tear includes tracks being worn in the carpet from moving around the unit. An example of abnormal wear and tear includes the presence of stains on the carpeting in the rental unit.

How Much Can Colorado Landlords Charge a Tenant for Damages?

There is no specific limit in the State of Colorado on how much a landlord may charge a tenant for damages. Any amount that is charged must be reasonable and itemized within a receipt. In addition to a receipt, supporting documentation may be utilized to verify expenses incurred to cover the damages that a tenant is responsible for within a rental unit.

How Much Can a Landlord Keep from a Security Deposit?

The amount that a landlord may deduct from a security deposit varies. You are legally able to deduct for any property damage and any associated cleaning fees that are incurred after a tenant moves. If you find that you must withhold the entire amount of the security deposit, you must provide your tenant with a detailed list that outlines all of the charges, the price of all repairs, and any associated replacement costs.

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Are Holes from Nails and Screws Considered Normal Wear and Tear?

According to the outline provided by HUD, holes in the walls from nails are considered to be normal, in terms of wear and tear. If there is an excessive amount of nail or screw holes on the walls that result in damage to the paint, wallpaper on the wall, or the drywall itself, this is considered – legally – as “damage”.

What are Examples of Wear and Tear That is Considered Normal?

If you are like most landlords, it may be difficult to know what is considered normal in wear and tear. The following outlines specific types of damages that are classified as being normal:

  • Paint that is fading, cracking, and/or peeling
  • Plaster that shows small chips
  • Holes within reason caused by screws and/or nails
  • Carpet that is worn and/or faded
  • Enamel in bathtubs, on toilets, and on sinks that is worn or even scratched
  • Window shades that are faded or dirty
  • Lamp shades or covers that are faded, dusty or dirty

What Are Examples of Property Damage by Tenants

Now that you are familiar with some of the examples of normal wear and tear within a rental unit, you should learn a few examples of property damage or abnormal wear and tear within a rental unit. They are as follows:

  • Unusually large holes in the walls or within plaster
  • Wallpaper that is damaged
  • Doors that have been ripped from the hinges that hold them in place
  • Windows that are broken
  • Carpet stains, holes, and/or burns
  • Fixtures that are missing
  • Ripped up flooring in the unit
  • Mold and/or mildew development on grout

Tenant Screening Productive Means of Minimizing Property Damage

If you want to minimize the amount of damage that occurs at the hands of your tenants, you should have tenant screening performed. This process examines the financial, rental, and criminal history of your tenants. You will be able to see if the tenant has undergone previous eviction proceedings if they have behavior issues, if they have any judgments against them relating to money and/or possessions, if they have unlawful detainers, their credit history, and more. If you need assistance with tenant screening proceedings, we here at Pioneer Property Management are capable of assisting you.

Tenant Length of Stay

When determining if a tenant has intentionally damaged your property or if the damage stems from normal wear and tear, you should consider the amount of time that the tenant lived in your rental unit. The longer tenants live in a unit, the higher the costs will be when it comes to maintenance and repair.

The difference will be if the tenant was negligent or the tenant was simply living their life.

For example, standard wear and tear on the carpets in a unit are normal; however, the presence of mildew on the walls due to a leaky sink or not cleaning properly are considered to be negligent. For example, it is not wise to invest your time and money into small claims court over the fact that you had to have carpeting cleaned. On the other hand, if you had to have an entire wall replaced due to mold or mildew, your time and money would be well spent in pursuing that.

Documentation is Key

To protect your rental property, documentation is key. You must document the condition of the rental unit prior to tenants moving in. You should write down what is good and what is not. You should take pictures. You should make videos. You could even video a walkthrough with the tenant prior to them moving in and have them agree that they agree with you on their findings upon completing the walk-through.

The key to success starts and ends with documentation. The courts prefer to have as much evidence as possible – if needed – when determining if you withheld the security deposit lawfully. If you have pictures, videos, and lists, you are sure to find that the court rules in your favor as far as withholding the security deposit.

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How Long Do You Have to Charge Tenants for Damages in Colorado?

As a landlord, you have one month after the termination of a lease or the surrender and acceptance of the unit to return the security deposit to a tenant. Certain agreements may permit a landlord up to a period totaling 60 days. As a result of this, you typically have one month to charge tenants for damages in the State of Colorado. If you have documentation put into place for a 60-day period, you will have a total of 60 days to charge your tenant for damages.

Does a Landlord Have to Issue a Court-Ordered Eviction in Colorado?

Yes, every eviction within the State of Colorado has to be court-ordered. All of the evictions that occur within the state are 100% governed by the law of Colorado.

Can Renters Withhold Rent for Repairs?

As a landlord, you are responsible for providing housing that is considered to be habitable and safe for your tenants. If you fail to succeed in this endeavor, the tenant has a right to withhold rent. This may be done to compel the landlord to make the necessary repairs. If the rental unit fails in terms of the standards of health, structural safety, and general safety, the tenants may withhold rent money.

Need Help?

If you need help navigating landlord/tenant laws or would like to enjoy property management services that will ensure that your units are kept up and only the best tenants inhabit them, we here at Pioneer Property Management can assist you. You can – literally – put your rental business on autopilot by electing to have us manage your property or properties. If you would like to learn more or have an interest in our services, contact us now by calling: 720-839-7482

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