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Putting landlords on notice: Proposed bill would strengthen tenant rights in Colorado

Senate Bill 24-094 would set time frames for landlords to make repairs.
Renters Rights Bill
Posted at 8:58 PM, Jan 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-29 22:58:00-05

DENVER — Denver7 Investigates receives many complaints about landlords taking rent money but not taking care of basic services. Now, lawmakers want to strengthen tenant protections.

At the Felix Apartments in southeast Denver, Zanib Adib washes her dishes in cold water.

"I really need hot water to wash my dishes," said Adib.

Adib said she has waited months for her property manager to do something to address the issue.

"I had to go to take showers somewhere else because I didn't have hot water. And all I get is like, 'Sorry!' What am I going to do with 'sorry?'" she said.

Eida Altman with the Denver Metro Tenants Union said the conditions at The Felix are the worst he has seen in 10 years of working in the industry, with residents reporting piles of trash, no heat and security concerns.

"And supposedly they're actively working on it. But the problem isn't solved yet. And then the tenants have no recourse," said Altman.

Colorado does have a Warranty of Habitability law that is supposed to guarantee tenants have fundamental rights to healthy, safe living conditions, including water and heat. But consumer advocates such as CED Law's Rebecca Cohn say Colorado's law has a major loophole.

"The landlord is not required to actually fix the problem. They're just required to take reasonable steps toward remedying the problem. And what this amounts to is that the problem doesn't actually have to be fixed," said Cohn, who helped draft Senate Bill 24-094.

SB 24-094 would simplify notification requirements and set timelines for landlords to make repairs.

"Instead of it being sufficient that they've taken reasonable efforts to begin a repair, we want the tenant to actually have heat restored or have the rat infestation removed from their home," said Cohn.

The bill would set a seven or 14-day deadline for landlords to repair certain issues after being notified. Landlords would be required to document all communication with tenants.

The 42-page bill would also require landlords to pay for hotel rooms in certain cases and allow tenants to withhold rent if repairs are not made.

While some provisions may end up on the cutting room floor, Cohn said there is support and momentum for the big ideas.

The bill also has strong opposition, including from the Colorado Apartment Association. In a statement, the association said the bill would create "steep penalties for housing providers that residents will find it more profitable to intentionally damage their units than take care of them."

"This bill would require rental housing providers to make repairs of maintenance issues that may not have been reported by residents, treats minor maintenance issues as if they were catastrophic, requires repairs within time frames that are not physically possible to comply with, and creates such steep penalties for housing providers that residents will find it more profitable to intentionally damage their units than take care of them. These added operational costs will cause fewer rental units to be built, more rental units to be taken off the market and rents to rise. Burdensome laws like this continue to make Colorado a more expensive place to live."

But renters like Adib argue that the current law is not working and affects the most vulnerable. An Afghani refugee, Adib is organizing a group of fellow refugees in her complex to try to get basic services.

"But I'm lucky. I'm moving out soon," she said. "And I'm really concerned about my neighbors, specifically those who cannot speak English. It's really, really terrible living here."

Denver7 reached out to The Felix and did not receive a response.

Putting landlords on notice: Proposed bill would strengthen tenant rights in Colorado