Landlord Tenant Issues

Can I Get Out of a Lease Once I Sign It?
A lease is a contract between the landlord and the tenant and is in effect for the time period specified in the lease. If either party breaches (breaks) the lease, he is still liable for what he agreed to under the lease. For example, if the tenant moves out early, he is still liable for the rent for the remainder of the lease. However, the landlord has a duty to "mitigate" his damages by using reasonable efforts to rent to another tenant. If the tenant stops paying rent, the lease will often allow the landlord to terminate the lease and often allows him to keep any advance rents and/or security deposits.

If a tenant is having problems with their residence (unsanitary conditions, noisy neighbors, hazardous conditions, etc.), the tenant should document these problems in writing and send a copy of the documentation certified mail/return receipt requested to the landlord. If you eventually decide to break the lease, this documentation will be invaluable if the landlord brings a court case. The more evidence you have that you told the landlord about the problems and that the landlord failed to correct them, the stronger your argument will be for being allowed out of the lease. It may come down to your word against your landlord’s, and the better prepared you are, the easier it will be for you to get out of the lease.

What Happens if I Leave the Air Force or PCS before my Lease Ends?
You will be liable under the lease unless it contains a "military clause". This clause allows you to get out of your lease under certain conditions. Although landlords who frequently rent to military members often put this clause into their leases, you should discuss this issue with your landlord. If the clause is not right in the lease, you and the landlord can sign an addendum (sample attached to this handout). You may have to pay a "penalty" (i.e. one month's rent) in order to get out of the lease using this clause.

Here is an example of a "military clause." You should insist that this clause (or one similar to it) is included in your lease agreement:

It is expressly agreed that if the lessee herein should receive official orders relieving him/her from station in the Colorado Springs area, or retiring or relieving him/her from active duty in the military service, or assigning lessee public quarters, the lessee may terminate this lease upon written notice of his/her intention to do so. Termination shall become effective thirty (30) days after the date of the service of the notice upon the lessor and if the date of such termination shall fall between the days on which rent is due, the rent will be prorated accordingly.

Can I Get Out of the Lease I Signed before I Came on Active Duty?
The Servicemen's Civil Relief Act - (SCRA) allows-a-service-member or dependent to lawfully terminate a pre-active duty lease under certain circumstances. If your lease contains a clause charging damages for such a termination, you may have to pay this amount. The leased premises must be used for dwelling, professional, business, agricultural or similar purposes by the member or the member and his dependents. The lease must be entered into prior to entry into military service and the member must currently be in military service. The lease must be executed by or on behalf of the service member or dependent.

To terminate the lease, deliver written notice to the landlord (preferably by certified mail/return receipt or personal delivery) after your entry onto active duty or receipt of orders, requesting immediate termination of the lease.

The effective termination date depends on the type of lease and when you mail/deliver the notice. For month to month rentals, termination is effective 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due. For example, if rent is due on first of month and notice is mailed 1 Aug, the next rent is due 1 Sept and termination is effective 30 days later. For all other leases, termination is effective on the last day of the month AFTER the month in which notice is delivered.

If rent has been paid in advance, the landlord must refund the unearned portion. If a security deposit was required, it must be refunded upon termination.

Can I Stop an Eviction Action by my Landlord?
If you do not pay your rent, the landlord can bring a "forcible entry and detainee' action (eviction) against you in District

Court, after giving you three days notice in writing. The landlord can serve this lawsuit on you by posting a summons and complaint on the premises and mailing you a copy.

The SCRA has a provision to prevent eviction of a service member or dependents for nonpayment of rent without a court order. This protection is available to dependents in their own right. To be eligible for protection, the premises must be occupied as a dwelling by the member or by the dependents of a member and the rent must not exceed $1200 per month. To invoke this protection, the service member should ask the court to delay the eviction action for up to three months. The court is required to grant the stay if you request it and can prove that your ability to pay was materially affected by your military service.

What Are the Rules about Getting my Deposit Back?
When the lease ends or when the landlord and tenant mutually agree to end it early, the landlord has 30 days to return the security deposit in full. The lease can extend this time period but not beyond 60 days. No part of the security deposit can be retained to cover normal wear and tear. The landlord can keep the deposit for nonpayment of rent or utility charges, abandonment of the premises by the tenant, repair work or cleaning contracted for by the tenant.

If the landlord has a valid reason to keep part of the deposit, the landlord must give the tenant a detailed written statement fisting the exact reasons why the tenant is not getting a full refund. The balance of the deposit should be delivered with this statement. The landlord complies with this requirement-when he mails the statement and payment to the last known address of the tenant. If the landlord doesn't provide the statement within the required time, he forfeits his rights to retain any of the deposit and the tenant is entitled to receive the entire deposit.

If the landlord is just making up excuses to keep the deposit or is otherwise deliberately violating the statute, the tenant can sue him for three times the amount of deposit wrongfully withheld. The tenant is required to give the landlord seven days notice that he intends to file legal action. If the tenant is successful in his suit, he can also recover reasonable attorneys' fees and court costs. The deck is stacked in favor of the tenant in these cases. The landlord will have the burden of proving that his withholding of the deposit was justified.

Prospective tenants should examine their new residences thoroughly and include any problems or damage on the inspection sheet they give to their landlord. Take pictures of any problems that especially concern you so you have proof that you did not cause the damage. If the landlord is charging you a pet deposit, make sure you understand what part, if any, will be nonrefundable and why. You don't want to lose part of your regular deposit for pet damage if that's what the pet deposit is supposed to cover.

What Happens to my Deposit if my Landlord Changes in Mid-Lease?
Once the landlord no longer has an interest in the property (i.e. if he sells it, assigns his interest in it to someone else, dies, etc.), the landlord must either return the deposit to the tenant (minus any lawful deductions) or transfer it to the new owner of the property (minus any lawful deductions) after notifying the tenant of the transfer and the name/address of the new owner. Once the old landlord does this, he is relieved from any liability for the security deposit. The new landlord will then be subject to liability.

There's a Gas Leak at My Apartment. What Should I Do?
If gas service company personnel become aware of any hazardous condition involving gas equipment, Colorado law requires them to notify the customer of record at that address in writing of the hazard and to follow company procedure in dealing with the hazard. The notification should state the potential nature of the hazard (i.e. fire hazard, hazard to life, health, property or public welfare) and the possible cause of the hazard.

If the tenant is the customer notified of the hazard, he must immediately inform the landlord or his agent in writing. The landlord has 72 hours (excluding Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday) from his receipt of the notice to have it repaired by a professional. If these repairs are not made and the hazard remains, the tenant has the option of vacating the premises. Once the tenant vacates, the lease becomes null and void and all rights and future obligations under the lease terminate. The tenant can demand the immediate return of the security deposit. The landlord has until 72 hours after the tenant vacates to return all or part of the deposit (see above for requirements).
U.S. Air Force Academy, USAFA, CO 80840, (719) 333-1110 DSN: 333-1110, Updated: 19 Dec 14
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