By H. Michael Steinberg – Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer
Introduction – Colorado’s Domestic Violence Housing Laws
Colorado Law, as well as many other states, provides protection for those individuals who claim to be victims of domestic violence and live in rental units. Under this law, a tenant who has been a victim of domestic violence may terminate their lease agreement before it expires providing a right for the alleged victim – (even in the absence of a conviction of the alleged perpetrator of the domestic violence) – to leave the rental unit without any further obligation to the landlord or the lease agreement.
Furthermore, under Colorado law, landlords cannot terminate the lease agreement of a tenant who is an alleged victim of domestic violence. If the landlord attempts to do so, the victim may file a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.
Put differently, these “special rental provisions” provide for termination of a rental lease, vacating the dwelling and avoiding liability for future rent (however one month’s rent must be paid after early termination). However, the landlord can require the tenant to provide proof before releasing the tenant from the lease.
In some situations, alleged domestic violence victims may not have to pay for harm caused to the property by the abuser
Federal Equivalent: The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) also provides certain protections for victims of domestic violence who live in federally subsidized housing. Under this law, the victim may request to be transferred to a different unit or complex within the same property. The victim may also be able to break their lease agreement without penalty or have a lock installed on their unit to prevent further abuse.
The Steps To Comply With Colorado’s Domestic Violence Housing Protection Law
A tenant may terminate the lease if the following events have occurred:
1. The tenant gives the landlord notice in writing.
2. The tenant gives the landlord a copy of a police report or legal protection order within 60 days of receiving one.
3. The tenant vacates the premise.
Additional Protections For Alleged Domestic Violence Victims
1. Colorado landlords cannot terminate a lease early or penalize tenants solely for calling the police due to domestic violence.
2. Colorado tenants cannot be compelled to forfeit the right to call the police or emergency assistance for help during their tenancy, for example through waiving their rights in their rental lease.
3. Colorado landlords must keep information related to these issues confidential, unless they are obligated to reveal that information by law or the victim consents to such disclosures.
Here Is The Colorado Primary Tenant Protection Law (As of August 2023)
§ 38-12-402. Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence
(1) A landlord shall not include in a residential rental agreement or lease agreement for housing a provision authorizing the landlord to terminate the agreement or to impose a penalty on a residential tenant for calls made by the residential tenant for peace officer assistance or other emergency assistance in response to a domestic violence or domestic abuse situation. A residential tenant may not waive the residential tenant’s right to call for police or other emergency assistance.
(2) (a) If a tenant to a residential rental agreement or lease agreement notifies the landlord in writing that he or she is the victim of domestic violence or domestic abuse and provides to the landlord evidence of domestic violence or domestic abuse in the form of a police report written within the prior sixty days or a valid protection order and the residential tenant seeks to vacate the premises due to fear of imminent danger for self or children because of the domestic violence or domestic abuse, then the residential tenant may terminate the residential rental agreement or lease agreement and vacate the premises without further obligation except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection (2).
(b) If a tenant to a residential rental agreement or lease agreement terminates the residential rental agreement or lease agreement and vacates the premises pursuant to paragraph (a) of this subsection (2), then the tenant shall be responsible for one month’s rent following vacation of the premises, which amount shall be due and payable to the landlord within ninety days after the tenant vacates the premises.
The landlord shall not be obligated to refund the security deposit to the tenant until such time as the tenant has paid the one month’s rent pursuant to this section. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 38-12-103, the landlord and the tenant to a residential rental agreement or lease agreement may use any amounts owed to the other to offset costs for the one month’s rent or the security deposit.
The provisions of this paragraph (b) shall apply only if the landlord has experienced and documented damages equal to at least one month’s rent as a result of the tenant’s early termination of the agreement.
(3) Nothing in this part 4 authorizes the termination of tenancy and eviction of a residential tenant solely because the residential tenant is the victim of domestic violence or domestic abuse.
§ 13-40-104(4). A Second Colorado Tenant Protection Law As of August 2023
(4 – a) It shall not constitute an unlawful detention of real property as described in paragraph (d.5), (e), or (e.5) of subsection (1) of this section if the tenant or lessee is the victim of domestic violence, as that term is defined in section 18-6-800.3, C.R.S., or of domestic abuse, as that term is defined in section 13-14-101 (2), which domestic violence or domestic abuse was the cause of or resulted in the alleged unlawful detention and which domestic violence or domestic abuse has been documented by the following:
(I) A police report; or
(II) A valid civil or emergency protection order.
(4 – b) A person is not guilty of an unlawful detention of real property pursuant to paragraph (a) of this subsection (4) if the alleged violation of the rental or lease agreement is a result of domestic violence or domestic abuse against the tenant or lessee.
(4 – c) A rental, lease, or other such agreement shall not contain a waiver by the tenant or lessee of the protections provided in this subsection
(4 – d) Nothing in this subsection (4) shall prevent the landlord from seeking judgment for possession against the tenant or lessee of the premises who perpetuated the violence or abuse that was the cause of or resulted in the alleged unlawful detention.
Sidebar – The Colorado Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program § 24-30-2104
The Colorado Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program provides another layer of protection for victims of domestic violence. The law allows the alleged victim to keep their address confidential and have a substitute address listed instead. This program requires that the Secretary of State provide a substitute address that government agencies must use. This substitute address is also used for the collection and dissemination of the alleged victim’s mail.
Summary and Conclusion – Colorado Domestic Violence – Housing Laws That Protect Alleged Victims
Domestic violence cases are often complex and contradictory. The perpetrator and the victim as not always clear. There are times when BOTH individuals involved will be charged.
Colorado’s tenant protection laws apply even if there are serious questions about the evidence in the case or the intentions and acts of the parties involved. It IS clear that domestic violence can and often does result in serious injuries, mental health trauma, and at times even death. The policy behind these laws is just and fair – a victim of domestic violence must have a safe place to live.
The problem is the police often come to the wrong conclusion – and then arrest and charge the wrong person sending the true victim into exactly the position the laws are intended to prevent – financial ruin and homelessness.
Colorado Criminal Law – Colorado Domestic Violence – Housing Laws That Protect Alleged Victims
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