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A lease (sometimes called a rental agreement) is a contract between a tenant and a landlord that gives the tenant the right to live in a house or apartment that the landlord owns in exchange for the payment of rent. A lease is a legally binding contract, which means that it can be enforced by the courts.
A lease is the best evidence of the specific rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. The lease tells both parties what they can count on receiving and what they are expected to do.
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No. Oral leases for one year or less are as binding and enforceable as written leases, but oral agreements are much more difficult to prove. A lease for longer than one year must be in writing to be enforced by the courts. Regardless of how long the lease is, to avoid hassle and problems, get it in writing.
At a minimum, a good lease should address:
Be sure to talk about concerns before they become problems.
Colorado law provides that every lease contains an implied term that the tenant shall not commit a "substantial violation" while in possession of the premises. A substantial violation means any act which occurs on or near the premises and endangers the person or willfully and substantially endangers the property of the landlord, any co-tenant or any person living on or near the premises, or occurs on or near the premises and constitutes a violent or drug related felony. The commission of a substantial violation is a breach of the lease and subjects the tenant to eviction.
If there is something in the lease that you do not understand or agree with, do not sign it. Talk it over with the other person. Do not sign the lease until both of you understand it and can comply with everything in it. Once you sign the lease, you are bound to it, and a court will probably enforce it. If any part of the written agreement is changed by crossing out or writing in the change, both of you should initial the change. Be sure that all blanks on a pre-printed lease form are filled in or marked through before you sign.
A landlord has no legal obligation to give tenants a copy of the lease. A tenant should insist on signing two copies of the lease so that each party can have a fully executed document. Each of you should keep a signed copy of the lease, at least until the tenant has moved out and a mutual agreement has been reached about the return of the security deposit.
The landlord cannot terminate a lease and evict a tenant simply because the landlord wants to sell the building (unless the lease expressly gives the landlord this right). When a new owner purchases a building, the new owner also purchases all of the obligations of the previous owner, including the obligation to honor the existing leases. The new owner may not increase rent or change the house rules until the existing written leases expire. A tenant should continue to pay rent to the previous landlord in the same way as before, until receipt of a written notice signed by the previous landlord telling the tenant to begin paying rent to someone else.
Whoever signs the lease as a tenant is responsible for all of the rent (unless the lease provides otherwise). This means that if three people decide to rent an apartment together, but only one of them signs the lease, then only that one person is responsible to the landlord for all of the rent. Likewise, if all three sign the lease, then each one is responsible for all of the rent. The landlord, of course, cannot collect the same rent more than once, but the landlord is not limited to looking to each roommate for only one-third of the rent.
A roommate who is stuck paying the entire rent may sue any non-paying roommates for their share. It is important to understand that the disagreement is between the roommates, not with the landlord. If a roommate moves out, s/he should ask the landlord to remove his/her name from the lease and get any roommate's name added. Remember, when one roommate moves and others stay, the absent roommate is not relieved from potential liability for all of the rent, if s/he signed the lease, unless the landlord agrees.
When the tenant stays in the unit beyond the end of the term provided in the written lease, the landlord may choose to treat the tenant as either a trespasser or a continuing tenant. The landlord elects to treat tenant as a trespasser by beginning eviction proceedings. The landlord may treat tenant as a continuing tenant rather than a trespasser by continuing to accept rent. The tenant then is considered a "holdover" tenant and may remain in the unit, subject to the provisions in the original lease which control the holdover tenancy. The new term is for the same length of time as the original term.
For example, the tenant has a one year lease but continues to live in the unit after the end if the one year, pays the rent, and the landlord accepts the rent, then the tenant and the landlord may have effectively agreed to renew the lease for another one-year period. This is the result if the lease does not state what happens when the tenant remains after the end of the term. Some leases contain a provision dealing with the issue in another way. Rather than a renewal of the full term of the lease, a lease might provide that the tenant can stay on a month-to month basis after the one-year term expires.
A holdover tenant must pay the rent specified in the original lease unless the landlord notified the tenant of a rent increase before the lease expired. By holding over after notification, the tenant is deemed to have agreed to the rental increase.
Tenants have challenged some clauses in leases which courts have judged to be unenforceable. Some of these clauses can be found in leases which are commonly used in Colorado and are available from stationery stores. Here are a few examples:
A landlord may refuse to rent to a prospective tenant because of dissatisfaction with the tenant's credit history or financial situation, or for no reason at all. In Colorado a landlord may not refuse to rent because of the tenant's:
Examples of housing discrimination include denying an interested person the opportunity to see, rent or buy an apartment or home, yet making it available to others and denying a minority or disabled tenant the same privileges as other tenants for such things as a parking spaces, needed repairs and services or the use of the apartment pool, dining room or clubhouse.
There are some exceptions to the general law prohibiting discrimination against members of protected classes. For example, discrimination in the rental of a room in a single family home occupied by the owner is acceptable. Preference may be given by a religious organization to persons of the same religious denomination. Preference may be given by a private club to its own members if the lodgings are incidental to the club's main purpose and the lodging is not owned or operated for a commercial purpose. Also exempt is discrimination against a person who has been convicted of the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance.
Discrimination in order to comply with zoning laws concerning marital status is also acceptable. The owner of a single family home is exempt from anti-discrimination laws in the rental of the single family home, provided that the owner does not own or have an interest in more than three single family homes, that the home is rented without the use of a estate agent or other person in the business of selling or renting property, and no illegal advertising is used.