In early 2019, Colorado passed its latest landlord-tenant law—House Bill 19-1106, also known as the Rental Application Fairness Act.1 The new statute adds regulations concerning rental application fees and tenant screening processes across the state. These laws apply to rental applications submitted on or after August 2, 2019. (And don't forget that federal tenant screening laws also apply!)
Application fees can't exceed a landlord's actual costs
A landlord cannot charge an application fee that is more than their actual processing costs (or an average expense incurred per prospective tenant). In addition, a landlord must charge the same amount to all prospective tenants who have applied to any of their rental units on offer at the same time.2
Landlords must disclose all of their costs
Landlords are required to provide applicants with a rundown of either:
- their anticipated screening expenses or
- an itemized list of their actual expenses
If they charge an average amount per tenant, then they have to include an explanation of how they arrived at that number. Landlords are also required to provide a receipt for any application fee received. It can be electronic—unless the tenant requests a paper receipt, in which case the landlord must provide them a physical copy.3
Landlords must refund any unused money
If the landlord doesn’t use the entire application fee for the screening process, they must refund the remaining amount to the tenant. The landlord must make a good faith effort to return it within 20 calendar days after processing the application.4
Seven-year limit on rental or credit history
When deciding whether or not to accept an applicant, landlords can only consider rental or credit history from the seven years immediately preceding the application date.5
Five-year limit on criminal history
They can only consider criminal history that occurred in the five years immediately preceding the application date. There are several exceptions: landlords may consider any criminal conviction record or deferred judgement, no matter the date, relating to:6
- the distribution, manufacture, or sale of methamphetamines; or illegal possession of the materials required to make meth
- any offense that required the tenant to register as a sex offender
- any offense that is classified as homicide
Landlord must provide written notice of rejection within 20 days
If a landlord denies an application, they must provide the prospective tenant a written notice of the rejection that includes the reasons for the rejection. The landlord must make a “good-faith” effort to do this within twenty days of denying the application.7
Landlords who break these laws can be taken to court
If a landlord violates any of the above requirements, they are liable to the prospective tenant for three times the amount of the rental application fee, plus court costs. However, a tenant who plans to take the landlord to court must first notify the landlord at least seven days before filing the action. If a landlord corrects the violation in seven days or less, then they are no longer liable.8
Applicants are protected from discrimination by Colorado fair housing laws
Prospective renters in Colorado are protected by state and federal fair housing laws, which make it illegal for landlords to treat people differently based on race, religion, gender, family status, disability, sexual orientation, and more. Certain Colorado cities, including Denver and Boulder, have even stronger anti-discrimination laws for tenants. If an applicant suspects they were rejected because of one of these characteristics, they can pursue a fair housing complaint.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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