Colorado Rent Control Laws in 2024

Colorado banned local rent control ordinances back in 1981 with the Rental Housing Act. This law prohibits cities and counties from enacting any policies that would limit how much landlords can raise rents on private residential and commercial property. The ban effectively gave landlords free rein to raise rents as high as the market can bear.

In recent years, Colorado's soaring housing costs have led to a resurgence of interest in rent control. With rents in cities like Denver rising faster than wages, many local governments want to be able to impose their own limits on rent increases. Advocates argue rent control is needed to protect lower income residents from being priced out of their neighborhoods.  

But overturning Colorado's statewide ban on rent control has proven challenging. Repeal attempts have failed to gain enough support in the state legislature, facing strong opposition from landlords, developers, and others in the real estate industry. The debate continues to play out at both the local and state level in Colorado.

Recent Failed Rent Control Bills

Colorado banned statewide rent control back in 1981, but some cities and housing advocates have tried to repeal this ban in recent years. 

In 2019, a bill was introduced in the Colorado legislature that would have allowed cities to enact their own rent control policies. However, this bill failed to pass. 

Most recently in 2024, another bill was proposed that would repeal the statewide ban on rent control and give local governments more authority. This bill also did not pass, despite support from progressive lawmakers and activists.

Governor Polis has opposed statewide rent control, arguing that it would reduce construction of new affordable housing. The real estate industry also lobbied heavily against rent control bills, swaying moderate Democrats.

While statewide rent control remains banned, the issue continues to be debated every legislative session. Housing advocates vow to keep pushing for repeal of the ban, while landlord groups continue blocking any rent control measures. The stalemate remains for now.

Gov Polis' Stance 

Governor Jared Polis has been vocal in his opposition to rent control legislation in Colorado. Despite calls from housing advocates and some legislators to repeal the state's ban on rent control, Polis has argued that rent control would discourage real estate development and restrict the supply of affordable housing over time. 

In 2021, Polis threatened to veto a bill that would have allowed cities like Denver to enact rent control policies. He argued that rent control provides only "false hope" by fixing prices without addressing the underlying lack of housing supply.

Polis believes that increasing density through zoning reform and faster permitting processes will do more to create reasonably priced housing over the long term. He wants to see policies that incentivize building more units at affordable price points to meet demand, rather than imposing price controls. 

The governor has warned about unintended consequences of rent control like landlords pulling units off the market or failing to maintain properties. He points to research showing rent control policies in some cities like San Francisco and New York City have paradoxically contributed to higher overall housing costs.

While sympathetic to the struggles of cost-burdened renters, Polis maintains that supply-focused solutions are the most effective way to make Colorado accessible for all income levels. His administration will likely continue pushing for more market-oriented reforms rather than state or local rent control measures.

Notice Required for Rent Increases

Before a landlord can raise the rent on a rental property in Colorado, they must provide tenants with proper written notice of the increase. This applies to all rental properties in the state, including apartments, houses, condos, and duplexes. 

Colorado law requires landlords to give tenants advanced written notice before implementing any rent increase. The required notice periods are:

  • For rent increases of less than 10%, landlords must provide 30 days notice. 
  • For rent increases of 10% or more, landlords must provide 60 days notice.

The written notice provided by the landlord must specify the exact dollar amount of the new rent and the specific date that the rent increase will go into effect. Verbal notices or notices without the required details are not considered valid notices of a rent increase in Colorado.

Providing proper written notice of rent increases is crucial for landlords in order to stay in compliance with Colorado law. If a landlord increases rent without proper notice, the tenant may have grounds to challenge the increase.

How Much Can Rent Increase in Colorado?

Unlike some states and cities, Colorado does not place a cap on how much landlords can raise rents, unless a cap is specifically stated in the individual rental lease agreement. This means that, in most cases, landlords can raise rents by any amount with proper written notice. 

There are no statewide laws that limit rent increases to a certain percentage. Landlords have the right to raise rents to market rates when a lease ends or with proper notice during a lease term, even if it is a dramatic increase. Some tenant advocacy groups have called for laws to limit "price gouging" rent hikes above 10%, but so far no such legislation has passed in Colorado.

While landlords legally can raise rents by any amount, typical rent increases in Colorado in recent years have been in the range of 5-7% annually. Most landlords try to keep rent increases reasonable to retain good tenants and avoid vacancies. But there is always the possibility of getting hit with a much higher rent increase when your lease is up, unless a cap is written into the individual rental agreement.

The lack of a rent control law in Colorado puts more power in the hands of landlords compared to places like California and New York City that limit rent hikes. The onus is on the renter to negotiate favorable lease terms upfront.

Without statewide protections, renters in Colorado should be aware that their rent can technically go up by any amount allowed by the free market and their particular lease terms. Understanding this reality is key to navigating Colorado's rental housing market successfully.

Exceptions to Rent Increases 

While there is no limit on the amount of rent increases in Colorado, there are some exceptions where landlords cannot raise the rent, unless stated explicitly in the lease.

The biggest exception is that rent cannot be increased during an active lease term, unless the lease specifically states the landlord can raise rent during the lease period. If the lease does not mention rent increases, then rent cannot be raised until the end of the lease term.

Landlords must wait until the lease expires before imposing a rent increase on tenants. Tenants with 1-year leases are protected from any rent hikes for the full year they are under lease.

For month-to-month rental agreements without a set lease term, landlords must still provide proper written notice before raising rent (30 days for increases under 10%, 60 days for increases of 10% or more).

So while there are no rent control laws limiting the amount of increases in Colorado, existing leases provide some protection against drastic rent hikes.

Required Notice Periods for Rent Increases

In Colorado, landlords must provide tenants with proper written notice before increasing rent on a rental unit. The required notice period depends on the percentage amount of the rent increase:

  • For rent increases of less than 10%, landlords must provide tenants with at least 30 days of advance written notice before the rent increase goes into effect. 
  • For rent increases of 10% or more, landlords must provide tenants with at least 60 days of advance written notice before the rent increase goes into effect.

The written notice provided by the landlord must specify the new increased rental amount and the exact date that the new rental amount will take effect. 

For example, if a landlord wants to increase rent from $1,000 to $1,050 per month (a 5% increase), they would need to provide written notice at least 30 days in advance of the new rental rate taking effect. If the landlord wants to increase rent from $1,000 to $1,100 per month (a 10% increase), they would need to provide written notice at least 60 days in advance.

Failure to provide proper advance written notice of a rent increase is a violation of Colorado law. If a landlord increases rent without appropriate notice, tenants may be able to challenge the increase.

Renters Rights in Colorado 

Renters in Colorado have a number of basic rights that landlords must uphold:

Right to Notice

  • Landlords must provide proper written notice before entering a rental unit. There are exceptions for emergencies.
  • Tenants must receive advance written notice of any rent increases, with 30 days notice for increases under 10% and 60 days for increases of 10% or more.
  • Tenants must be given proper notice to vacate or "cure" issues before a landlord can begin eviction proceedings.

Right to Habitable Housing

  • Landlords must provide housing that meets basic habitability standards, such as functioning plumbing and heating, adequate hot water, proper sanitation and maintenance, and compliance with housing codes.
  • If a rental unit is deemed uninhabitable, tenants have the right to request repairs or withhold a reasonable portion of rent until fixed.

Freedom from Discrimination

  • Landlords cannot refuse to rent, impose different terms, or evict tenants based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. 
  • Tenants who experience discrimination can file complaints with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.
  • Local laws in some cities also prohibit discrimination based on source of income, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

How Colorado Compares to Other States on Rent Control

Colorado has some of the most limited tenant protections and rent control laws in the country. While a handful of states like California, New York, and New Jersey have local rent control ordinances in some cities, Colorado prohibits any form of rent regulation at the local level. 

Most states allow landlords to raise rents without any cap on the amount. However, a few states like California and Oregon do limit how much landlords can increase rents year-over-year. Some cities in these states also have additional local rent control laws that limit rent hikes even further. For example, landlords in Los Angeles can only increase rents by a maximum of 3-8% depending on inflation.

In contrast, Colorado state law gives landlords free reign to raise rents by any amount with proper notice. The state legislature has consistently blocked efforts by cities like Denver to enact their own caps on rent increases. Housing advocates argue this contributes to rapid rent growth that puts tenants at risk of displacement and homelessness. They say Coloradans need more protections compared to states like California.

Landlords and developers say rent control negatively impacts housing supply by discouraging new construction. Gov. Polis has sided with this argument, stating Colorado's high population growth necessitates market-driven housing policies. Polis claims rent control would "take Colorado backwards."

So while the rent control debate rages on in Colorado, state law continues to favor landlord rights over tenant protections compared to many parts of the country. Coloradans have fewer options than renters in states like Oregon and California when it comes to policies that limit drastic rent increases.

Arguments For and Against Rent Control

Rent control is a controversial topic in Colorado and nationally. Advocates argue rent control is needed to protect renters and provide affordable housing. Critics say it stifles development and reduces housing supply.

Arguments For Rent Control

  • Prevents landlords from raising rents to unaffordable levels. With no caps on rent hikes, some landlords impose massive increases tenants can't afford like 15-30%.
  • Protects vulnerable renters from displacement and homelessness. Rent hikes force lower income residents to move further away from jobs, schools, and support systems. 
  • Maintains economic and cultural diversity in neighborhoods. Rent control allows teachers, service workers, artists, and others to remain in increasingly expensive areas.
  • Promotes tenant and community stability with less turnover. Rent control provides housing security so renters stay longer.

Arguments Against Rent Control  

  • Discourages new development and reduces housing supply. Developers have less incentive to build new units if rents are capped.
  • Decreases quality and maintenance of existing rentals. Landlords may defer maintenance if they can't recoup costs with higher rents.
  • Creates shortages where demand exceeds available units. Rent control can create long waitlists for a limited pool of affordable units.
  • Benefits current over future renters. Rent control helps incumbent tenants but excludes newcomers.
  • Can encourage landlords to convert units to non-rental housing. Condo conversions increase to avoid rent control.
  • Interferes with market forces and property rights. Rent control is an artificial government constraint, opponents argue.
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