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General Lease and Termination of Lease FAQ

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I got a job in another state. Does that automatically terminate the lease? When do I need to tell my landlord? Can I stop paying rent?

A lease is a legally binding contract. Nothing, including moving to another state, medical hardships, or even death, terminates the lease, unless the lease has a clause specifically stating that such an event will terminate the lease. Check your lease for conditions of early termination such as how and when the landlord is to be notified, future financial obligations or expectations around finding subtenants. A tenant who stops paying rent in violation of their lease may be sued in court or turned over to a collections agency. If terms are not specified in the lease, early termination may be negotiable with the landlord independently or through mediation. 

I just signed a lease yesterday and today I have found a place I like better. Do I have three days to change my mind?

No, as soon as you signed the lease you created a contractual agreement between you and the landlord. There is no grace period to back out of the lease.

If the landlord and the tenant do not have anything in writing, do we have any sort of lease? What if there was a lease but it expired and the tenant stayed in the property but a new lease was never signed?

When there is no written lease and has never been a written lease, the State of Colorado assumes a month-to-month tenancy. To terminate this type of month-to-month lease, either the tenant or the landlord must give the other 21 days written notice before the end of the current rental month. If an old lease has run out and a new one was never signed, the contract is automatically rolled over into a month to month lease. Most of the terms of the original lease still apply, including the amount of notice either the tenant or landlord must give to end the lease, (which may be longer than the default minimum required by law of 21 days), who is responsible for maintenance and repairs, and the date rent is due.

My landlord is selling the place I rent. Will this terminate the lease?

The lease is still a binding contract to the new owners unless stated otherwise in the lease. However, the owner (current or new) and the tenant may negotiate a different outcome that is mutually agreeable to both of them.

I just found out that my landlord doesn't have a rental license. Does this mean I can terminate the lease?

No. A lease is a binding contract between two or more entities. Lack of a rental license does not void a lease contract, unless the unit is an "illegal dwelling unit" and under no circumstances could be legally rented.

I think my apartment is uninhabitable and I am going to stop paying the rent until my landlord makes it livable. Can I do this?

A tenant experiencing extreme health and safety issues in their rental property that the landlord will not remedy and who will not allow the tenant to terminate the lease and move out should speak to an attorney about their options for ending the lease and vacating the property. Tenants may NOT expect to withhold rent or pay a reduced rent of their own choosing and continue living in the property indefinitely. If the landlord fails to make repairs that would make the premises habitable and will not release you from your lease contract, you may be able to vacate the property without penalty under the Warranty of Habitability Act or by a means called "constructive eviction." Again, a tenant should get legal guidance prior to exercising these remedies: both involve a specific timetable for requesting repairs and proper methods for notification of intent to leave the premises, among other critical requirements.

My landlord has asked me, six months before my lease is up, whether I want to re-lease for another year. Can they do this? What happens if I sign a lease in advance and something comes up and I can't stay or can't afford the rent? Is the lease still valid?

After the original lease term expires, landlords are under no obligation to re-lease to the tenant, nor is the tenant obligated to sign a new contract, unless otherwise specified in writing. However it is a practical matter for both parties to know the other's intentions in advance. Tenants may like to know if staying for another year is an option. Landlords are typically motivated to keep their rental properties filled. They CAN ask tenants, months in advance, if they plan to renew their lease and sometimes a deadline to renew is even written into the lease. Landlords should be reasonable in their demand for a commitment from the tenant. But once a lease contract is signed, it is binding, whether it is the original lease or a renewal. Be certain that you would like to stay in the property for the time and conditions outlined in the lease prior to signing any lease document. An understanding of the terms of the lease relating to early termination can help prevent problems when the future is uncertain.

My tenants are on a month-to-month lease. How much notice do they have to give me prior to moving out? Does it have to be in writing?

A month-to-month lease is a rental agreement for a one-month period which is renewed automatically each month for another month until properly terminated by either party. If someone previously had a lease which was not renewed, but the individual remained a renter with the landlord's consent then the lease is considered to have rolled over into a month-to-month lease. The terms for termination and other rights and obligations established in the expired written lease will usually still be applicable unless revised with the knowledge of all parties. Notice of intent to terminate should be given by mailing or hand-delivering a copy of the notice to the landlord.

Unless otherwise stated in writing, to properly terminate a month-to-month lease, written notice of intent to terminate must be given at least 21 days before the last day of the rental month which has already been paid--the day the notice is given does not count in the 21 day period. In a written lease for example, start from the day when the rent is due then count back 21 days.