If a landlord won’t make a major repair, a number of U.S. states allow tenants to fix the problem themselves and subtract the cost from their rent—a legal tactic known as “repair and deduct.”
Repair and deduct is legal in Colorado. However, state law is extremely specific about the process that must be followed: tenants are required to send two separate written notices and allow two waiting periods of up to four days each before making a repair.
Only certain issues qualify for repair and deduct
Not every single issue in a rental unit is eligible for repair and deduct. The problem must be a breach of Colorado’s implied warranty of habitability,1 which means whatever is broken somehow affects a tenant’s health or safety and makes the apartment unlivable. These are generally major issues, such as a lack of running water, a broken window, or a cockroach infestation.
If a tenant or their guests caused the issue, repair and deduct isn't allowed.2 The same is true if a pet caused the damage.
To repair and deduct, tenants must start by sending a written notice
If the tenant’s problem is a breach of the warranty, Colorado law lays out a very specific procedure they can use to ensure that the unit is fixed.3 First, a tenant has to inform their landlord of the issue in writing, either by mail or electronically. The tenant must also inform the landlord when they can have access to the rental unit to fix the issue.
Colorado law includes very specific timelines for repairs to be made
Once a tenant has informed their landlord of the issue, the landlord has between one and four days to make the repair, depending on the severity of the issue. A landlord has:
- 24 hours if the condition threatens the life, health or safety of the tenant
- 96 hours if it’s any other condition mentioned by the warranty of habitability
If the tenant is specifically complaining about dampness causing mold, the landlord has 96 hours to install a system that stops the source of water causing mold and an air filter system to reduce mold exposure.
Tenants must send their landlord a second notice before starting repairs
If the landlord doesn’t fix the issue within the time frame required by law, the tenant has to send a second notice. It should mention that the tenant plans to perform the repair themselves and will deduct the cost from their rent.2 This notice can be either electronic or written and must be sent at least 10 days before the tenant deducts the cost from the rent. The notice to the landlord must include:
- The date
- The name of the landlord or property manager
- The address of the rental property
- The condition that needs to be fixed
- The date that the tenant sent their first notice
- A copy of at least one good-faith estimate of repair costs*
*This estimate must be made by a professional who is a) unrelated to the tenant, b) trained to perform the necessary repair work, and c) appropriately licensed or certified by the state of Colorado.
Landlords have four days after receiving the second notice to reply
After the landlord receives the second notice, they have four business days to obtain their own estimate of the repair cost. If the landlord prefers to use their own professional (rather than the one who provided the estimate to the tenant), they must tell the tenant and begin the work necessary “as soon as reasonably possible.”
If the landlord doesn’t reply to the tenant within four business days, the tenant can go ahead and hire their own repair person and deduct the cost from the next rent payment. One important thing to note: a tenant is not allowed to perform any repairs themselves and receive reimbursement for those repairs. They must hire a professional who is not related to them.
There’s no cap on how much a tenant can spend on repairs
Colorado law doesn’t cap how much money can be deducted from the rent for repair costs. That said, repair and deduct is usually intended for smaller repairs—many states limit repair costs to about one month's rent.
Appliances can be replaced, rather than repaired
If the problem with the rental is a malfunctioning appliance, a tenant doesn’t necessarily have to get it fixed. They may purchase a replacement and deduct its costs (in accordance with the above rules), if the replacement is “at least of substantially comparable quality and has substantially the same features as the original appliance.”2
If a tenant withholds in bad faith, they could be evicted
If a tenant withholds rent in bad faith—basically, meaning they lied about the condition or how it was caused—the landlord may be able to evict the tenant from the apartment. So tenants need to always act with caution and in good faith.2
If the necessary repair is prohibitively expensive, there's another tactic tenants can use: withholding rent until the landlord finally makes repairs. Learn more about the options available to tenants in Colorado.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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