For tenants in
Colorado, breaking a lease is only legally justified in certain circumstances, such as starting active military duty or being the victim of sexual assault—even in these situations, it pays to be familiar with Colorado’s Civil Codes regarding early termination of a rental agreement without incurring penalties.
If you've ever rented an apartment or townhome, you've probably signed a rental agreement requiring you to pay rent for a set period, usually a year. But life doesn't always follow your lease's rules and you may find yourself having to break it sooner than expected, which can result in a whole host of issues.
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When is breaking a lease legal in Colorado?
Generally speaking, Colorado state law doesn’t exactly make it all that easy to legally break a lease or guarantee a tenant’s right to early termination without severe penalties—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Colorado tenants may legally break their lease under the following circumstances:
- They are starting active military service. Under federal law, you may break your lease without repercussion if you are entering military service or are required to deploy. You will, however, need to notify your landlord via written notice—your tenancy will terminate 30 days after the next rent is due.
- They are the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. If you experience domestic abuse or are sexually assaulted in the rental unit, you may legally break your lease as long as you provide a copy of the police report.
- Their landlord fails to address a gas-related hazard. Should you inform your landlord of a gas-related issue and they do not move forward with the necessary repairs in the next 72 hours, your lease will become void and absolve you of any responsibilities.
- Their landlord violates their privacy rights or harasses them. If your landlord routinely enters the premises without permission or warning, turns off your utilities, or changes the locks, a court will usually absolve you of further rent obligations.
- The rental property violates Colorado’s health and safety codes. If your landlord does not comply with local and state housing codes, essentially making the property unlivable, a court will consider you “constructively evicted” and allow you to break your lease without penalty.
What are the penalties for breaking a lease in Colorado?
If you can prove that you're breaking your lease for one of the legal reasons listed above, you probably won't have to pay any additional fees before moving out. If you break your lease for any other reason, you could face continued rent responsibility, penalty fees, and even a small-claims court lawsuit—your landlord could even require you to stay until a new tenant is found.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all penalty or fee for breaking your lease in Colorado, but you may be required to pay the following:
- Another one to two months rent
- The amount of rent left on the lease
- Advertising fees and any other costs associated with finding a new tenant
Of course, depending on your reason for breaking the lease, paying an additional fee may not be much of a hurdle—but if you can’t afford to get wrapped up in a court case or pay another month’s rent, there are ways to avoid penalties entirely.
How to break a lease without a penalty in Colorado
If you want to break your lease without incurring a penalty in Colorado, the first step is to inform your landlord via written notice—the number of days notice depends on the nature of your rental agreement:
- A 1-week or less lease requires at least a one-day notice
- A 1-week to 1-month lease requires at least three days' notice
- A 1-to-6 month lease requires at least seven days notice
- A 6-to-12 month lease requires at least 28 days' notice
- A yearly lease with no end date requires at least 91 days' notice
- A fixed end date lease requires no written notice
Aside from sending your landlord a notice of early termination, there are a few other things you can do to potentially avoid getting hit with a penalty, including:
- Thoroughly reading through your lease. If you familiarize yourself with the details of your lease, it may offer insight into how to go about avoiding the worst penalties—your landlord may have even included the fees associated with early lease termination.
- Giving your landlord ample warning. If you really want to get on your landlord’s good side, give them more notice than is necessary that you’ll be ending your lease early—this gives them plenty of time to find a replacement tenant.
- Finding a replacement tenant yourself. You can also go the extra mile and find a new renter to replace you, without making your landlord do it—this will cut down on the potential losses your landlord may incur for lost rent or advertising fees.
- Negotiating with your landlord. At the end of the day, this is probably your best bet. Come to the negotiation prepared, explain your situation, and try to convince your landlord that your early departure is actually a benefit, one that allows them to charge a higher rent and set up a more competitive lease schedule.
How to save on car and renters insurance in Colorado
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Does breaking a lease affect your credit?
Not necessarily. If you are able to promptly pay any fees or other associated costs demanded by your landlord—such as cancellation fees or ongoing rent—your credit score should not be adversely affected by breaking your lease.
Can I break my lease due to Covid-19 in Colorado?
No, Covid-19 is not a legally justified reason to break your lease in Colorado. Despite its overwhelmingly negative impact on public health, personal finances and accessible housing, the pandemic is not considered a valid reason for the early termination of tenants.—You may, however, be able to talk to your landlord and come to an agreement if the situation is especially dire.