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New Colorado Laws on Housing Discrimination and Rental Application Fairness

Posted May 23, 2024 in Landlord Tenant and Leasing, Real Estate

Colorado’s Rental Application Fairness Act and Anti-Discrimination in Leasing

What are the new/updated laws in Colorado regarding rental application fairness and leasing discrimination? As discussed in our summary blog here, landlord tenant law in Colorado has seen significant change since the pandemic era.

Below we have provided a summary of the new laws that every landlord, property manager, and tenant needs to know. If you are a landlord, owner, or property manager, read carefully, and do your own research, as these changes may impact how your leases need to be drafted. And, many changes include penalties for non-compliance.

Income Discrimination: 2023 Amendments to Rental Application Fairness Act with respect to income discrimination

Rights of tenant applicants who use housing subsidy:
  • Landlords may not consider (or ask about) income information from a prospective tenant who wants to pay rent through a housing subsidy beyond verifying the amount of income is at least 200 % of the cost of the rent. (2023 Colo. S.B. 184 as codified at C.R.S. 38-12-904(c)).
  • Landlords may not consider (or ask about) credit score/credit history information from a prospective tenant who wants to pay rent through a housing subsidy unless required by federal law. (2023 Colo. S.B. 184 as codified at C.R.S. 38-12-904(1)(c)).
Rights of tenant applicants not using housing subsidy:
  • Landlord may not consider (or ask about) prospective tenant’s income information except to determine whether the income is at least 200% of the cost or rent; however, landlords cannot require applicants to have an annual income that exceeds 200% of the cost of rent.
Exceptions to the rule:
  • Landlords may inquire into these topics when required by a government or non-profit programs for purposes of determining tenant eligibility for income-restricted rentals. (See C.R.S. 38-12-904(1)(e)).
What if Landlord unlawfully inquires into or considers income or credit history in violation of these laws?
  • Violations constitute unlawful discrimination based on a person’s income (See C.R.S. 38-12-904(1.8) and 24-34-502(1)(q)), which may be remedied by actual damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, restraining order, civil penalties up to $50,000, and attorney fees and costs. (See also C.R.S. 24-34-508).
  • Additional penalties of $50 per violation, up to $2,500 if violation not cured within 7 days, plus damages, court costs, and attorney fees, which may be assessed in addition to all the other penalty provisions within these statutes, including C.R.S. 38-12-905(1).
  • Tenant does not have to “exhaust administrative remedies” by first filing a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. (See C.R.S. 38-12-905(5)).
  • Violations of the Rental Application Fairness Act give tenants an affirmative defense in an eviction proceeding (See C.R.S. 13-40-113(2.5)).

Seven Year Rule and Criminal History

  • Enacted in 2019, this part of the Act remains the same (2019 Colo. HB. 1106)
    • Landlords cannot use rental/credit history past 7 years.
    • Landlords cannot use criminal history in considering applicants past 5 years, except in cases of convictions related to methamphetamines, sex offenses, and other enumerated felonies, such as homicide and stalking. C.R.S. 38-12-904(1).

Application Fees: 2023 Amendments to Rental Application Fairness Act with respect to application fees (2023 Colo. H.B. 1099).

  • The law already in place stated that Landlords may not charge different/varying application fees to prospective tenants.
    • The 2023 amendment includes that landlords may not charge application fees to applicants who provide their own “portable screening report.” (See C.R.S. 38-12-903).
    • Landlords are allowed to require such a “portable screening report” to meet a few stipulations, such as, that it is no more than 30 days old, among other things. (See C.R.S. 38-12-904(1.5)).
  • Landlords must advise tenants of certain rights prior to charging application fees, such as that they have the right to provide their own portable screening report and that landlords may not charge a fee for the tenant provided report. (See C.R.S. 38-12-904(1.5)). There are specific notice requirements for this advisement, including font requirements and written confirmation of notice.
  • Exemption from application fee guidelines: Landlords are exempt from the above if they meet certain requirements, such as not taking more than one application fee at a time and refunding the application fee within 20 days of declining to rent to the applicant.

Denial of Rental Applicants

  • Landlords must provide a written notice of denial to a rental applicant and provide a copy of the consumer report if one was received, along with certain disclaimers. (See C.R.S. 38-12-904(2)) (also note the 20-day notice requirement).

Violations of Rental Application Fairness Act

  • New rules allow a landlord to recover its costs and attorney fees for defending a purposeful, bad faith, meritless claim brought by a tenant under this Act.

Discrimination against those with disabilities

  • 2024 Colo. H.B. 1318 – It is an unfair and discriminatory housing practice to refuse to permit a disabled person to modify the premises in a way necessary to fully enjoy the premises. This amendment removes the carveout for landlords.
  • Landlords used to be able to require the tenant to restore the premises to its prior condition at their expense. This will no longer be so when this is signed into law. See C.R.S. 24-34-502.2. (passed by legislature, Not signed by governor yet as of the date of this writing)

CONTACT AN ATTORNEY IN COLORADO TODAY

For further information and advice regarding new landlord tenant laws or new anti-discrimination and rental application laws, reach out to Volpe Law today to request a consultation. We can be contacted through our online form, or you call us directly at (720) 441-3328. Our team of dedicated attorneys are here to listen and identify the best legal options for you.

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