DENVER — For most renters, when something major breaks down, it’s expected the landlord will fix it.
But Denver7 found multiple instances where tenants were left dealing with significant maintenance issues and very little recourse. A state bill is heading to the Capitol to change that.
“There was mold in the closet. I couldn’t breathe that. With my lung disease I’d probably die of being in there,” Mary Martinez said.
She was renting an apartment in Aurora when a leaking pipe was followed by mold.
“Nobody came. Nobody came. I complained more than 50 times,” she said.
Without the money to break her lease or take her landlord to court, she simply dealt with the issue.
When local nonprofit 9to5 found many other tenants like Mary, they stepped in to do something.
“This really has to do with habitability issues that put people sometimes in a dangerous situation,” Andrea Chiriboga-Flor of 9to5 said.
House Bill 1397, known as “Landlord Tenant Warranty Of Habitability,” would change state law to give renters more rights when it comes to serious maintenance issues.
The bill would:
Add mold to the current list of things that make a unit uninhabitable.
Protect renters from retaliation (rent increases or eviction) if they complain about a problem.
Add stricter deadlines for landlords to fix issues.
Allow tenants to withhold part of their rent until a fix is made and other similar changes.
Most of these require written communication between renters and property owners.
“They just want to live in healthy and safe homes, and that’s what the bill is all about,” Chiriboga-Flor said.
But the Colorado Apartment Association, which represents 75 percent of metro-area landlords, says the bill would only increase liability on landlords, who would then be forced to pass down the costs to renters in the form of higher rents.
The CAA says the best piece of advice for renters is to document all problems they have and communicate with their landlords.
A paper trail is one of the best ways to resolve a dispute, according to a spokesperson.
There is a state helpline for renters as well: 1-844-926-6632.
The bill will be heard on Tuesday in front of a committee at the state Capitol.