Colorado Springs, CO asked in Landlord - Tenant for Colorado

Q: On November 29th My oven control panel shorted out! No replacement yet. Can I deduct my meals while I wait?

May I buy an oven and deduct it's price from my rent. This is not the first time I have asked for help from my landlord. Other issues have taken weeks and I have one issue that has not been addressed since October.

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1 Lawyer Answer

Ashley Dean Powell

Answered
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: Short answer: A landlord probably has no legal obligation to provide you with a cooking oven/stove or fix a broken one unless that obligation is specifically created in the lease. If it is in the lease that your landlord will maintain all appliances (or oven specifically) in working order, then your remedies for landlord's failure to meet that duty are probably also outlined in your lease.

Long answer (especially for the other issues you mention in passing without details): In terms of both timing and importance, the first question should probably be, “Is landlord’s failure to fix (repair, maintain) ‘X’ harming the tenant’s health or safety?” If the failure to maintain the premises (the place you rent; where you live) is hurting your health or safety, then landlord’s failure may create a breach of her warranty of habitability. Not all maintenance issues are also warranty of habitability issues. Sometimes, the “broken” thing does not actually threaten your health or safety. For example, tenants frequently ask about a landlord’s obligation to fix a broken appliance. While it’s disappointing to have these items break, and while they cause an inconvenience for a tenant, many items such as this can break without causing a health or safety issues.

When this is the case, a tenant must usually rely exclusively on the terms of the lease agreement rather than Colorado law. Landlords and tenants are generally free to negotiate who will be responsible for various appliances or portions of the rented house/apartment. As a tenant, you should review your lease closely to determine whether landlord has an obligation to maintain and repair any or all of the appliances that are already in the premises (or are you responsible for such repairs under the lease?).

Under Colorado Revised Statute Section 38-12-503, every residential lease includes a warranty of habitability. Section 38-12-505 includes an elaborate list of the types of items that might violate landlord’s warranty of habitability if they are not properly maintained by landlord. For example, if your house or apartment does not adequately protect you from the weather outside (it isn’t waterproof, it isn’t windproof), landlord may be in breach of this warranty. Likewise, if you don’t have adequate plumbing, natural gas, running water (including hot water), heat, or electricity, these may be indications of a house that is uninhabitable. Something to keep in mind is that the particular item that landlord has failed to maintain (even if it is on the specific list in Section 38-12-505) must ALSO create “a condition that is materially dangerous or hazardous to the tenant’s life, health, or safety.”

If you are a tenant and you believe that a situation exists at your rented property that violates the warranty of habitability by presenting a danger to your health or safety, then the statute (Section 38-12-503(2)(c)) requires you to provide your landlord with a written notice of that condition. Following the written notice, your landlord has a “reasonable time” to cure the problem. After you have provided your landlord with the written notice required by Colorado law and your landlord fails to fix the problem in what you believe is a reasonable time, then you should review Section 38-12-507 for your potential remedies as a tenant. Your remedies include terminating the lease, having a court force your landlord to make the repairs (known as injunctive relief), withholding rent, paying for the repairs yourself and charging them against your rent owed, and potentially collecting your costs and attorney fees. There are additional nuances to some of these remedies, and you should consider consulting an attorney before you proceed with unilaterally enforcing these remedies.

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