Rentals. We already know they are hard to find, but in addition to finding the perfect living quarters, there are many things that can go wrong for both the renter and landlord.
Problems – ranging from unattended gas leaks, undocumented pets, burst pipes or your friend “accidentally” putting an enormous hole through the drywall – can be a very real nightmare for some.
For instance, renters could end up with a neglectful landlord. And some landlords would prefer not to rent to college students.
Locally, students in particular have a hard time finding rentals. About half of the available inventory is not open to college students, according to various property management agencies in the area. It’s the property owner’s decision whether or not they are willing to rent to a student, they said.
Durango renters reported mixed experiences in Herald interviews.
Fort Lewis College student Derek MacGuffie said he’s had an especially hard time finding a rental. Rentals are in such high demand that some landlords will rent units in bad condition without showing them first, he said.
Jordan Lang, an employee of MagPies Newsstand, said she has had wonderful landlords and terrible landlords.
One landlord, who lived in an accessory dwelling unit on the property, allowed the tenants to have a garden, she said.
“They were concerned about our happiness,” Lang said.
But she also said she had a landlord who unfairly increased her rent because the sunflowers she planted were hindering the property’s sprinkler system.
Kacie Bernhardt, a barista at Durango Coffee Co., has rented two places in Durango. She’s experienced both ends of the spectrum when it comes to landlords, she said. Her current landlord is very flexible and doesn’t mind the occasional late payment. The biggest problem she said she’s had is that sometimes the landlord was hard to reach when she had an immediate maintenance issue.
Yet for every story about a neglectful landlord, there’s a tale about an irresponsible tenant.
Kyle Bishop rents out a duplex on Eighth Street and Eighth Avenue. With one of his first tenants, he rented the home month-to-month without a lease. He quickly regretted that when the tenant refused to pay the rent, he said.
Now, however, he has two tenants he often visits pay their rent on time, he said. Though he does not currently rent to college students, the location is a prime place for students and is a big reason he bought the property in the first place. Bishop said he would be willing to rent to students in the future.
Minna Jain has experience being both a landlord and a tenant in Durango. She said she’s discouraged that many rentals in the area are expensive and not in good condition. As a landlord, she said she made sure she was responsible and lenient with her tenants. A lot of them stayed in her property for several years even after graduating college and she didn’t increase the rent, she said.
Jain said she made it a point to provide affordable housing in good condition for young people in Durango.
Both landlords and renters have legal rights.
According to Colorado law, a landlord has the right to collect rent as specified in the lease agreement, a seemingly obvious right.
The law also requires landlords to provide a habitable environment with access to electricity, running water and adequate protection from the elements.
Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord cannot discriminate against a potential tenant based on race, sex or disability. However, a landlord is able to request information such as credit history, criminal history and ask for references.
Also, a landlord must make sure the home is built to codes and regulations so he or she is not liable for a tenant’s injury.
Many landlords in Durango have opted to go through a property management company to ensure tenants and their property are taken care of, especially when the landlord lives out of state. Local property management companies handle hundreds of residential homes in La Plata County.
What happens when your tenant doesn’t pay rent?
David Liberman, a Durango attorney, has represented landlords in legal disputes against tenants. The most typical case is a landlord evicting a tenant for not paying rent,
Landlords can issue a “pay or quit” eviction, or if the tenant has violated part of the lease agreement, the landlord may issue a “cure or quit” eviction.
“If the tenant hasn’t paid the rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a three-day notice to pay the rent or move,” he said.
Once a landlord had decided to evict a tenant, an eviction notice must be filed in county court or small claims court, he said.
“It’s pretty easy to prove that they didn’t pay the rent,” Liberman said.
If the landlord is successful, the court will file a writ of restitution so the landlord can retrieve the property.
The process can be costly for the landlord because of the paperwork, lawyer fees and court costs involved.
In an effort to protect both landlord and tenant rights, the city of Boulder has drafted the Boulder Model Lease, which can be downloaded online. It’s a great resource for landlords because it is well written, local attorney Angie Buchanan said.
The lease can be found at: http://ocss.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/imce/BoulderModelLease.pdf.