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Finding the Right Fit#

Know the Basics#

For Rent Sign

Whether you’re a landlord looking for the ideal tenant or you’re a tenant looking for a great place to call home, it can be challenging to find the right fit.  In order to make this process easier for all, let’s start with the following baseline requirements that apply to all landlords and tenants within Fort Collins city limits. 

Fair Housing and Housing Discrimination#

State and federal statutes prohibit landlords from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or family status.  On the state level, the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) enforces the state’s anti-discrimination laws;  you can find more information about the CCRD on the Colorado Division of Civil Rights page or call 1-800-886-7675.  In addition, go to Chapter 13 of the Fort Collins Municipal Code or contact Carol Thomas in the City Manager’s office at 970-416-4254 for more information.

Warranty of Habitability Standards#

When a landlord offers rental housing to a tenant, there’s an underlying assumption in Colorado law that the unit is in good condition and living there won’t be hazardous to the tenant's life, health, or safety.  CRS  38-12-501 et. seq. describes the minimum “Warranty of Habitability” standards for all rental housing units in Colorado.  The statute also describes the tenant’s legal remedies if the unit violates these standards.

Rental Housing Standards#

In addition to state standards, the City of Fort Collins has defined its own minimum habitability standards for rental housing.  See Chapter 5 of the Fort Collins Municipal Code or the rental standards brochure for more details.   If you have questions or need to request a habitability inspection, call Austin Dyer, Lead Rental Inspector with City Building Inspection Services at 970-657-9521 or email

Various City Codes and Ordinances#

Fort Collins has adopted a variety of codes and ordinances that both landlords and tenants must follow, so take the time to learn these important rules.  Visit the city's code compliance page and scroll down to the “Common Violations” section to learn more about how to avoid code compliance problems.  Two of the more debated ordinances are discussed below:  the Occupancy Ordinance (aka “U+2”) and the Public Nuisance Ordinance (“PNO”).

City of Fort Collins Occupancy Ordinance#

If you’re a landlord offering rental housing within Fort Collins city limits, you must comply with the City’s Occupancy Ordinance, which limits the number of occupants in any residential unit to either:

  1. One family (any number of people all related by blood, marriage, adoption, guardianship or other authorized custodial relationship) + one additional person; or
  2. Two adults and their dependents (if any) + one additional person.

There are a limited number of residential units in certain zoning districts that the City may be able to approve as eligible to be “over-occupied.”  To find out if a certain rental property has been approved for over-occupancy, call Neighborhood Services at 970-224-6046 or email

If you are a landlord who would like to find out if your property might be eligible for over-occupancy approval, check the rules and an application for consideration.  You can also call the Zoning Department at 970-416-2745 or email

If you have questions about the Occupancy Ordinance, email or call Neighborhood Services at 970-224-6046.

Public Nuisance Ordinance#

The City expects residential property owners to be accountable for how their property is being used, especially when the property has been rented to others.  If a property receives too many tickets/citations for code violations within a set time frame, the City may be able to label the property as a public nuisance.  However, the overall goal of this ordinance is to help property owners avoid the PNO label through education and voluntary compliance.  After issuing the first code violation ticket, the City sends a letter explaining the consequences of the PNO label and encouraging positive action to avoid such a designation.

View PNO Ordinance FAQ

A Home that Works for You#

Even in a tight rental market such as Fort Collins, don’t be in too big of a hurry to sign on the dotted line.  Take your time to make sure that you’re getting the most for your rental dollars and that you’re getting a home that works for you. 

View additional tenant-related information.

In order to save yourself headaches later, start by asking yourself the following questions and carefully consider your answers before you decide to sign a lease in order to save yourself some headaches later.

  • Has the landlord made a good first impression? Pay attention to your instinct here. Do you trust this person to be a good landlord?  It’s important to check references and ask questions to help determine if you’re compatible.
  • Is this rental property close enough to the places you need to go (i.e. work, shopping, school, bike path, alternative transportation options)?
  • Does the neighborhood suit your lifestyle? Feel free to talk with nearby neighbors.  If you are a college student, ask friends or teachers for suggestions about student-friendly neighborhoods.
  • What condition is the property in, both inside and out? Does it look well cared for?  If the place looks shabby, it’s possible that property maintenance is low on the landlord’s priority list. 
  • Does the property look and feel safe? Check to see that all doors and windows lock and that there is safe lighting and well-trimmed vegetation around the property.  Is the yard securely fenced?  Are basement windows large enough to get out in case of emergency?  Where are you and your friends allowed to park?
  • If you’re responsible for paying utilities, what’s the average energy bill for a unit of that size? Are there energy efficiency and indoor air quality measures in place? Are high-performance leasing provisions available to renters? View the Green Building Renters page for more information.
  • If you’re looking to rent within Fort Collins city limits, is your prospective landlord complying with the “U+2” Occupancy Ordinance? If not, the landlord might also be out of compliance with other legal requirements.
  • Has this property been a problem rental in the past? You can find out the PNO (“public nuisance ordinance”) history of a specific rental property by calling Neighborhood Services at 970-224-6046 or email neighborhoodservices@fcgov.comView more information on PNO.
  • How does the lease read? Is it a lot of incomprehensible legal jargon or is it easily understood?  Does the document itself look like a bad photocopy of another bad photocopy?  Have you seen the actual unit you would be renting or have you only seen a ‘model’ unit?  Are you feeling pressured to sign a lease before you’ve had time to thoroughly check everything out? 

TIP:  Don’t sign any lease until you read and understand it in its entirety. If you don’t understand the language of the lease, be sure to consult a lawyer.    A well-written lease helps everyone clearly understand their respective responsibilities; it’ll also protect you and your interests if the other party breaks the lease agreement.

Protection from Common Pitfalls#

No matter how much you try to be the best landlord possible, you may find yourself dealing with confusion, complications, and conflict with your tenants.  Like any other business venture, it’s important to prepare yourself for landlord success by considering the following suggestions:

  • Educate yourself; owning rental property can be a challenging business! Take a course, read a book, talk with others in the field (especially legal experts) who can give you a real-life picture of the business and can offer helpful advice and suggestions. Join a landlord group and get support for success.  Attend the low-cost landlord trainings offered by the City of Fort Collins throughout the year; for more information, call 970-224-6046.
  • Be sure your rental unit complies with all state and local laws, is a legal rental, is structurally sound, and meets habitability standards. If it’s not, take steps to get it into compliance.  Protect the value of your investment by doing regular upkeep and maintenance.  
  • Do you want to include “green leasing” language in your lease? View the Green Building Sample High-Performance Lease for sample wording ideas.
  • Help your tenants learn about the ordinances that will apply to them. For example, you might choose to provide your tenants with a lawnmower and a snow shovel so it’s easier for them to comply with the weed height and snow removal ordinances.   Take proactive steps to prevent your property from being labeled under the Public Nuisance Ordinance (“PNO”). In addition, do not allow your tenants to violate the City’s Occupancy Ordinance.
  • Consult with a lawyer who can help you design a strong, specific lease that meets your needs and keeps you in compliance. If you want to revise the wording of your lease, have it retyped.  Don’t scribble on or handwrite a sentence on an otherwise typed lease; handwritten notes can be hard to decipher and enforce.  Take the time to present the lease in a professional manner.
  • Did the prospective tenant make a good first impression? Pay attention to your instinct here. Do you trust this person to live up your expectations?  It’s important to check references and ask questions to see if you’re compatible. Consider running background checks on all prospective tenants.
  • Also, consider being open-minded about someone who has poor credit or other questionable history; they may have had a legitimate reason and may deserve an opportunity to explain their past circumstances. Talk to your lawyer if you want to include a “what if” clause in your lease and/or offer a tenant a probationary period in which you can assess whether or not the renter can be trusted and will be a good fit for your property.

TIP:  Make sure your lease is fair to both you and your tenants; comply with all regulations and live up to your obligations.  A well-written lease helps everyone clearly understand their respective responsibilities; it’ll also protect you and your interests if the other party breaks the lease agreement. If you’re not sure that your lease language says what you want it to say, be sure to consult a lawyer.

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Signing the Lease/Moving In#

Avoid Verbal Agreements#

Rental Agreement

It’s a really bad idea for either a landlord or a tenant to rely on a verbal lease or a verbal agreement, especially if it contradicts what you have in writing.  You might be able to get the courts to enforce a verbal lease, but it is often hard or impossible to prove the terms of the verbal lease when there’s a dispute.

Put it in Writing#

The strongest lease is one that is written in clear, understandable language and signed by both the landlord and the tenant.  When you sign a lease, it becomes a legally binding contract.  As a prospective tenant, you may be able to negotiate terms of the lease if the landlord is willing to do so;  it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you’re a landlord, avoid using a sample lease “as is” since it may not address your specific circumstances or include requirements under Colorado law and Fort Collins city ordinances.  When in doubt about any language used in the lease, be sure to consult a lawyer.

TIP:  In Colorado, there is no “grace period” to back out of a lease once it has been signed.

Mandatory Occupancy Disclosure Form#

If you’re a landlord renting a property within the city limits in Fort Collins, take note:  at the time a rental agreement is signed, you must have your tenants sign an occupancy disclosure form.  As a landlord, you must keep a copy of this signed form on file and provide it to City staff upon request.  If you can’t or won’t provide the signed form, the ordinance allows the City to fine landlords, property owners, property managers, or even the tenants up to $1000.

TIP:  If you’re a landlord, don’t allow your tenants to over-occupy your property, accidentally or otherwise. 

Document the Condition of the Unit#

No matter how good of a memory you think you have, nothing beats solid documentation to prove the condition of the unit at a given point in time.  Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, write down the date, all observations, and take pictures; make specific notes about any issues with carpets, walls, cabinets, or any permanent part of the unit.  Be sure to have all parties sign off on the unit’s condition either at the time the lease is signed or at some point prior to the tenant moving in; this may help avoid confusion over damage charges at the end of the lease contract. 

Avoid Unenforceable Clauses#

Generally speaking, Colorado statutes allow a landlord and tenant to enter into a written agreement about nearly anything that’s legal, but it’s always a good idea to consult with a lawyer to confirm that your lease language fully complies with Colorado law.  There are some lease clauses that are not considered legal in Colorado, even if both parties agree to them. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few examples of illegal clauses:

  • a lease cannot eliminate a tenant’s right to three-day notice before an eviction proceeding is filed.
  • a lease cannot reduce the required notice for terminating a month-to-month lease to less than 7 days.
  • a lease cannot give a landlord longer than 60 days after the end of the lease to return the tenant’s security deposit minus allowable deductions.

Even if a clause is not specifically prohibited by state statutes, a court might decide to not enforce it under certain circumstances.  If you have a question about the legality of any clause in the lease, be sure to consult a lawyer.

Common Lease Clauses#

A good landlord-tenant relationship starts with a well-written lease.  While this is not an exhaustive list, here are topics that are commonly included in a lease:

  1. Identity of all parties and the property.
  2. The term of the lease (6 month, 1 year, month-to-month).
  3. Rent amount and frequency, due date, payment method, and late fee assessment information.
  4. Security deposit amount, timeframe for returning deposit minus allowable deductions, any fees to be charged even if no damage is done to the property (carpet or other professional cleaning).
  5. Ability to extend the lease past end of the lease term (or not), ability to request an early termination of the lease (or not).
  6. Who pays for which utilities and in whose name are the utilities to be registered.
  7. Who’s responsible for doing (and paying for) repairs and maintenance – make no assumptions here; be sure the expectations are clear and in writing.   See TIP below.
  8. Yard maintenance expectations (who does or pays for leaf pickup, grass mowing, snow shoveling, etc.).
  9. Tenant’s right to privacy and landlord’s right to inspect, specifying the prior notice expectation for landlord’s access to the unit.
  10. Tenant’s ability to assign and/or sublease the unit (or not); what happens if landlord sells the property during the term of the lease.
  11. Expectation of no illegal activity on the premises and potential consequences.
  12. Pet policy (allowed or not), smoking policy (allowed or not), marijuana use policy (landlords may be able to ban marijuana use in their rental units). See TIP below.
  13. Other house rules/policies the landlord wants included.
  14. Parking-related policy.
  15. Attorney’s fees (usually making the losing party liable for attorney fees of the prevailing party in the event of legal action under the lease).
  16. Insurance (usually requiring tenant to insure their own belongings, informing the tenant that landlord’s insurance policy does not cover tenant’s personal belongings).

TIP:  Clarify who's responsible for the repair and maintenance of the rental property, both inside and out; make sure this is spelled out clearly in the lease.  This is a common area of conflict between landlord and tenants.  Larger-scale repairs are usually the financial responsibility of the landlord unless the reason for those repairs is due to a tenant’s negligence.  Habitability repairs are generally considered the landlord’s responsibility, but landlords might not necessarily be responsible for minor repairs.  The lease should also say how tenants are supposed to inform the landlord about damage and/or needed repairs.

TIP:  Get competent legal advice if questions come up around allowing support animals or medical marijuana use.  This is a tricky area that landlords will likely need competent legal advice in order to avoid violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

View Additional Resources

Rental Period/"Tenancy"#

Be a Good Neighbor#


Being a good neighbor usually means different things to different people, Fort Collins City Council has enacted a variety of local ordinances which define ways that Fort Collins residents are expected to protect each other’s health, safety, and quality of life.  Many times, neighbors get upset at anyone who violates these ordinances and codes, but they seem to get especially upset at rental neighbors who are in violation.

Enforcing Non Compliance#

While voluntary code compliance is the City’s overall goal, the appropriate City agencies will likely take enforcement actions if compliance doesn’t occur.  Landlords can play a key role byhelping tenants learn about and comply with City ordinances.  Landlords can also help tremendously by properly maintaining their properties’ structures, yards, fences, landscaping, and trees.

TIP:  Make the effort to meet and get to know your neighbors.  When an issue arises, neighbors who already know each other are more likely to calmly talk things out and much less likely to call City agencies to complain about each other.  When you first move in, introduce yourself and your pets to the neighbors, exchange phone numbers, and discuss ways to stay in touch if a problem arises.

TIP:  Try mediation if things don’t go well.  If you’re not able to resolve differences with your neighbors on your own and if you live within Fort Collins city limits, the City’s Mediation Program offers free and confidential mediation services for a variety of neighbor disputes.  For more information, call 970-224-6022 or email

Neighborhood Nuisance and Animal Codes#

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should know about neighborhood nuisance codes.  While this is not an exhaustive list, the most common violations include:

  • Excessive noise
  • Nuisance gatherings
  • Tall weeds and grasses
  • Indoor furniture placed outside
  • Unscreened storage and/or trash
  • Motor vehicles parked on unimproved surfaces
  • Storing inoperable motor vehicles
  • Lack of snow removal
  • Dirt and/or dead yards, dilapidated fences
  • Over occupancy

In addition, Fort Collins has strictly enforced animal control laws.  A few examples include:

  • Leashes are required for dogs, cats, and other permitted domestic animals. If the animal isn’t confined to a fenced yard or designated dog park, it must be on a leash and restrained at all times.
  • All dogs and cats living in Fort Collins city limits must be licensed yearly through the Larimer Humane Society.
  • Pet owners are responsible for picking up the waste product of the pet, immediately if on public property and regularly if on private property.
  • Excessive dog barking may result in a citation for animal disturbance of the peace.

View Chapter 4, Section II of the Fort Collins Municipal Code to see complete information on all animal-related ordinances.  You can also call the Larimer Humane Society at (970) 226-3647 or ask someone to contact you.

TIP:  Try mediation if you’re having trouble solving a dispute on your own.  If you live within Fort Collins city limits, the City’s Mediation Program offers free and confidential mediation services for a variety of neighbor disputes.  Disputes about animal issues are very common in mediation.  For more information, call 970-224-6022 or email

Subleases and Assignments#

No one can foresee the future; a tenant may need to move out before the lease ends for a variety of reasons.  Also, the property might get sold by the owner/landlord during the term of the lease.  So what will happen to the lease if something like this happens?  Will the landlord allow a sublease or a lease assignment?  What does that even mean? If you find yourself in a situation where a sublease or a lease assignment might be necessary, be sure to consult a lawyer.

TIP:  Proactively address these possibilities in the original lease.   As a tenant, you may only be able to sublease or assign the lease if the landlord agrees in writing to allow it.  If you’re a landlord, consider including language in your standard lease on whether or not you’ll allow subleases or assignments in certain circumstances. 

TIP:  Try mediation if discussions don’t go well.  For those living within Fort Collins city limits, the City’s Mediation Program offers free and confidential mediation services for a variety of landlord-tenant disputes.  For more information, call 970-224-6022 or email

Property Repairs and Maintenance#

If something on the premises needs repair or maintenance, the terms of the lease should clearly state who must do and pay for the work; if the lease doesn’t do so, that’s an area for potential disagreements.  When you’re responsible for either repairs or maintenance, take care of those tasks as quickly as possible with a minimum of disruption.  Document all repairs or maintenance; keep copies of notes, receipts, and even photos to prove your compliance with the lease’s requirements. 

If someone other than you is responsible to do the work, send a request in writing to have the tasks completed in a timely manner; follow up in writing if the tasks are not completed. Keep this documentation for your records.

If you find yourself in a situation where responsibility for repairs or maintenance is in dispute, be sure to consult a lawyer.

TIP:  Proactively address who’s responsible for doing and paying for repair and maintenance tasks in the lease.

TIP:  Act immediately if there’s a habitability problem.  If you’re a tenant, notify the landlord of any habitability issue(s) as soon as possible and ask for an immediate response.  If you’re renting a property inside Fort Collins city limits, you can ask for a habitability rental inspection to verify whether the unit complies with City habitability codes.  For more information, call James Warren with the City’s Building Inspection Services at 970-416-2359 or email   If you’re a landlord and don’t make required habitability repairs, you may be subject to fines.  

TIP:  If you’re a tenant and the landlord hasn’t made needed repairs, do not try to withhold rent payments until the repairs are done.  Also, do not make any unauthorized repairs yourself and then try to deduct your costs from the monthly rent.   As a tenant, you risk being evicted for non-payment of rent if you withhold rent payments.  If you find yourself in a situation where the rental property’s habitability is in dispute, be sure to consult a lawyer. 

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Ending the Lease/Moving Out#

Leave on Good Terms#


Positive references and recommendations are important to both landlords and tenants, so whenever possible, make the effort to end the lease relationship on good terms.  If you’ve done something to harm the relationship, make amends and take responsibility for your part of the situation.

Confirm Your Intentions#

If you’re a tenant and want to move out when your lease expires, be sure to check the lease to see if you’re required to give notice by a certain date.  Even if the lease doesn’t specify a required notice, it’s a good idea to give your landlord something in writing that confirms when you’ll move out, what your forwarding address will be, and when you’re available for final checkout and walkthrough. 

If you’re a landlord and want to terminate the lease at the expiration date, check the lease language to see if you have any notification requirements.  If nothing is specifically required, give your tenant as much notice as you can in order to give him/her sufficient time to find other living arrangements.

Extending the Lease Term#

Perhaps both parties are comfortable with the lease arrangement and want to continue it beyond the original lease term period; if so, why not!  Check your lease to see if it includes language about anything automatically happening at the end of the lease term (switches to a month-to-month arrangement after 12 months; automatically renew for an additional 6 or 12 months).  You may be able to sign a brand-new lease, amend the old lease, or whatever both parties are willing to do.  Again, be sure to capture your agreement in writing to avoid future confusion.  When in doubt about how to craft a new agreement, be sure to consult a lawyer.

Involuntary Lease Termination (Eviction)#

Unfortunately, not all landlord-tenant situations have a happy or mutually agreeable ending.  If a tenant violates one or more conditions of the lease agreement, a landlord may have the legal right to begin eviction proceedings.  Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in a situation where you’re either a tenant being evicted or you’re a landlord who needs to evict someone.  If you do, be sure to consult a lawyer in order to know your rights and obligations under current Colorado law.  See CRS 13-40-101 et seq.   Additional information is available on the web at:

TIP:  Consider doing mediation before taking legal action.  If your rental property falls within Fort Collins city limits, the City’s Mediation Program offers free and confidential mediation services for a variety of landlord-tenant disputes, including eviction, the creation of payment plans, or renegotiating lease provisions.  For more information, call 970-224-6022 or email

Other Unplanned Lease Terminations#

There are certain circumstances where tenants may be able to break their lease without invoking any breach of contract penalties.  One example is the Colorado Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence Act (CRS 38-12-402 (2)(a)(b)); another is the Federal Service Members Civil Relief Act (50 USC App. SS 501 et seq.).  Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord and these situations arise, be sure to consult a lawyer in order to know your rights and obligations under all applicable laws.

Security Deposits#

Security deposits, also called damage deposits, are regulated by Colorado law, CRS Section 38-12-101, et seq.   Landlords may withhold money from the tenant’s security deposit for the following items:

  • Unpaid rent, late fees, or unpaid utility bills
  • Repairing damages to the premises that are considered beyond ‘normal wear and tear’
  • Any charges agreed to by the tenant in the lease (cleaning, etc.)
  • Any breach of the lease that causes financial damages to the landlord

TIP:  Get familiar with the CRS requirements covering security deposits, especially the ‘normal wear and tear’ language.  Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, be sure to consult a lawyer to further understand your legal rights, obligations, and potential remedies.

TIP:  Consider doing mediation before taking legal action on security deposit disputes.  Security deposit disputes are the most common area of conflict between landlord and tenants.  If your rental property falls within Fort Collins city limits, the City’s Mediation Program offers free and confidential mediation services to help resolve differences about security deposit deductions or any variety of landlord-tenant disputes.  For more information, call 970-224-6022 or email

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