Summer weather and the implied warranty of habitability

As one of Colorado’s hottest summers on record continues on, a common question for landlords and tenants alike seems to be whether a landlord is obligated to fix things like electrical issues and broken air conditioning units.

By statute, residential leases in Colorado contain an “implied warranty of habitability”, which requires that the residence be fit for human habitation. C.R.S. 38-12-501, et seq. Generally, Colorado law requires that rental homes substantially have the following in good working order:

  • waterproofing and weather protection of roofs, walls, windows, and exterior doors;
  • functioning plumbing and, if applicable, gas lines;
  • running water;
  • hot water;
  • heating;
  • electricity;
  • reasonably clean common areas;
  • appropriate extermination efforts of rodents and other vermin;
  • appropriate exterior trash receptacles;
  • floors, stairways, and railings;
  • locks on exterior doors and latches on exterior windows; and
  • compliance with building, housing, and house code provisions which, if violated, would constitute a danger to a tenant’s life, health, or safety.

Thus, a landlord that fails to address leaking plumbing, electrical wiring issues, or damaged windows, as common examples, would potentially be in breach of the warranty of habitability. In general, if a landlord breaches the warranty of habitability by failing to repair issues within a reasonable amount of time after receiving written notice from a tenant, the tenant can break his or her lease and move out.

One thing notably absent from the above list is air conditioning. While this may seem surprising in the context of record summer temperatures, under the current law a landlord is nonetheless generally not required to provide air conditioning.

However, if a local building, housing, or house code requires air conditioning, a landlord’s failure to provide it could be a breach of the warranty of habitability. Similarly, an electrical, weather proofing, or plumbing issue that leads to non-functional air conditioning could also be a breach of the warranty of habitability.

Thus, while a landlord generally has a strong defense to a tenant’s claim that the landlord violated the warranty of habitability by not providing air conditioning, non-functional air conditioning could implicate the landlord’s other obligations under Colorado’s warranty of habitability.

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