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Ask The Expert

My Tenants Won’t Pay Rent – How Do I Get Them Out?

By Joe Lusk

Suppose you are a landlord and your tenants stop paying rent. It is illegal in Colorado to simply remove the tenants’ belongings or lock the tenants out without the court’s permission. Colorado’s eviction laws are known as the “Forcible Entry and Detainer” statutes, and require that certain processes be followed in order evict nonpaying tenants. The eviction must ultimately be conducted by the sheriff.

The first step is to serve a written notice to comply with the terms of the lease. The notice states the term being violated (in this case, nonpayment of rent) and must give the tenants three days in which to “comply” (that is, pay the past due rent). The notice can be served by hand-delivery or posted on the door. If the tenant pays the amount due, the tenant has “cured” and there is no right of eviction for the landlord.

If the tenant does not pay the amount due, the landlord can then seek an eviction by filing a lawsuit. Lawsuits are initiated by filing a complaint with the court. The complaint and a summons will then need to be served on the tenants. Colorado statutes and rules include specific requirements regarding how these lawsuits are filed and served on the tenants.

Once the summons and complaint are properly served, if the tenants do not file an “answer” to the complaint, a default “judgment for possession” will be entered by the judge. If the tenants do file an answer, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the tenants paid the rent.

If the judge enters a judgment for possession, the landlord must wait 48 hours for the court to issue a “writ of restitution”. The writ of restitution is the official document the sheriff needs in order to evict the tenants.

Eviction lawsuits can be complex, and there are many “pitfalls” in the process. Landlords are encouraged to consult an attorney prior to evicting their tenants.

Joe Lusk is a lawyer with Boatright, Ripp & Lusk, LLC in Wheat Ridge. He can be reached at 303-423-7131.