New to renting?

The city of Boulder's Community Mediation Service, part of the Department of Housing and Human Services, has provided this article on what new renters need to know. To learn more, visit bouldercolorado.gov and click on the "City A-Z" tab and "M" for "mediation services."

It's a new school year and, for many, time for new rental housing.

Taking certain steps now concerning your rental can save you a lot of headaches later.

The city of Boulder's Community Mediation Service, part of the Department of Housing and Human Services, assists residential landlords and tenants in working through conflicts.

We offer information, but not legal advice, for landlords and tenants renting properties within the Boulder city limits. We have put together the following tips as well as resources listed at the end of this article that can help when starting a new lease.

When you receive the keys, do a walk-through with your landlord and fill out a check-in sheet detailing any damages and current conditions on such items as carpets, noting existing wear and dirt. A more detailed sheet is best. You and your landlord should both sign this sheet. At the end of the lease period, you will have this to refer to if there is a disagreement about a withholding of your security deposit.


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Immediately identify items that require repair upon move in. The landlord is not legally obligated to make all repairs. However, the city of Boulder provides a housing code that identifies certain safety, heat and other rules that landlords are required to follow.

Note on the check-in sheet any repairs that will be done along with the date by which the landlord agrees to complete the repair accompanied by their signature.

This initial walk-through is also a time to discuss anything else that comes with the unit that has not yet been provided. Note this on the check-in sheet as well as an installation date.

Clarifying responsibilities

The beginning of your tenancy is a good time to clarify responsibilities with respect to paying utilities and any maintenance responsibilities like mowing the lawn.

Let your landlord know as soon as possible about repair issues. Most leases state that repairs will be completed within a reasonable amount of time. However not everybody has the same idea of what "reasonable" means.

It is important to put these requests in writing and send them by regular mail in order to document the communication with your landlord. In general, it is recommended to utilize postal mail for important communications with your landlord rather than e-mails and texts.

In circumstances where other roommates are also on the lease, each is responsible for all lease obligations. In other words, if one of your roommates fails to pay rent or causes damage you can be held financially responsible. Sign a roommate agreement that describes individual responsibilities.

If unexpected circumstances force you to leave and break the lease early, read your lease carefully to understand the conditions for subletting or for finding a replacement tenant to take your place.

Ending a lease

If the lease does not say anything about early termination, the tenant is usually responsible for paying rent and reasonable costs related to re-renting until a suitable new tenant is found.

If you are on a month-to-month lease, be sure to understand the terms regarding how much notice you need to give to terminate your lease. Your lease should also state when you are due to have your security deposit returned (usually either 30 or 60). If the deposit is not returned by this date, your next step is to send a Seven Day Demand Letter.

There may be language in your lease regarding an amount that will be withheld for cleaning when the lease is up. Make sure you understand all end-of-lease charges as well as repair costs. The bottom line recommendation: Take the time to fully understand your lease and ask your landlord or contact the Community Mediation Service if anything is unclear.

Mediation

The Community Mediation Service also offers low-cost mediations to resolve landlord and tenant disputes. Trained mediators will help parties reach a written agreement in this voluntary process without taking sides or saying who is right and wrong.

Typically, mediation is cheaper and a lot less stressful than going to court.

To find resources at the city Web site, visit bouldercolorado.gov and click on the "City A-Z" tab and "M" for Mediation Services. There you will find resources for landlord and tenant issues that include a sample check-in sheet, roommate agreement, repair request, Seven Day Demand Letter and other items.

For more information, contact the Community Mediation Service at 303-441-4364.

Margot Smit is program coordinator for Boulder's Community Mediation Service.