Garfield & Hecht, P.C
Renting Mountain Property
Renting Mountain Property
Introduction. This is one of a series of articles available on our website with useful information concerning renting, buying or selling mountain property. Reading any one or more of these articles does not make you a client of this firm or constitute legal advice. These articles are all very general in nature; they may not answer or even address questions that may be specific to your particular transaction and they are not a substitute for advice you may obtain from an attorney.
I. Why Rent?
Renting property, whether it is a home, condominium, interval ownership or timeshare, is an alternative to booking a daily hotel room. In many cases, renting affords an environment more like a home. If you are thinking about relocating to a mountain community, renting may be the way to go before taking the plunge and buying anything. On a daily basis, renting will likely cost less than a hotel room. However, at the very high end, the opposite may be true. In Aspen or Vail, “trophy” homes can rent for $100,000.00 or more just for the Christmas holidays. Renting an interval ownership, timeshare or a condominium typically starts at about $500.00 per night for high season. If you are thinking of buying a vacation home, renting first may be a good first step because many of the same rental properties are offered for sale. One night stays are discouraged or prohibited in most rental properties. Expect the minimum stay to be at least two to seven days depending upon whether it is high season (July and August, December through March), shoulder season (June, September, November, April and May), or off-season. There may be extra charges for housekeeping service, shuttle service, parking, spa access and/or amenities, cable TV or internet.
II. Rental Agreement.
Most rentals start with a written agreement. It is not recommended that you lease on a handshake only. If the lease is going to be more than one year, Colorado law requires a writing under C.R.S. § 38-10-108. We are also aware that at least one local government (i.e., City of Boulder) requires any lease of more than thirty days to be in writing. Further, if there is a written agreement, Colorado law (C.R.S. § 38-12-801) requires that the landlord provide you with a copy of the agreement within seven days of signing the agreement. For any payment made in person by cash or money order, the landlord must furnish you with a contemporaneous receipt. For any payment made by cash or money order that is not delivered in person, the landlord is required to provide a receipt within seven days of your request. If you are renting a home constructed before 1978, expect the landlord to provide you with a lead-based paint disclosure. Although possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana for persons over 21 is legal under Colorado law, it is still a federal crime and landlords can, in a lease agreement, prohibit any possession or use of marijuana.
Most leases require you to pay rent even if there is a problem with the premises (e.g., a leaking roof), and non-payment on the grounds of such conditions could expose you to an eviction. However, there is some legislation in Colorado discussed in Section VI below that affords tenants with certain rights upon the occurrence of such a condition. In a roommate situation where two or more people each pay a share of the rent and one roommate does not pay his or her share, this will not postpone your liability for full payment of rent on time.
IV. Damage Deposit.
You can expect to pay a security deposit for damage and a prepayment of at least the equivalent of one-night and as much as a week or month depending upon your length of stay. Before supplying a credit card number or otherwise making a payment, always inquire about the refund policy for cancellation and when your damage deposit will be returned. Try to obtain this information in writing. In Colorado, if you are renting a home or a condominium the law requires that your security deposit be returned within one month, unless the rental agreement specifies a longer period of time, which cannot exceed sixty (60) days. For a short term rental, ask that this time period be shortened to a few days at most. Since short term rentals turn over frequently, any reasons to hold back your security deposit should be known the day you check out. Your security deposit cannot be withheld due to ordinary wear and tear. If any of your security is to be withheld, you are entitled within the time provided to a written statement listing the exact reasons and a check for the balance. The landlord forfeits his right to withhold any portion of the security deposit if he fails to provide such a statement. You have other rights regarding your security deposit that are beyond the scope of this article. If there is a problem, you may want to consult with an attorney.
Some condominiums, interval ownership and timeshares have on-site amenities such as a gym, pool or Jacuzzi. Some have affiliations with health clubs where you can receive (usually at an extra cost) a temporary pass to use the club facilities. Some condominiums and timeshares have an on-site concierge who can help with dinner reservations, lift tickets, ski rentals and the like. If you plan to rent a car or drive your own car, always make certain that parking near or on-site is available. In the winter months you will certainly prefer indoor or at least covered parking. In the summer months this is not as important.
Under Colorado law, and except as noted below, managers, owners, or other persons leasing residential premises must make certain warranties about the rental home or other unit. The warranty of habitability is one of the main warranties implied in every rental agreement. This warranty requires that a rental home or unit will maintain certain standards, including but not limited to, proper weather protection for the roof and exterior walls of the home, functioning plumbing and gas facilities, running water (including hot water), functioning heating facilities, and that the home is in general good condition and complies with applicable building, housing, and health codes. If you find that a rental unit does not conform to these standards, the law provides you with the opportunity to terminate the rental agreement upon proper notice to the owner, manager, or other person leasing the premises if the problem is not fixed within a certain amount of time. However, the landlord has not breached the warranty of habitability if the uninhabitable condition of the property is caused by your misconduct, or the misconduct or someone under your direction or control. Landlords of a mobile home park or four or fewer units or a single family home can, by the language of your lease agreement, opt-out of these warranties and shift the obligations to the tenant.
Termination is the end of a rental period and occurs at the end of the lease term, or after mutual agreement prior to the end of the lease term. If you move into a property and pay rent without signing a lease and without agreeing to any specific term, a month-to-month lease is implied. Month-to-month leases are automatically renewed each month unless otherwise terminated by you or the landlord. In order to terminate a month-to-month lease, you must give the landlord written notice of at least ten days before the last day of the rental month (C.R.S. § 13-40-107). Oral lease agreements for terms less than one year are legally enforceable and terminate at the end of the agreed upon lease period. However, if a dispute or misunderstanding arises over the length of the lease term, it may be difficult to determine what the parties originally thought they were shaking hands on. As such, it is not recommended you enter into a lease based on a handshake only. Further, oral leases longer than one year are void and will not be enforced by the courts. If a written lease has a date of termination or a definite term, the lease will expire at that time, no notice of termination is needed and you are obligated to relocate on that date. If you remain on a property with the landlord’s consent after the term of a written lease expires and the lease is silent about what happens then, a month-to-month lease is created. Some written leases automatically renew unless a notice of non-renewal is timely given.
VIII. Other Considerations.
Some homes, condominiums and timeshares are dog-friendly while others prohibit dogs. If you plan to travel with a pet, you are well-advised to clarify the policy on pets at the time you make your rental arrangements. If you are a non-smoker, make sure you get a non-smoking accommodation. Always make sure there are a washer and dryer and snow plowing in the winter. Where snow removal is not provided by the landlord, you may need to arrange for such services. If you do contract for snow removal services, be aware that any attempt in such a contract to require indemnification by you for any negligence on the part of the snow removal service provider, is against public policy and void under recently enacted Colorado law (C.R.S. § 13-21-129). If you are a first time renter, try to visit any rentals you may be interested in via the internet. Many websites have virtual tours. There are additional considerations if you are considering renting a private home for a week, a month or a season. You may be responsible for providing insurance. You should inquire from your own insurance broker what these coverages will cost you. Typically, you are required to provide personal property insurance and general public liability insurance. Make sure you obtain a list of all service providers for utilities, appliances, plumbing, heating, snow removal, catering, masseuse, firewood, cable, satellite and security. Some home rentals do not have a management company available, and you will want to deal with service providers that are familiar with the property.
IX. High Altitude.
Areas like Aspen, Beaver Creek, Snowmass, Avon and Vail are at high altitude. If you are not already accustomed to the climate, you should not be surprised to have some altitude symptoms in the first few days. Usually, this is just a headache or an upset stomach. Most symptoms are mild and pass quickly. You may notice that many people in these areas carry bottles of water. Low relative humidity and intense sun can cause dehydration. If you come to altitude you may be told to “drink lots of water and stay away from alcohol for the first day or two.”
X. Management Companies.
If you are renting a condominium or a timeshare and upon arrival are not pleased with your accommodations, request a change. Most management companies are very interested in repeat business and will find you another condominium or timeshare if any are available. Most management companies have a website you can visit. You will want to learn if management is on-site (usually a better experience) or only available from a remote location. You can learn if the management company also manages other properties, how long they have been in business and other useful information that may help you decide if there is capable, experienced management in place. Some management companies have rating systems in place for the properties they manage. This may be important, especially with a condominium rental where some owners have invested in upgrades (a better choice for you to rent) while others are older units that show their wear and tear (a less desirable choice).
XI. Travel Insurance.
Between airfare and your rental (especially if it’s a family trip) you could have a considerable sum of money invested in deposits or prepayments, all or some of which may not be refundable. For this reason, you may want to consider travel insurance. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, confirm you are covered even if you cancel due to the pre-existing condition. Expect premiums in the range of 5% of the cost of the trip.
XII. Sales Tax.
Short term rentals including homes for less than thirty (30) days are subject to lodging and sales taxes (or in the case of Beaver Creek, an assessment) which range from 6.9% to 12.8%. This can amount to a considerable sum of money. As of the writing of this article, lodging taxes are as follows: Avon 8%, Beaver Creek 10.71%, Vail 9.8%, Aspen 11.3%, Snowmass Village 12.8%, and outside Aspen or Snowmass Village limits in Pitkin County 6.9%. If your rental is more than thirty (30) consecutive days there is no sales tax as the rental is considered a lease rather than a short term accommodation.
XIII. Caution to Landlords, The City of Aspen Discourages Short Term Rentals.
The City of Aspen has imposed regulations for property owners who make their properties available for short-term rentals of thirty (30) days or less that require both an annual business license and a “Vacation Rental” permit. If a property is within a common interest community, the regulations also require notification of the HOA that the property is being rented as a Vacation Rental. Vacation Rentals are subject to sales and lodging taxes, and the City of Aspen requires the property owner, or a designated manager if the owner lives outside the Roaring Fork Valley, to be “on call” during any rental period. The business license and Vacation Rental permit must be obtained on an annual basis.
XIV. Taxation of Rental Income.
Rental income may be taxable. The rate at which it is taxed depends on how many days a property is rented and on an owner/landlord’s level of personal use, if any. If a personal residence is rented out for less than 15 days a year, it is not treated as rental property for tax purposes. The tax implications and allowable write-offs for rental properties are complex. It is always advisable to consult a tax professional on these issues.
Here are some websites you can visit to see mountain rentals. We do not endorse or warrant anything you may find on these websites, and they are provided for informational purposes only. There may be other websites that are better and if you find one, please let us know.
(from the Vail resort website)
(from Vaile Management website)
(from Beaver Creek Resort Properties website)
(from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s website)
(from VRBO website)
(from stayaspensnowmass.com website)