Boulder attorneys provide landlords and tenants post-flood legal advice

By Kirsten Ellis

During this month’s flood, Sara Watson of Boulder moved most of her belongings out of her apartment while the flooding was happening.  She said she also asked her landlord to notify her when crews would be coming in to make repairs.

Watson said she never received a call from her landlord, and later found her bed and bed frame broken and completely covered in dust and cleanup mess.

The 1-in-1,000-year flood has put Boulder residents such as Watson in unusual situations, so the Boulder Community Mediation Program, along with local attorneys, hosted a question-and-answer session Thursday. Attorneys addressed issues such as:  when and how to terminate a lease, mediation, mold, when to reduce or prorate rent and who is responsible for damages.

Attorneys told Watson that common law practice requires landlords to give notice before they enter a tenant’s property.  The tenant’s lease should outline what happens when tenants belongings are damaged. Watson said she does not have a lease.

Another tenant said he had an understanding with his landlord through several phone calls to have his belongings out of his home by Thursday evening, but found his things being hauled to a dump Thursday morning.  Without a paper trail attorneys said it’s a case of he said,/she said in recovering the losses for his broken electronics and family heirlooms.

“Always have every agreement in writing,” was the common refrain from the panel.

A few landlords were also having problems with tenants not allowing them to properly clean damaged apartments. In this case, if a landlord wants to terminate a lease, he/she must give a three-day notice, return the security deposit, and prorate rent, attorneys said.

Kelsey Taylor and her boyfriend live in a basement studio apartment built in 1962.  They say the soggy drywall in their bedroom was knocked out and asbestos insulation remains open.  They say they have been sleeping on the floor for two weeks, there is little livable room, and that the landlords won’t agree to prorate rent.  They left the meeting with a few unanswered questions and plan on contacting the Community Mediation Service and health officials for more information.

Attorneys strongly encouraged communication between the parties.  There’s not always a clear legal answer and many times simply keeping each other informed can address many questions and problems. The city of Boulder is providing free mediation services.

Additional Resources:

Community Mediation Service – (303) 441-4364 www.bouldercolorado.gov

Boulder County Health Department Indoor Air Quality (Mold, etc.) – 303-441-1564

Housing Inspection and Rental Licensing – 303-441-3152

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