Context: Location: Colorado, USA

I was renting with a lease agreement but I needed to leave early and break the lease. The landlord withheld my security deposit and correctly notified me with an itemized list of reasons and associated costs. The single largest item is a "re-rental fee" (this was a 4 digit dollar amount).

Looking at Colorado law, the landlord can withhold some or all of the security deposit only for specific reasons including things like damage and:

"reasonable costs of re-renting, such as advertising"

I'm sure a "re-rental fee" is not a "cost" that they incurred. I helped them find their new tenants which moved in promptly so there was no advertising or outstanding rent. "Cleaning" is listed as a separate line item.

Colorado law also states:

When tenants move out before the end of their lease term, they remain responsible for rent until the property is re-rented or until the lease has expired, unless they have another agreement with the landlord.

It would be a simple case since the property is re-rented, except my lease does include the "re-renting fee" in case of early termination.


Is this clause in the lease invalid because the law does not allow for any such withholding of the security deposit?

Where can I find similar legal cases which have already been resolved to show a precedent?

Simplified Question:

Can a lease specify reasons for withholding a security deposit beyond what the law lists as allowable.

Supporting documentation

The related text from the original lease agreement follows:

If the tenant moves out prior to the natural expiration of this Lease, a re-rent Levy of $[4-digit-number-redacted] will be charged to the Tenant.

Quotes from 38-12-101 - (7):

Any provision, whether oral or written, in or pertaining to a rental agreement whereby any provision of this section for the benefit of a tenant or members of his household is waived shall be deemed to be against public policy and shall be void.

and 38-12-103 - (1):

Nothing in this section shall preclude the landlord from retaining the security deposit for nonpayment of rent, abandonment of the premises, or nonpayment of utility charges, repair work, or cleaning contracted for by the tenant

Reasons for withholding...

Reasons for withholding security deposits ... - Nonpayment of rent - Abandonment of premises - Nonpayment of utility charges - Nonpayment of repair work or cleaning contracted for by the tenant

  • 2
    You should probably quote the exact wording from the lease that (allegedly) establishes a re-rental fee. I've seen some that say "The reletting charge [...] is a liquidated amount covering only part of our damages; that is, our time, effort, and expense in finding and processing a replacement. These damages are uncertain and difficult to ascertain – particularly, those related to make ready, inconvenience, paperwork, [...] checking prospects, [...] fees. Tenant agrees that the reletting charge is a reasonable estimate of such damages." – Ben Voigt Feb 27 '19 at 4:01
  • 1
    The landlord will have the bolded costs even though you helped find the replacement. "make-ready" includes not only cleaning but also things like rekeying the locks so that you can't gain access using a duplicate key after moving out. Now, if the lease states that the re-renting or reletting charge covers certain expenses, they certainly should not double-charge you by itemizing these separately and also charging the umbrella fee. – Ben Voigt Feb 27 '19 at 4:02
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    @BenVoigt Landlords do not routinely change locks each time they have a new tenant. I have never had new locks in any dwelling I've ever rented. If the landlord didn't actually change the locks, then it is not reasonable to charge a fee to cover the cost of changing the locks, nor to count that cost against the "re-rent levy" in determining whether it is reasonable. – phoog Mar 20 '19 at 14:03
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    @BenVoigt I mean re-keying. I've rented in Connecticut, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York. The keys and lock cylinders were old in every case. I suppose it's possible that the landlord was just swapping lock cylinders in and out from one residence to another, but I doubt it very much. – phoog Mar 20 '19 at 14:36
  • 2
    Landlord has made it clear (within the formal notification of withholding and followup communication) that the amount withheld was not for any expense and for no reason other than the lease saying they can. – pants Mar 20 '19 at 18:00

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