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Hello and thanks in advance! I was/am in a two-year lease on a house in Denver, CO. I found a new apartment and submitted a 60-day notice to vacate. A friend picked up a package on the last day of the 60-day period and was seen and photographed by nosy neighbors. The keys were then left in the house as per our agreement. The landlord has called me to tell me she has changed the lock on the front door because the home is "no longer secure" and intends to change the back lock as well. She is now demanding rent for this month despite wanting to claim the keys (she could not find them but I have since left her a message letting her know where they are). She also threatened to get an arrest warrant for my friend for trespassing, despite us the supposed leasees giving them permission. Is it legal for her to charge me this rent or take me to small claims despite her changing the locks without my consent/claiming my keys? It seems to me that she has a clear understanding that we will not be coming back to the property.

Additional info: it's legal for me to record our phone conversations in Colorado, so I have evidence that she has changed the locks and will claim my keys.

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    The 2nd sentence states that the house is in Denver, Colorado, USA. – APPB Oct 3 at 1:28
  • sorry my error on the location – David Siegel Oct 3 at 4:12
  • No worries, thanks for the answer! – APPB Oct 3 at 20:00
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It is certainly legal for a landlord to take a tenant to court if she thinks she has a case. Whether she will win any damages is another matter.

If the agreement was that the tenant would leave the keys in the apartment (a poor practice, by the way) and the tenant complied with that agreement, then it seems that the tenant has vacated and should not be charged rent for the subsequent period. However, if the agreement was verbal it may be hard to prove in court. Best practice is to hand over the keys in person to the landlord or the landlord's agent, and get a receipt. If this is not possible, have a written agreement on where the keys should be left, and take a time-stamped photo showing that they were so left.

Trespassing charges cannot be brought in most jurisdictions unless the accused person was specifically notified, wither in person or by means of a sign or some other writing, and remained on the property after such notification. When no damage is done, police are generally not eager to proceed with criminal trespassing charges. But this varies by jurisdiction.

If the tenant was still legally a tenant, then s/he has the right to permit the friend to enter the property, and no trespassing charge can be brought. If the tenant had already vacated and the tenancy ended, going onto the formerly rented proeprty to claim mail addressed to the tenant is a lawful and reasonable purpose, and a trespassing charge seems unlikely to stick.

In many jurisdictions there are specific procedures spelled out in local law for the ending of residential tenancies. These are specific to the jurisdiction, an vary widely. A tenant should learn such procedures in advance -- often a government web site spells them out. These might include the right to a closing inspection with the landlord or landlord's agent.

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    The 2nd sentence states that the house is in Denver, Colorado, USA. – APPB Oct 3 at 1:29

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