DENVER (KDVR) — Earlier this year, Denver City Council passed a property ordinance that requires all rental houses, units and apartments to be licensed. The deadline for some landlords is around the corner and the FOX31 Problem Solvers are finding out that only 1% of owners have complied.

Eric Escudero, spokesperson for Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses said they’re concerned about a “slow” and “disappointing” start.

“There are obviously a lot of people who are procrastinating to get this required licensing to be a landlord in the city and county of Denver,” Escudero said.

The city council passed the “Healthy Residential Rentals for All” legislation, requiring landlords to have rental properties licensed with the city, spearheaded by Council President Stacie Gilmore.

“My office, along with community stakeholders, have been working for the past two years to address tenants’ rights and protections in the city of Denver,” Gilmore said. “Often, the most vulnerable tenants do not complain about their living situations for a number of reasons including fear of retaliation, living without a lease or not knowing they have a right to a safe and livable housing.”

The licensing program was launched in phases and the first deadline is quickly approaching. On Jan. 1, 2023, all landlords renting out more than one unit, including apartment complexes, must be licensed. Escudero says applications have been available for months, but they’re not off to a good start.

“Unfortunately, we’re off to a very slow start with less than 300 licenses issued for residential rentals and that’s concerning, considering we’re less than four months away,” Escudero explained. “It’s really important to not wait until the last minute to apply for this required license.”

But that’s what’s happening. The Department of Excise and Licenses reports that only 267 rental licenses have been issued with 75 currently under review. Escudero says over 20,000 properties need to be licensed by the deadline and right now only 1% have complied.

In order to obtain a license, the property must pass an inspection by a qualified third-party inspector. Officials say it’s to guarantee the bare minimum when it comes to safe housing.

“This isn’t marble countertops, this is running water,” Escudero explained. “This is making sure there aren’t rats or pests or broken windows to keep renters safe and protect their health.”

Escudero said landlords are procrastinating and need to start the application process now to avoid delays down the road, especially if rentals don’t pass inspection and need repairs.

“We could see a huge surge in applications in December to a point where we hope it doesn’t overload our ability to process all those applications,” Escudero said.

The cost for a license ranges based on the number of rental units.

License fee:

  • $50: Single dwelling unit
  • $100: 2 to 10 units
  • $250: 11 to 50 units
  • $350: 51 to 250 units
  • $500: 251 or more units

There is a discount on the application fee through 2022.

A license is valid for four years and rentals newer than four years don’t need one. The deadline for single property rentals is Jan. 1, 2024. If landlords don’t get licensed by the deadline, it is considered illegal. Escudero says enforcement will come in the form of citations and possible fines.