LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — Father of four Jose Velasquez said he moved out of his Lakewood condominium complex a year and a half ago because he didn’t like the living conditions, but he left on good terms.

That’s why he couldn’t believe it when he was served with a collections notice for $25,000, which included a charge for $18,000 in unpaid rent.

“I was astonished. I was so surprised, you know, I didn’t know what to do, it just came out of nowhere,” he said.

Velasquez said he signed a lease but made verbal agreements with the landlord to make payments when he could when he was a tenant.

“There would be months where, you know, I would tell him you know I will pay you this amount this week and then another week I’ll pay you the rest of the rent, just so we don’t have any problems, and he would always say, yeah, no problem it’s fine,” he said.

FOX31 contacted the landlord, who explained off camera that he didn’t charge Velasquez for late fees and tried to work with him on the rent repayment schedule, but he said his records show Velasquez owes $18,000 in back rent.

Renters rights attorney on back rent, fee demands

Renters’ rights attorney Kit Davlin of Robinson & Henry, P.C. told the Problem Solvers that good record-keeping is the solution to most disputes.

“Whether that’s via cash, ask for a signed receipt, if that’s Venmo or a cash transaction through your bank, then you’ve got those receipts. Without those records, it comes down to a he-said-she-said type of situation,” Davlin said.

Even with a lease, renters should get any adjustments to a payment schedule in writing.

“People like to do deals with a handshake. I do deals with a handshake all the time, but that’s something like, ‘I’ll pay you to mow my lawn,'” Davlin said.

That’s something Velasquez said he agrees with 100%.

“Keep receipts, make sure you get a receipt for what you paid, even if it’s cash, even if it’s a trustworthy person, you have to keep proof of everything,” he said.