City of Boulder Outdoor Lighting Ordinance: How This Will Affect Rental Licensing

Date Published: October 31, 2018

In an effort to reduce light pollution, many municipalities throughout Colorado have been looking at ordinances to regulate and restrict outdoor lighting in recent years.  This effort is commonly referred to as the “Dark Sky Movement.” The most touted advantages of reducing light pollution include increasing visibility of the stars and the night sky, reducing the effects of lighting on the environment, improving health for both people and wildlife, and reducing overall energy usage.

Several municipalities already have requirements in place for new construction outdoor lighting, but few have requirements that have addressed this for existing properties.  The City of Boulder is looking to do just that.  In 2003, Boulder adopted the Boulder Outdoor Lighting Ordinance, which included a 15-year grace period for all properties to become compliant.  The 15-year mark has been reached, and the date has been set for requiring compliance for November 16, 2018.

For homeowners, this means that if you have not obtained a building permit since 2003 that demonstrated full compliance with the lighting regulations, you will want to look at becoming compliant before November 16th, when enforcement goes into effect.

How will this affect the City of Boulder Rental Licensing?

Starting November 16, 2018, any property owner seeking to obtain a rental license will be required to show compliance or must begin working toward compliance with the Boulder outdoor lighting ordinance. These units will generally fall under one of three categories.

For single-family rental properties: The outdoor lighting will need to be compliant before you can receive your next 4-year rental license.

For multi-family rental properties: Including duplexes, if lighting is not compliant, you can obtain a shortened term rental license, which will give you 1 year to show compliance.  For these properties, a lighting plan will need to be submitted to the City of Boulder with your rental application, and once compliant, the full 4-year rental license can be obtained.

For condominiums: Where the HOA is responsible for managing the outdoor lighting, it will not typically be the responsibility of individual property owners, and you should be able to obtain your rental license, while the HOA works with the city in becoming compliant.

What does compliant outdoor lighting look like?

  • All exterior fixtures must be shielded at the top and sides to aim light downward, or have diffused glass surrounding the bulb at the sides, and the bulb cannot extend below the bottom of the fixture.


Boulder Outdoor Lighting Fixture ExampleBoulder Outdoor Lighting Example

  • The bulbs must be 900 Lumens or less. This equates to no more than a 60 Watt incandescent bulb, or a 15 Watt LED bulb.
  • No bulbs over 3000 Kelvin in correlated color temperature.  This will help keep the light in warmer ranges, rather than in cooler, more harsh ranges. This information can be found on the lighting packaging

Boulder Outdoor Lighting Temperature Requirements

  • Any spot or flood lights must be aimed downward, and should not exceed 1200 Lumens (75 Watt Incandescent or 19 Watt LED). These should be on a motion sensor with a timer that can be set to turn the light off after a maximum of 5 minutes.

See the City of Boulder’s outdoor lighting notice for full details on these requirements.

Important information for Rental License requirement changes regarding Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarm requirements

In the past, the presence of smoke and CO alarms were verified by the property owners or managers. Beginning November 16, 2018, this is now going to be something that your rental inspector will need to verify and sign off on at the time of the rental inspection. If these are not present, we will need to make an additional site visit to verify that they are present and working properly. The location requirements remain the same: smoke detectors must be in each bedroom, as well as on each level outside the bedrooms, and CO detectors within 15’ of every sleeping area. See page 14-15 of the Boulder Rental License Handbook for full details on the smoke and CO detector location requirements.

Scott Home Inspection and our team of Rental License Inspectors can help you understand and meet these requirements.  Property owners/managers will want to be prepared so that you can have all of your outdoor lighting and Smoke/CO detectors in compliance prior to scheduling Scott Home Inspection to come out for your next Rental License inspection.

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About the Author: Luke Griess

Luke Griess is an ASHI certified Home Inspector and Certified HERS rater, with over 20 years cumulative experience in the home inspection, residential energy services, and construction industries.

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