How To Pass A Denver Rental License Inspection

Date Published: April 25, 2023

[Updated April 25th, 2023]

With the Denver Residential Rental License program now in full swing, rental inspections are mandatory in order to acquire a license. The city has compiled a standardized checklist and inspection guidebook which all the inspectors in the city will be using when performing this service. The program is robust and requires the inspector to check many areas of a rental unit for health and safety concerns.

Thankfully, the city’s guidebook is detailed and will answer most questions about what the minimum requirements are to pass a Denver rental license inspection. However, we wanted to create a condensed blog to help the average owner or property manager quickly understand the inspection before our inspector comes out.

Overview Section

If you are reading this, you likely understand what the Denver Rental License program is about so we will focus on what is required for the inspection portion itself. If you would like more information about the program in general, visit our general webpage or the city’s website here.

The inspection is a general health and safety inspection that we estimate will take roughly 3o minutes. This inspection can be completed while the unit is occupied or vacant, and our inspectors will do their best to accommodate the tenants.

The inspection itself is mostly visual and non-invasive. The checklist that our inspectors follow is written by the city and each inspection is completed with a pass or a fail of the unit. For a unit to pass, it needs to meet all the minimum safety requirements that the city has defined, which are based on its current minimum housing standards. This is what will be described below.

If an inspection passes, the owner or manager will be given a compliant checklist report that includes a passing checklist form and the inspector’s required credentials. These documents will be needed when applying for the license with the city.

If the inspection is deemed non-compliant or fails, the checklist will be given to the client with the failing items notated. The client will then need to repair the itmes and the original inspection company will need to review and/or re-inspect those specific items to ensure the repairs have been made. An application needs to be submitted with a passing or failing inspection within 90 days of the original inspection, otherwise, the inspection report is invalid.

If a failing inspection is submitted, the application will stay open for a year. A passing inspection will need to be submitted within the year to ensure the application is not invalid. However, if a failed inspection is submitted, this does not mean you are exempt from enforcement by the city. They still view that you are out of compliance if the deadline has passed so we suggest repairing the issues promptly.

If the unit is a single-family home, the whole building shall be inspected. If the building is a multi-family unit that is owned or managed by the same person/company, then 10% of the units in the building will need to be inspected with a minimum of one.  The city requires inspectors to randomly select the units so all tenants will need to be notified of possible entry.

*A multi-family building is defined by the city as a building with multiple units that are on the same parcel or a multi-family building that spans contiguous  (directly adjacent to each other) parcels. This includes duplexes, houses with ADUs, apartment buildings, and apartment complexes on multiple parcels, etc.

The Checklist

The checklist itself is broken into eight individual sections. Each section has specific requirements related to the safety of the tenant. We will go through each section below.

Denver Rental License Checklist Image

Click to view the inspection checklist to see what it takes to Pass your Denver Rental License Inspection.

1 – Egress

Egress is fairly simple. Each rental unit needs a way to exit the building in a safe manner. This includes the full path to ground and can include doorways, stairwells, porches, and egress windows which all must be in good working condition. *More information is written on good working conditions within the guidebook, but it is generally exactly what you think it means. 

Because these means of escape are for just that, escaping, they need to be free of storage items and materials so the tenant can properly exit the home in case of an emergency.

This also includes lighting and public areas in larger buildings. These areas must be properly lit have adequate brightness of the fixtures themselves. The guidebook asks inspectors to check these public areas for a brightness minimum of 100 lux.

Picture of an egress window which is required for basement units

Noted Change: As of October 25, 2022, the egress rules were changed for Denver residential rental license requirements. First of all, Section 1.3 of the guidebook (which was present in the original edition) was removed.

Also, a revision was added to the “Additional Explanation” in Section 1.1. It states that the “property is compliant with egress requirements if compliant with Denver Building and Fire Code under which it was permitted and constructed.”  In other words, certain egress rules are no longer required for older homes if the fire code did not include them at the time of construction.

Please refer to the egress section of the Residential Rental Program Guidebook to reference these updated guidelines.

2 – Water Systems

This section is to ensure the unit has proper water systems that you would find in every house. All units must have a water supply and drain system present. The water must be on during the inspection with no exceptions.

Hot water requirements make inspectors check that the water heater can produce hot water of at least 110 degrees which is pretty low for a standard hot water system so this should be no problem.

Hot water heaters that are gas-powered should not be installed within bathrooms, toilet rooms, sleeping rooms, or rooms that don’t have proper ventilation. This is standard across all code and housing standards. Hot water heaters also need to have TPR valves installed which is usually done by the installer and will likely be present.

The rest of the section is mostly blanket statements ensuring that the plumbing items and water surrounds of the home are adequate and working. Toilets must work, flush, and be connected to a drain system. Showers and sinks must drain, have a water supply, and work as intended.

3 – Electrical

The electrical section is lengthy, but the general statement on this is don’t have improperly or unprofessionally installed electrical systems in a home. The electrical code for installation is very strict and if a system was professionally installed, a unit will have no issues passing this section.

Make shift wiring in a home wont help you Pass A Denver Rental License Inspection

A non-permanent electrical outlet that is not secured to the wall. This would fail a Denver Rental License inspection

First, all the electrical devices need to be in good condition. We read this as no exposed wiring, no broken plates, missing panel covers, etc. Makeshift wiring and outlets will be deemed unsafe and will need to be removed. This includes extension cords or exposed Romex. Aside from a visual inspection, we will also be testing outlets for proper wiring and polarity.

GFCIs are a health and safety item.

The city also wants to see GFCI protection in all bathrooms. This can be at the panel or at the outlet. This has been a building requirement for many years and will likely be present in your unit. For more details on electrical requirements in rental properties check out this article.

4 – Fire Safety

This section gets pretty detailed. Many of these items will be duplicated from standard fire safety inspections that happen on larger buildings so if your building already has this inspection done, you should be in good shape. In the guide book it states that a fire code inspection supersedes our inspection. However, we will go through each requirement.

Each unit needs functioning smoke detectors, CO detectors, and fire extinguishers present.

Detectors cannot be expired. (All smoke and CO detectors have a 10-year lifespan and an expiration date on the back of the unit.) A smoke detector is needed within every bedroom and at least one on each level of the home.

Every home with a fuel-burning appliance or an attached garage is required to have a CO detector. Remember, fuel-burning doesn’t just mean gas. This can also be a wood-burning fireplace. If a furnace or water heater room is directly attached to a bedroom, or a fireplace is within a bedroom, a CO detector is needed within the bedroom as well.

Along with the CO requirement for bedrooms, furnace rooms that are directly connected to bedrooms need to be separated by a 1-hour fire-rated door and sealed. This is standard in all building codes.

Fire protection is required to Pass A Denver Rental License Inspection

Fire extinguishers are required in easily accessible areas within 30 feet of cooking equipment, and each unit should have at least one extinguisher present. More information is noted in the guidebook about multi-family building extinguisher requirements.

Finally in this section, they have blanket statements ensuring that furnaces and boilers have proper safety devices and gas lines are in good condition, installed correctly, and not leaking. These requirements should be no issue if the units were installed professionally.

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5 – Walls, Roof, Foundation

To pass your Denver rental license inspection, the walls, roof, and foundation of a home need to be in generally good condition. While we will not walk the roof during an inspection, we are looking for deficiencies that may be noticeable from the interior. Here is what the city requires:

All walls and roofs should be free from holes, cracks, breaks, deteriorated paint that would permit the entry of weather. The main thing here is that the exterior shell of a home needs to properly protect the tenant from the elements. Foundation walls should not be leaking, and roofs should not be leaking. Interior walls should be in acceptable condition. Visible structural members should be in good condition.

There is a large section on lead hazards that we suggest you read through if the home was built before 1979. The main point of this section is to protect the tenant from ingesting lead paint. We will be looking for peeling or damaged paint or walls that may cause paint to flake or peel off completely. The majority of the time, lead paint is covered and encapsulated, so if the walls are in good condition this should not be an issue. However, if we do find the paint defective, the city requires that you have the area tested for lead paint, and the section should be remediated.

6 – Trash Removal

This section is simple. Trash cannot remain on the property. Particularly if the waste is stored outside, is producing a strong odor, or is attracting pests. As inspectors, we will be looking for a means of trash removal or the presence of a trash service.

No proof of trash service is required, but if trash is not contained or it does not seem like a removal service is present, then more investigation from the inspector may be warranted.

Pass A Denver Rental License Inspection with proper trash disposal

7 – Pest Control

To pass a Denver rental license inspection, the inspector will look for signs of an infestation. If there are minor signs of a pest present, but to the extent that it is controllable with over-the-counter means, such as the presence of mouse droppings or other minimal findings, the property shall still be compliant as long as a plan is in place to mitigate.

If a clear infestation is present that causes a hazard to tenants, the inspector can fail the inspection until proof of a mitigation plan is in place.

8 – Required Utilities, Equipment & Services

This section is to ensure that the heating device in the home is adequately heating the unit. Denver’s minimum housing standards state that the heating system must be capable of heating a room to at least 70 degrees when the weather outside is at -5 degrees.

While this is generally impossible to test during a rental license inspection, we will be testing the heating system to ensure that it is operational. We will also be checking that there is a delivery system in every room, whether that be venting, radiators, or another means of heat. Only permanent heat sources are checked and considered during this part of the inspection. More information is noted on this within the guidebook.

9 – Safe and Sanitary for Human Habitation

This section is sort of a catch-all for an inspector to report or fail the inspection for items that they see that may not be explicitly stated in the handbook, but represent a safety or sanitary issue for the tenant. Inspectors are instructed to use their discretion to determine what this includes.

However, almost everything covered above that represents a serious life safety issue is already present in the guidebook. This section will likely only be used for extreme cases and edge cases that come up.

Hopefully, this gives you a brief overview of what we will be inspecting for during the inspection. This article is generally paraphrasing what is written in the city’s guidebook and we recommend everyone take a read through that as well to further understand the requirements of the inspection.

While there is a lot here, most homes we inspect are in good livable condition and will meet these requirements without much trouble. Our goal is to make the inspection portion of Denver’s new requirement as painless as possible from scheduling, to inspection, to report delivery.

We are also the first company to turn in our certifications to the city and these inspections are available now. Schedule yours today.

Whether you manage hundreds of properties, or just a few, we will be here to help you pass your Denver Rental License Inspection.

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About the Author: Chris Scott

Chris Scott is an ASHI certified home inspector with multiple years of experience in home inspections, blower door testing, duct leakage testing, and Boulder Rental License Inspections. Chris is also the Website Coordinator for Scott Home Inspection.

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