top of page
  • Writer's pictureDehn Harper

How To Pass A Denver Rental License Inspection, simplified.

Let’s take a look and simplify the Denver Residential Rental Program requirements for residential rental units. In Denver’s own words, these are “minimum housing standards,” so relax a bit. The rental license inspection is not intended to put landlords out of business or create financial hardship. In fact, according to the residential rental program checklist guidebook, you will have one year from the date of your application to submit a passing inspection for any non-compliant items. This can help property owners and managers spread out the cost of any significant repairs needed to bring a property into compliance. Also keep in mind, once you’ve had a rental inspection, you have 90 days to submit your completed inspection checklist with your rental license application or the original inspection checklist will become invalid and the city will require a new inspection.

Let’s get into the minimum housing standards requirements to better understand what you will need to have in place to pass your rental license inspection.


Simply put, you must provide tenants with a clear and safe path to ground level in case of an emergency. It should be easy, clear and as quick as possible to exit not just individual units but the entire exit path from the building to ground level.

  • All operable doors and windows must function easily without any special tools for exit.

  • The entire path from any unit must be clear of obstructions to all exits including halls, stairs, porches, etc.

  • Maintain exterior egress route components in safe condition. No rickety decks, porches, landings, stairs, handrails,etc.

Walk through the property in question in your head and ask yourself, “in case of a fire would I be able to exit the house/units quickly and without issue?” Would the exit be easy, is there anything that might fail, are the halls cluttered? This is a pretty easy item to self inspect and make a determination.

Lighting-(Multi unit properties)

“Every public hall or stairway in or leading into every multiple dwelling shall have a minimum of 100 lux of illumination measurable with a standard light meter at floor level.”

This doesn’t require much explanation. We’re talking about common areas, are they well lit? Again, ask yourself, can I see at any time of the day in the halls, stairs or exterior components to walkways? If your eyes need to adjust to the dark when entering the common areas from an individual unit or the exterior, you may need to improve the lighting lighting.

Water Systems-

Again, not much explanation needed.

  • You must be connected to municipal water or another approved source.

  • The water fixtures must function.

  • You must have hot water at all sinks, showers, bathtubs, and lavatories.

  • You must be able to maintain hot water at 110* Fahrenheit.

  • The water heating system must be properly installed in a safe location.

Hot water that does not reach a minimum of 110* or non-functional water fixtures will fail inspection.

Gas-Fired Water Heater Location-

A water heater may not be in a bathroom, sleeping room or toilet room and it must be properly vented. This is pretty easy to self confirm regarding location, while onsite your inspector will also confirm proper ventilation. In most cases the flue vent will not be of concern, however have a look at the flue/s.

  • Does it look like it’s properly connected to the water heater?

  • Does the vent pipe slope up from the water heater and does it maintain its connections at each segment of pipe?

  • Is it free of damage and punctures?

  • Is the vent pipe continuous from the water heater all the way to a termination at the exterior of the home?

Water Heater provided with Pressure/Temp Relief Valve-

Due to the potential for failure, all water heaters and boilers must be equipped with a relief valve in the event that the temperature or pressure inside the tank becomes too high. A relief valve must be installed to relieve the overpressure to avoid an explosion. It’s either there or it’s not. The relief valve must also be extended to within 6” of the floor to avoid possibly spraying hot water on occupants.

This is nothing to pay with. Pressurized water heater tanks can and will explode and have been known to turn entire houses into a pile of toothpicks.

Toilet Working Properly and Connected to Approved Water and Sewer System-

This is not rocket science but it definitely excludes an out house.

  • You must have a modern toilet with an integral water seal and flushing rim, it must flush the entire bowl.

  • Must be connected to approved water and sewer.

  • The toilet must function.

  • The room in which the toilet resides must provide occupants with privacy.

Bathtubs and Showers in Good Condition-

First, occupants must have access to a bathtub or shower.

  • It must be connected to water and sewer.

  • It must be in good repair.

If you find that the shower surround, pan, tub, etc has loose tiles or grout, has mold, has deteriorated walls, floor or ceiling or is in any way dangerous or unsanitary you will fail this line item.

Outlets and Fixtures Installed Properly-

Receptacles, switches, fixtures and other electrical devices may only be installed in an approved manner and must be properly wired. An easy way to test outlets is to purchase a simple outlet tester, you may do this in advance of the inspection to ensure that outlet polarity is correct. Things to look out for.

  • Any fixture or device that sparks or smokes when used.

  • Flickering bulbs.

  • Any sizzling sound.

Total Circuitry Limits; No Make-Shift Outlets; Wiring in Good Condition-

Every electrical circuit is designed to operate with a maximum number of outlets and is usually maxed out in terms of total outlets allowed. Adding outlets without consideration of the circuitry limitations can cause nuisance trips of the breaker and may also be an electrical hazard. Many times electrical wiring and outlets are installed by unqualified persons not familiar with best practices. Unapproved and or dangerous installations are usually obvious and will fail the inspection.

Things to lookout for.

  • Non stationary or makeshift outlets or wirings.

  • Unprotected wiring.

  • Frayed or exposed wiring.

  • Installations of fixtures or devices installed or repaired in a makeshift manner.

  • Fixtures in disrepair.

The majority of the inspection is visual however the breaker box with be opened and inspected for all of the same requirements. As well be will determine that the ground has been properly installed if accessible.

At least 1 GFCI Outlet in All Bathrooms-

This item applies regardless of whether the property was compliant with the building code at the time of construction. It also applies to all bathroom receptacles and is intended to prevent accidental electrocution.

If you have a GFCI outlet already installed in the bathroom/s, please verify that it is protecting all the bathroom outlets or install another GFCI outlet in unprotected locations. You can use a simple outlet tester to trip the GFCI outlet to ensure it’s functional.

GFCI outlets are not required for the inspection in any other location.

Free of Unsafe Extension Cords and Makeshift Wiring-

A few simple points here. Extension cords can be a fire or electrocution hazard and are not allowed to be used as permanent wiring or in the following scenarios.

  • No extension cord from any electrical outlet shall extend from one room into another.

  • No extension cord may extend across any doorway or pass through any wall or partition of any dwelling unit or room.

  • No extension cord shall be located where foot traffic passes directly over the extension cord.

  • Tacked extension cords and makeshift wiring shall be considered unsafe and unlawful.

While not required, if you find that your tenants are dependent on extension cords for modern electronics and devices or even lighting, consider adding safe, permanently installed accessible receptacles.

This item may be verified prior to inspection or unsafe conditions can be dismantled and removed while the inspector is onsite and still be marked as compliant.

Smoke and CO Detector; Fire Extinguisher Present-

Number one non compliant checklist item we come across is a lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This is for two reasons, landlords simply do not install them or tenants remove or otherwise remove the batteries making them non functional.

At a minimum a unit must have one smoke detector, one CO detector and one fire extinguisher. Some commercial fire safety requirements will supersede these requirements.

Things to consider for smoke detectors:

  • There must be at least one smoke detector in each sleeping room.

  • Outside each bedroom (a single detector may cover multiple bedroom entrances if the detector is within 15 ft of each entrance)

  • On every occupiable level including the basement.

  • Must be hardwired or lithium 10 year battery (no AA, AAA, 9v or other removable battery)

For carbon monoxide detectors:

  • Combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors may satisfy requirements for one or both types of detectors.

  • All units must have at least one carbon monoxide detector.

  • May be hardwired, plugged-in or battery-operated.

  • Each unit must have at least one detector and it's recommended to have one on each level of the home.

For fire extinguishers:

  • Have an up-to-date inspection tag.

  • Be fully pressurized in the operable range.

  • Located in a conspicuous location, readily accessible.

  • Every single-family home must have at least one portable fire extinguisher, which should be located within 30 feet of the primary cooking equipment used in the home.

  • Every multi-family residential facility must have at least one fire extinguisher, regardless of any other type of fire protection provided. Fire extinguishers must be located within 75 feet of every unit entrance or one fire extinguisher should be provided to each unit. Fire extinguishers must have a minimum rating of 2A:10BC for multi-family properties.

Furnace Room Door Requirements are Met – Basement Units Only

All areas within a basement or cellar used for habitable purposes shall be entirely separated from any furnace room by at least 1-hour fire resistive material as defined by the ASTM; this includes any door.

This line item may catch some manager/owners off guard. What this means is that the mechanical room/closet must have a 1-hour fire resistive wall/ceiling material type, including the door, and be completely separate from the living space.

What this is is sheetrock typically, applied to the walls and ceiling, some use of a fire foam/caulk is acceptable to fill difficult to finish gaps and cracks. A fire rated door must be installed and the room/closet must have combustion air provided through ducts to the exterior.

Additionally, if a fuel fired appliance is installed in a space that opens into a bedroom or sleeping area, then the opening shall be provided with a gasketed or weather stripped door.

Boiler/Furnace have approved Safety Devices-

Many multi unit properties have boilers for heat and hot water. These appliances are commercial grade and require certification by a state boiler inspector. The state boiler certificates can be found in the state boiler database where the inspector will verify if the certificate is valid or expired. Rental inspectors do not perform this inspection.

The boiler inspector will verify safety features that limit high pressure, water or air temperatures and low water cut off devices.

Please have your boiler certifications up to date or schedule that inspection to help facilitate the verification.

Gas Supply Pipes in Good Condition-

Very straightforward. We will inspect any exposed gas lines damage or natural corrosion or any unapproved materials that could cause the pipes to be a safety issue.

Walls, Roof and Foundation -

“With regard to foundation walls, exterior walls, roofs, and appurtenances, a unit or property is considered compliant if defects do not allow entry of weather, water, pests or vermin or the loss of heat and are not likely to fall or collapse. Roof inspection should be limited to the interior of the unit/property to verify that there are no signs of intrusion or a collapse hazard.”

The above quoted text excludes anything that is entirely cosmetic in nature. What we are looking for is blatant disrepair that would be a safety or health issue or prevent occupants from maintaining standard heating requirements.

Free of Lead Hazards and Hazards Associated with Water Intrusion-

Here we are looking for mold caused by water intrusion or leaks and lead hazards caused by poorly maintained surfaces with deteriorated lead based paint.

Things to look out for:

  • Any wall, floor or ceiling material that is damp or wet.

  • Any surface that appears to have mold or mildew.

  • Any sign of paint chips on the floor or other surfaces.

  • Any deteriorated wall, ceiling or floor with peeling paint, wall paper or other materials.

  • Any deteriorated painted surface at risk of contaminating the living environment.

There are a variety of causes and cures for these hazards. If you see a mold or mildew like substance, have it cleaned up and mitigated to protect the health of occupants. If you see any deteriorated painted surface, especially if it is falling on the floor, test it with any commercially available lead paint test kit. If it has lead it must be resolved. It is recommended to only work with Lead Safe contractors to avoid further contamination of the indoor environment and occupants.

For interiors, any area of 6 sq ft or more that is observed to be deteriorated and is a lead hazard must be repaired.

For exteriors, any area that is 20 sq ft or more must be repaired.

Free of Leaks in Below Grade Units – Basement – Basement Units Only

In line with the preceding section. Any type of moisture intrusion in basement units will be non-compliant and in need of repair. The most common contributor to basement moisture is poor grading of the grounds around the structure and downspouts dumping water at the foundation.

Foundation Secure and Free of Visible Decay-

This will apply not just to the foundation of the home or building itself but to the support of decks, porches or balconies. Neglected structural components, especially in old brick structure may eventually fail over time and that failure may result injury or death.

Things to look out for:

  • Leaning or bulging walls.

  • Out of plumb or leaning columns, piers, posts.

  • Erosion around foundations, piers, columns.

  • Large cracks.

  • Missing foundation components.

Regular Trash Removal; Free of Excessive Odors and Accumulation-

Make sure you have:

  • Regular trash removal appropriate for the number of occupants.

  • Free of trash and debris in or around the dwelling including common areas and grounds..

  • No accumulation of trash even if bagged.

  • No strong odors.

Free of Pest Infestation-

Pests happen but make sure that you have an active pest control program in place when pests are identified. If there are signs of insects or rodents there must be some kind of verifiable pest management. Verification may include visible traps, deterrents or other approved activities as recommended by a pest management company including service contracts and receipts.

Capable of Maintaining Minimum Room Heating Temperature of 70*F-

You do not need to measure the heat in the unit or home. However, the heating system should be functional and in good repair. All habitable spaces should be heated and not rely on an oven or portable space heaters for additional heat.

Safe and Sanitary for Human Habitation-

The preceding sections lay out the standard checklist items for the Denver rental license and constitute the vast majority of reasons you may fail an inspection. In addition the inspector is tasked with identifying anything not noted elsewhere in the checklist that constitutes an unsafe or unsanitary condition for human habitation.

While we are not specifically looking we may come across something such as an unsafe handrail in a steep stairwell leading to a basement unit that should be brought up to current standards.

When evaluating your property it’s best to cover all your bases and assess the entire property for safety and sanitation. Whether included on the checklist or not, it’s best to stay ahead of the problems.

Any Questions?

6 views0 comments
bottom of page