Rental Inspections in the City of Boulder

What is a rental inspection?

A rental inspection is an inspection required by the city of Boulder, CO in order to get a license to rent a property in the city. All rental units within the city limits need to be licensed. If the place you want to rent has never had a license before, it may also have to pass a SmartRegs inspection. Please visit our page specific to SmartRegs inspections.

Is Abacus Inspection Service licensed to do rental inspections?

Yes. Abacus Inspection Service has been performing rental license inspections since 2011. We are licensed by the city to perform all aspects of the inspection.

What happens if a unit fails inspection?

If a unit fails the inspection we provide you with information about how to become compliant.

What happens when a unit passes inspection?

Once the unit passes the inspection we will provide you with the inspection documents you need to send in with your rental license application.

What are the most common problems found during an inspection?

Below we detail the most common problems found during an inspection. Scroll down to read about them.

How often are inspections required?

Inspections, and re-licensing are required every 4 years. 

When should I have my already-licensed unit re-inspected?

Rental inspections can be done up to 1-year before a license needs to be renewed. So, for a low-stress process, it makes sense to start the inspection process well before your license expires. We suggest scheduling your rental inspection 3 to 6 months before your deadline so that you don’t need to rush to get things done.

The Most Common Problems Found During a Rental Inspection

Smoke detector problems

Smoke detectors are supposed to be in every room used for sleeping, directly outside every room used for sleeping, and one on every level of the home. They also need to alarm when the test button is pressed, and they need to be less than 10-years old. Hint: if the smoke detector doesn’t have a date of manufacture, it’s more than 10 years old. All these parameters must be checked during a rental inspection by the inspector. If corrections are needed, they need to be made before you receive the inspection form for the city. Smoke detectors inside sleeping rooms cannot count toward the one on every level of the home unless the unit doesn’t have a separate sleeping room. So, most units need at least two. But if there are two or more sleeping rooms near each other, then only one smoke detector is needed outside these rooms, and that smoke detector will count for the one required on that floor. The only time more than one would be required on a level outside sleeping rooms would be if there are sleeping rooms far apart on the same level. Smoke detectors should be installed according to the manufacturers instructions which usually say they should be within 12” of (or on) the ceiling, and away from corners. The best location is above where a door swings. This should make the unit always accessible. Units over beds, furniture, or staircases are hard to access for testing and/or replacement. See also “Worthy of consideration” below.

Carbon monoxide detector problems

Carbon monoxide detectors need to be installed outside rooms used for sleeping within 15 feet of the room’s door. They must be manufactured within 10 years of the inspection date. They must alarm when the test button is pressed. CO detectors can be installed at any height from the floor to the ceiling as long as they are installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. See “Worthy of consideration” below.

Outdoor lighting

Back in 2003, yes 2003(!), the city of Boulder passed a law requiring outdoor lighting fixtures that reduce light pollution for neighbors, make them more energy efficient, and prevent sending light up into the sky. The ordinance gave owners 15 years to become compliant. That 15 years has passed, nobody did anything unless they had to, and now the city is enforcing the law through rental license inspections. The main features of the law require that bulbs not be visible through the fixture, that light not shine upwards, be 3000K color temperature or less (a more yellow light vs blue or white) and be less than a 60W (900 lumens) equivalent brightness. Spotlights must aim down, be less than 75W (1200 lumens) equivalent brightness and be on a maximum 5 minute timer. The details of this law can be found in a flyer published by the city

Clamps on disposer wires

Wires servicing garbage disposers (GDs) are likely the most abused wires in a home. People often shove stuff under sinks without a thought that there’s wiring under there that’s vulnerable to damage. This damage is even more likely if the wire isn’t clamped with a strain-relief where it passes through the GDs housing. A strain-relief does two things. First it holds the wire so that when the wire is pulled the strain-relief resists the pull instead of the wiring connections inside the disposer. The second thing is it protects the wire from the semi-sharp edge of the GDs housing. In both cases the strain-relief helps protect against electric shock and fire.

Worthy of consideration

For smoke and CO detectors I recommend units with 10-year batteries. This helps prevent tenants from removing the devices when they beep in the middle of the night because of a low battery every year or so. And they also prevent the tenants from disabling them. For smoke detectors I recommend units with photoelectric sensors (instead of ionization type sensors). The ones with photoelectric sensors tend to nuisance alarm less due to burnt toast or burning plants. They also tend to be more sensitive to smoldering fires which statistically kill more people than fast burning fires. Both smoke and CO detectors can be either hardwired or battery operated. However, if there’s wiring for these devices, I recommend installing a wired device.
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