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John has been without hot water in his Scottsdale apartment for two weeks. Since his landlord hasn't fixed the issue yet, he decides to hire a handyman to fix it and deducts the charge from his next rent payment. Now his landlord is threatening to evict him for not paying the full rent.
Under Arizona's landlord-tenant laws and John's lease agreement, both the landlord and tenant have specific obligations that they must meet. While John feels justified in withholding part of his rent, he wasn't legally excused from his rent paying obligations because he failed to properly notify his landlord of his intent to do so. However, his landlord could also have been taken to court for noncompliance in their obligation for repairing and maintaining the utility.
Whether you're a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Arizona landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.
Arizona prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on characteristics that are protected by the state's fair housing laws. Specific actions like asking personal questions as a part of the application process may be considered discriminatory if the landlord does these things because of a tenant's:
The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:
In Arizona, landlords may charge tenants a security deposit of no more than 1.5 months' rent as a component of their lease agreement. The deposit cannot be used as the tenant's last month rent payment. Security deposits are used for covering unpaid rent and repairing rental property damages beyond normal wear and tear at the end of the leasing term.
Within 14 days after the lease's termination and the vacancy of the rental property, landlords must deliver a written, itemized list of every deduction made to the security deposit along with the remaining balance to the tenant. If the landlord doesn't deliver these items within that time period, the tenant may sue for the full balance of the deposit plus damages equal to two times the value of the illegally withheld deposit.
When a tenant signs a lease agreement, they are agreeing to occupy and pay rent on a rental property for a specific period of time. If the lease is terminated before it's reached the end of that period, the tenant may be required to pay for penalties or continue paying rent payments for the remainder of the leasing term. However, there are a few situations in which tenants can legally reduce or waive early termination fees and rent obligations.
A victim of domestic violence may break their lease early and entirely without penalty by providing written notice to their landlord and moving out upon an agreed date within 30 days of the notice.
If a landlord fails to fulfill their obligations under the lease agreement or under state or federal law and presents a material health or safety hazard, the tenant may be able to claim they were constructively evicted. Constructive eviction means that the landlord created an uninhabitable environment, forcing the tenant to leave and freeing them from their rent obligations.
Tenants who will be starting active uniformed service duty may request an early termination by providing their landlord with written notice. Once notice has been delivered, the lease will automatically terminate 30 days after the first day of the next rent payment. (See the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act 50 U.S.C. App. § 535(d)(1).)
While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without going to court, the laws involved in these conflicts are complex. The Arizona Department of Housing published a guide to the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act that contains more information about landlord and tenant laws. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified landlord tenant lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local landlord tenant attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.