Considering the state of the economy, many people are losing their homes to foreclosures and have no choice but to rent. This can be good news for those who have two or more properties and need a tenant in order to keep the property. However, there are things every landlord and tenant should know and do. Arizona’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act can be found at Arizona Revised Statutes Title 33 – Property.
First, I highly recommend you scrutinize any potential tenants, or landlords. You can employ a private investigator or private company to run a background check on your prospective landlord or any prospective tenants. I also suggest checking the Public Access to Court Information website at http://apps.supremecourt.az.gov/publicaccess/caselookup.aspx to see if there are any lawsuits involving the other party. Checking this first may alert you to any previous or ongoing lawsuits regarding a lease or a criminal action. This website provides a resource for information about court cases from 153 out of 180 courts in Arizona.
Second, be aware of what your obligations are. Some tenant obligations under Arizona law are: keep the property clean and safe; dispose of trash; do not damage, or allow someone else to damage, the property, and most importantly – PAY THE RENT ON TIME. Some obligations that the landlord must adhere to are: provide the tenant with a signed copy of the lease; provide the tenant with possession of the property; comply with applicable building codes; and supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water. The tenant is obligated to grant access to the landlord in order to inspect the property or make repairs. However, the landlord is obligated to give the tenant at least two days notice that he is going to enter the property, unless it is impracticable to do so or it is an emergency.
Third, there is a legal process for an eviction. An eviction (and repossession of the property) is also known as a “forcible detainer.” This means that the tenant has remained on the property after the landlord has given written notice that the rental agreement has been terminated and that the tenant must leave the property. The most common reason for a landlord to file a forcible detainer is because the tenant has failed to pay rent on time and has refused to move out. In this situation the first thing the landlord must do is give the tenant notice that the lease will be terminated if the full amount of the rent is not paid within 5 days – this is called the “5 day notice.” If the tenant still refuses to pay the rent, on the sixth day the landlord can file the forcible detainer.
A lawsuit for a forcible detainer moves very fast through the courts (much quicker than any other type of lawsuit.) After filing the forcible detainer complaint, the tenant must be served with a copy of the complaint and summons, which will contain a court date which is often the trial date and is usually within 10 days. The tenant must appear on that date or a default judgment for eviction will be entered against them. Typically the only issues the court is concerned with are: does the landlord have title to the property; and did the tenant pay rent. If the landlord prevails and obtains a judgment for eviction he can then apply for a writ of restitution for repossession. Five days later the constable will serve the writ on the tenant and require the tenant to leave the property at that time. The locks can be changed and utility services can be cut off at that time, but not before.
Some more points to be aware of: a military member may be able to end the lease early; the amount of a security deposit cannot be more than one and one-half month’s rent; if after moving out the tenant requests a return of the security deposit, the landlord has 14 days to return the deposit or provide an itemized list of all the deductions with the balance of the deposit (if any); the landlord can evict a tenant, even if rent is current, for committing a crime on the property; and evading service is seldom successful.
If you find yourself in the role of tenant or landlord, I recommend you obtain a copy of the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and familiarize yourself with its provisions. Remember, knowledge is power.
(Slumlord Hotline: 602.372.7586/Roach infestation: 602.506.6616/The City of Phoenix offers landlord/tenant counseling at 602.262.7210/The “Tenants Rights” handbook can be obtained by calling 602.542.5025)
(This article refers to Arizona law but it is likely similar to many other states’ laws. I recommend researching your own state law if you do not live in AZ.)
Monica is a former prosecutor and a current civil litigator and criminal defense attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. She is also a familiar face on television providing legal commentary on networks such as Fox News, CNN and ABC. She and her husband had an amazingly beautiful in July 2008. Read about all their first and how this professional mom learns to handle the boss in the house.
Monica’s Firm – www.monicalindstrom.com
Personal Blog – Scottsdale Mama