Given the choice between being a landlord or a tenant in Arizona, it would be better to pick landlord. Arizona state laws are extremely friendly toward landlords, putting no limits on rental amounts or rent increases. However, the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act does give the tenant a few rights, including the right to a safe and habitable rental unit. And the federal Fair Housing Act precludes housing discrimination against certain classes.
While there is no state agency given the task of enforcing tenant rights under the state's Landlord and Tenant Act, a knowledgeable tenant in Arizona can take steps to enforce their own rights.
Right to Habitable Premises
The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires landlords to provide safe and habitable units for their tenants. Arizona's law requires a landlord to provide and maintain in good working condition systems like running water, heating, plumbing, garbage removal, sanitation, electricity, wiring and ventilation. The dwelling unit itself must be safe and up to code at the time of rental, and the landlord must make sure it continues to meet requirements of local building and health codes.
Landlords must maintain common areas used by more than one unit, such as an entryway or backyard, so that they are clean and safe for all. If the rental contains air conditioning or is serviced by an elevator, the landlord must maintain these services as well, but there is no requirement that they be provided. Arizona law also specifies that a unit must be free from bedbugs when rented.
Right to Repair Under Arizona Landlord-Tenant Law
If a tenant in Arizona discovers some element of their dwelling unit or building that makes the property unsafe or creates a habitability issue, they have the obligation to advise the landlord. This is the case if the landlord fails to provide required essential services like running water, gas, electrical service, hot water, heat or air conditioning. The law in Arizona does not require that notice to the landlord and request for repairs be in writing, but it is advisable to provide written notice and save a copy. It is important in any subsequent lawsuit to be able to prove that the landlord had received notice.
A tenant who has notified the landlord about failure to provide an essential service has the right to buy reasonable amounts of the service and deduct the costs from the next monthly rent payment. For example, if there is no running water in the unit, and the landlord has been notified, the tenant can purchase reasonable amounts of water and deduct the expenses from rent. Alternatively, the tenant can bring a lawsuit against the landlord for damages based upon the reduced rental value.
Finally, the tenant is not required to pay rent for the uninhabitable rental property until repairs are made. They can rent substitute housing and may recover any rent they end up paying over and above their regular rental amount, up to 25 percent of their regular rent.
Notifying the Landlord of Repairs
A tenant who sees that repairs need to be made to keep the unit safe and habitable, like a broken water pipe or a decaying and dangerous stairway, must give the landlord notice specifying the problems. Again, this notice should be in writing. Faced with the inaction of a landlord at this point, the tenant can terminate the lease, sue the landlord for damages or file a suit for injunctive relief in Arizona Superior Court, asking the court to order the landlord to make the repairs.
Right to Fair Treatment
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that makes it illegal for a landlord or property owner to discriminate against a tenant based on race, color, national origin, familial status, sex, religion, or disability. Arizona does not provide any additional protections than those in the federal Act. However, the Arizona’s Department of Housing lists certain behaviors that classify as discriminatory if directed at a member of a protected class:
- Refusing to rent to a tenant.
- Charging a tenant more for rent.
- Noting a preference for or against certain groups in rental advertisements.
- Lying about unit availability.
- Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations for the disabled.
What happens to a landlord in Arizona who violates the federal Fair Housing Act? Arizona law does not set out any sanctions or punishments for housing discrimination. Any housing discrimination complaints are reviewed individually by the Arizona Attorney General's Office, Civil Rights Division.
Right to Move Out Mid-Tenancy
A tenant who signs a lease agreement for a certain period of time agrees to rent the unit for that period of time unless conditions make it uninhabitable. They have the right to leave in the middle of a lease, but they will be responsible for the rent for the remainder of the lease period unless the landlord finds another tenant. The landlord is obligated to try to do so.
A tenant who wishes to end a periodic rental agreement can do so at will. However, they must give the landlord written notice equal to the period of the rental agreement. If the agreement is month-to-month, the tenant must give the landlord 30 days notice.
Terminating a Periodic Rental Agreement
This is the same timing as for a landlord who wishes to terminate a periodic rental agreement. No cause is required. On the other hand, if a landlord wishes to get rid of a tenant for failure to pay rent, the landlord issues a 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit, and on the sixth day, unless payment is made, the landlord can start eviction proceedings.
If the landlord is evicting because of a claimed lease violation, they issue a 5-Day Notice to Cure or Quit (for health and safety violations) or a 10-Day Notice to Cure or Quit (for nonhazardous violations). Under Arizona law, a tenant can be evicted for discharging a firearm, assault, homicide, gang activity, prostitution, and using or selling drugs.
Right to Exercise Rights
A tenant in Arizona is protected from landlord retaliation against them for exercising their rights under the landlord/tenant laws or any other Arizona laws. For example, if a tenant gives a landlord written notice about a dangerous condition on the property, the landlord cannot turn around and evict them. Or, if a tenant openly supports a candidate that the landlord dislikes, the landlord cannot cut off their electricity.
Under A.R.S. Section 33-1381, where a tenant has complained either to the landlord or to a code-enforcement agency within the past six months, and the landlord raises the rent, decreases services, files an eviction or threatens to do so within this period, this can constitute illegal retaliation.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.