The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ARLTA) is the law governing most private and residential, rental agreements. ARLTA provides a minimum standard regarding rights, responsibilities and remedies for landlords and tenants.
What is the maximum security deposit a landlord can request?
A security deposit is used to protect the landlord against damage to the property, unpaid rent and/or necessary cleaning. Under ARLTA, a landlord can only require a security deposit equal to 1.5 times the monthly rent. This amount is a “refundable deposit”, meaning if you do everything properly, you will get it back. You must read the lease carefully. The lease must state if a fee is “nonrefundable”. For example, if you are paying $1,000 per month, the landlord may collect a $1,500 refundable security deposit, a $500 nonrefundable cleaning fee and a $100 nonrefundable redecoration fee for a total of $2,100. The total amount exceeds the $1,500 (1.5 rule), but the nonrefundable fees ($600) are permitted under ARLTA because it is not considered a “security.” Any amount of money which is “refundable” is considered “security.” Under ARLTA, a landlord can only ask for security to guarantee payment under the lease for damage, unpaid rent and/or cleaning. If the fee is not designated as “nonrefundable,” it is classified as a security (you can get it back). If it states “nonrefundable,” no matter what you do, you cannot get the money back.
The lease has ended and I am moving out. What should I do?
Write the landlord a letter 30 days prior to the move out date informing them of your intentions. Also, request a joint walk through with move-out inspection sheets. The landlord must provide written notification the tenant may be present during the move out inspection and the date of inspection. In general, a landlord must provide the tenant with a minimum of two days’ notice of the intent to enter the residence.
Before returning the keys to the landlord, prepare a letter requesting the return of your security deposit within 14 days. Additionally, you will need to provide the landlord a forwarding address to return the security deposit. The landlord must return your security deposit in full or deliver to you an itemized written list of the damages, unpaid rent and/or cleaning fees which the deposit has been applied to within 14 days of demand (letter) and possession (returning keys).
There was no damage and I left the house clean. How do I get my deposit back?
Tenants have the obligation of leaving the residence in the condition it was received in. If there is no damage, no rent deficiency and the residence is “clean,” the landlord is obligated to refund the total amount of the security deposit. If you provided your landlord with a “cleaning deposit” (lease did not indicate it was nonrefundable) it is presumed to be refundable if the premises was clean. It should be noted, a tenant will not be responsible for “reasonable wear and tear” on the property. The tenant is only responsible for damage, rent arrears and/or cleaning fees. This is usually where the disagreement occurs. Landlord says it is not in the same condition and the tenant disagrees, usually stating they spend countless hours cleaning and claiming it is in better condition. See the final paragraph for possible solutions.
It has been 14 days and I still have not received anything from the landlord. Now what?
The landlord must abide by the lease agreement and ARLTA. Before suing in Small Claims Court, write a letter to the landlord requesting the money or an itemized list of deductions. In this letter, cite the relevant portions of the ARLTA and provide a deadline for the response (10 days). Use an exact date, such as May 20, 2013. This will eliminate any guessing whether you were including weekends. After the 10 days has expired, you may sue in Small Claims Court and recover the money wrongfully withheld. Under ARLTA, you are entitled to be compensated the money wrongfully withheld plus damages, “equal to twice the amount wrongfully withheld,” plus attorney’s fees (attorney’s not permitted in Small Claims Court) and court costs. Even though the landlord has not returned the money, the landlord has the legal right to counter-claim in Small Claims Court against you, in your lawsuit, if there were repairs, unpaid rent, cleaning, etc.
Landlords and tenants should protect themselves with a detailed move in and move out inspection sheet, which should be signed and dated by both parties. Additionally, take pictures and videos (turn on date and time stamp function). Do not be afraid to point out and have a discussion with the landlord regarding prior damage and cleanliness. If there is a discrepancy before tenancy, you can almost be sure there will be a problem at the end of the tenancy. Litigation is expensive and time consuming. A much better idea is to spend a little more time in the beginning of the tenancy process and include everything in the lease agreement and inspection sheets, opposed to spending money and time fighting in court.
What is the first step if the tenant does not pay rent on time?
The first step is determining what the written rental agreement (lease) states regarding the rental due date. Every lease will have different legal language regarding the requirements/obligations of the tenant. It is important to determine when the rent is due, if there is a grace period, and when/if late fees are due. If you do not have a written lease agreement, then you will have to rely on terms of the oral agreement. Depending on the situation, you may be able to use text messages and emails to prove the terms of the agreement. If you are attempting to collect past due rent from the tenant, you must first provide written legal notice to the tenant before you can go to court: Five-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit.
What should be included in the 5-day notice?
The idea is simple: pay rent and reasonable late fees within 5 days or vacate the property. This notice should include a copy of the lease and the specific amount of money you are requesting. The tenant has the ability to pay this amount of money and stop the eviction process if they pay before the specific date mentioned in the notice. The notice should also specifically mention Arizona Revised Statutes §33 – 1368(B). If your tenant has the ability to deposit money in your bank account, you should instruct your bank not to accept any money from that person because if they deposit any money, it will be considered a “partial payment” and the judge will dismiss the lawsuit. This means a tenant could deposit one dollar ($1.00) and you would have to wait another month before starting the eviction process again. The notice should state, “only payment in full will be accepted and payment must be made by way of a cashier’s check/money order.”
How do I deliver the notice to the tenant?
It is always recommended to “personally serve” the tenant with the notice. It is not sufficient if you leave the notice on their door step, post it to the door, mail the document regular mail. This is the most common reason why the court may dismiss your eviction complaint. You are allowed to post the notice on the front door, but you must also send the notice certified mail the same day. This type of delivery extends the amount of time a tenant has to pay from 5 regular days to 5 business days, plus 5 regular days.
The tenants did not pay after the 5-day notice and did not leave, now what?
You will need to file an eviction complaint with the appropriate court. There are forms on www.mohavecourts.com. This website has other helpful information. Typically, you should include the tenant’s names, the move in date, the rental amount, due date for rent, and late fees. You should also include a copy of the demand notice and the lease agreement as an attachment to the complaint.
What other documents need to be filed with the court and served on the tenant?
You will need to file the eviction complaint with a summons and a residential eviction information sheet. A summons is a specific document explaining when and where the eviction hearing will take place. The landlord will also be required to file and serve the Residential Eviction Information Sheet attached to the Summons. This form can be found online at the courts website.
What happens if the tenant pays after I file the eviction complaint?
If the tenant pays all the money requested in the complaint, and all other costs, the complaint must be dismissed by the landlord. This is because the eviction process is only to recover possession of the property.
What happens in court?
The court will set a court date very quickly (within 5 business days) and all the parties are required to show up to court on that specific date. The judge will call the case and ask the parties if they are ready to proceed. The judge will usually read the complaint and ask the tenant if the complaint is true. If the tenant admits the complaint is true, then the judge will enter judgment in favor of the landlord. If the tenant denies the complaint is true, and there is a legal basis for the denial, a trial will usually take place the same day. The trial will require both parties to testify and submit evidence to the court.
What is included in the court judgment?
The court judgment shows the parties names, the case number, the date of the hearing, who appeared at the hearing, a determination that proper notice (service) was given, how the tenant pleads (admits or denies the complaint), The judgment will also state how much rent, late charges, court costs, service of process, attorney fees, damages, rental concessions, and the final judgment is accruing interest at 6% per annum.
How long does the tenant have to be out if the landlord wins?
The court will usually enter a writ of restitution to be ordered 5 days from the court hearing, but the court can issue an immediate writ of restitution within 12-24 hours if certain circumstances exist. If the tenant does not vacate, the landlord may obtain a writ of restitution from the court and this will command a sheriff or constable to physically remove the tenant from the property.