Landlords should not only know their rights for when a tenant breaches, but also know their obligations as landlords to maintain the rental property.  Many landlords are unaware of the rights that tenants have to give notice of a landlord’s breach and seek legal assistance if a landlord is not fulfilling their obligations.

The Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act sets out the obligations a landlord has to maintain a rental property.  A.R.S. § 33-1324 lists the majority of legal obligations of a landlord.  For example, under section 2, a landlord must “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.”  Under section 4, a landlord must “supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times, reasonable heat and reasonable air-conditioning or cooling.”  While all of the obligations are set forth in the Act, the intent is that a landlord has a general obligation to maintain the premises.

When a landlord fails to properly care for the property, a tenant can invoke his rights under the Act.  There are two main remedies for a tenant to address a noncompliant landlord.  A.R.S. § 33-1361 provides the right of a tenant to terminate their lease if a landlord fails to cure a breach within a specified time period after notice has been given.  A tenant can give a 5 day notice for issues at the property that constitute a health and safety violation.  This could include electrical or plumbing issues.  For less immediate concerns, a tenant could serve a 10 day notice for general noncompliances such as a landlord’s failure to give a mailbox key or failure to give access to community amenities.  If the landlord does not cure the breach within the time period, and the breach is a legitimate violation of the landlord’s legal obligation, the tenant can move out of the property, terminate the lease and not be liable for the remaining portion of the lease.

Alternatively, a tenant has a self-help remedy under A.R.S. § 33-1363.  After proper notice has been give to a landlord, this statute allows the tenant to cure the breach as long as the reasonable cost of compliance is less than three hundred dollars or one-half of the monthly rent.  The tenant can deduct from the next month’s rent the cost of the repair as long as the work was done by a licensed contractor and the contractor provides a written waiver of lien.  Usually the self-help remedy will be used for problems such as a broken toilet or a faulty appliance.

Before a tenant can terminate their lease or to invoke their self-help remedies for a breach, the landlord must be given proper notice and fail to cure the breach.  Therefore, when given notice by the tenant, it’s important that a landlord act immediately, schedule a time to go to the property, inspect the alleged violations and cure the problem.  Remember, just like a landlord, a tenant is required to notice by hand-delivering the notice or by sending it certified mail.  Even though this is the legal requirement, a landlord would be wise to treat any form of notice from a tenant (email, phone call, etc.), as proper notice, act accordingly and address any alleged non-compliances.