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.