Question: I have a tenant in a property who paid the first month’s rent but has refused to sign a lease and refused to pay any more rent.  At this point, is he a trespasser and can I throw him out?

Answer: Once you have given a person keys to your unit and they have paid you rent, you have a lease with them – it’s just an oral lease and not a written one.  It’s irrelevant that you drafted a written lease, if they haven’t signed it.  In such a case, you have a month-to-month tenancy at a set rental amount of what they paid you, with no deposit.  Therefore, a landlord would be wise to immediately serve a 5 day notice for non-payment of rent.  It’s important that you don’t ask for late fees though, because late fees are only awardable when they are provided in a written contract.  At the same time the landlord should serve a 30 day notice to terminate the lease at the end of the next month.  A.R.S. § 33-1375.  This ensures that even if the tenant pays the monthly rent, they would still have to vacate because their month-to-month agreement is terminated.  The lesson here is to always have a tenant sign a lease before delivering possession.  Don’t give the prospective tenant keys just to “store” their belongings because before you know it – they may just move in without a lease.

Information contained in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. You should always contact an attorney for legal advice and not rely on information published here.