Question: My tenant failed to pay this month’s rent and I went to the property to collect it.  It appears that he has vacated the unit.  Can I go in and retake possession?

 Answer: NO.  Arizona law only provides three means to regain possession of a rental unit.  First, A.R.S. § 33-1310(3) states that returning keys by the tenant constitutes delivery of possession.  Therefore, if the tenant gives you the keys to the Premises you can enter, even if the lease isn’t expired.  Second, a landlord can obtain possession through the abandonment process as outlined in A.R.S. § 33-1370.  Abandonment requires one of two things: (1) the tenant is gone for 7 days without notice, the rent is unpaid for 10 days and there is property in the unit or (2) the tenant is gone for 5 days without notice, the rent is unpaid for 5 days and there is no property in the unit.  In either case, a landlord can serve a Notice of Abandonment, via posting AND certified mail, and take possession after an additional 5 days.  Finally, a landlord can obtain possession of the Premises, by completing an eviction action and having the constable deliver possession of the Premises pursuant to a Writ of Restitution. 

 If you retake possession other than as outlined above, you could potentially be liable for unlawful ouster (A.R.S. § 33-1367) and abuse of access (A.R.S. § 33-1376).  This could be the case even if the tenant failed to pay rent and wasn’t living in the unit. 

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