Question: I have a couple in my property that signed a 12 month lease together. Last month, the girl contacted me claiming that she was abused by her boyfriend and is afraid to return to the property. She took out an Injunction Against Harassment against him and has signed an affidavit seeking to be released from the lease. I released her from the lease. Now, however, she is demanding that I give her the security deposit, but the guy is still in the property. What do I do?
Answer: Unfortunately, the law is not clear in that area. A.R.S. § 33-1319 does provide a means for a victim of domestic violence to terminate his or her lease and be released from any further liability. However, the law does not state what is to happen to the deposit. Most leases do not identify who the deposit is owed to; they only state that it is used to secure performance of the lease and that it is paid by all the tenants. From this language, we generally take the position that even if one tenant is entitled by law to terminate their lease, the lease itself continues with the remaining tenant. Therefore, the deposit can still be held by the landlord and applied to any outstanding rent owed by the remaining tenant and any damage caused to the unit.
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