July 2012

The following are a few questions and answers we have received over the last month or so.

The landlord wanted to know if a tenant could have more than one service animal.  Generally speaking, two documented service animals would be considered reasonable.  Any request beyond that would need to be looked at and determined if it is a necessity or not.  In the same vein, another client questioned a tenant that had a pit bull as a service animal.  Normally, even prohibited breeds and weights are permissible if they otherwise qualify as an assistive animal.  If the animal acts in an aggressive manner, contact your legal advisor.  You may be able to either require a muzzle on the animal when it is in public or require the tenant to remove that particular animal and replace it with a different service animal.

The landlord had just taken over the apartment community.  One of his tenants became irate, running around and yelling at other residents, however, not making any physical threats.  There was no lease on this tenant.  The landlord could have served a ten (10) day non-compliance for disturbing the peace and quiet of the community and also given a proper thirty (30) day notice to not renew the month to month tenancy at the end of the next rental period.

A tenant left a pet on his patio for several days.  The landlord should check to make sure there is sufficient food and water for the pet.  If the pet is barking or making constant noise, consider serving the tenant with a non-compliance notice for the noise.  If the landlord is concerned about the animal’s welfare, they can contact the Sheriff’s Department and make a report of animal cruelty.

A tenant was arrested and put in jail, but the house was not secure as a result of the arrest.  Under those circumstances, it is permissible for the landlord to secure the property so that no one can enter and cause damage or remove property.  The locks could probably be changed as long as you provide the tenant with a set of keys, should he return to the property.  Depending on the circumstance for the arrest, you may also wish to serve an immediate eviction action for the criminal activity.

One of our tenants found an extensive amount of bees on the rental property.  The issue is whether this was routine pest control, which the lease makes the tenant’s responsibility.  A bee infestation is going to be the landlord’s responsibility, because this is not a routine pest control issue.

The apartment manager wanted to know if they had to disclose a tenant who was shot in the apartment and later died at the hospital.  Arizona has a “Stigmatized Property” statute that states you do not have to disclose deaths and certain types of crimes that occur on the property.  However, if you do not tell the prospective residents, they will certainly find out from the neighbor.  You may want to tell them there was a weapon discharged in the apartment, but the apartment is completely rent ready.

Another landlord was asked to do maintenance to the rental property, even though the tenant had been evicted.  Normally, you would want to respond to any legitimate repair maintenance.  However, if the Judge has already granted the eviction, and the tenant has been ordered to vacate within the five (5) day period after court, unless the repair issue relates to habitability (air conditioning, running water, electrical, plumbing), there is probably no reason to go in and do routine maintenance.

A tenant had a heart attack and the landlord was asked to access his apartment and retrieve his medicine.  This is considered an emergency situation and the landlord could go in without the proper two (2) day written notice.  If it is a family member that wants to enter for the medicine, you should obtain identification from the person and accompany the individual to make sure they are not removing anything except the medicine.

In another situation, a roommate has an Order of Protection against him, but needs to get his belongings.  Can the property manager allow entrance without the police?  No, if there is a Order of Protection that has been properly issued and served, that Order requires that the police be present when the person enters to remove his property.

The landlord just took over a property, but there is no lease agreement.  How does the landlord evict the tenant?  If rent has been unpaid, you can issue a standard five (5) day non-payment of rent notice and proceed to court.  You can also do a thirty (30) day notice to terminate since it is a month to month tenancy.  If the landlord bought the property at foreclosure, consult with an attorney because the Protecting Tenant’s Rights at Foreclosure Act may apply.

A tenant wanted to pay their full lease amount up front.  Can they do this?  Yes, just make sure they sign a document stating that they have voluntarily paid the full lease term rent.  Remember that you may have to give them back a portion if they request it or if they vacate prior to the end of the lease and the property gets re-rented.

The landlord reported that the tenant had accidentally discharged his weapon in their apartment while he was cleaning the gun.  Is this grounds for an eviction?  Yes, it is.  This is a violation which jeopardizes the health, safety and welfare of the apartment community. If you fail to evict and give the tenant a ten (10) day notice to correct the problem instead, and the gun was discharged again, there could be potential liability.

Our favorite of the month was the tenants that were seen driving into the apartment community and removing a large plastic tarp with something inside of it.  Later, the apartment manager walked by the apartment and saw a cow’s head and hooves drying on the patio.  The manager knocked on the door and the resident came to the door covered in blood.  The resident informed the manager that they were celebrating, through their religion, the death of a family member in their country of origin (Southeast Asia).  As part of their religious ceremony, they butcher a cow.  Because the tenants did not actually cause any damage to the interior of the apartment because they used the tarp and made sure there was no harm to the unit, the landlord has no legal right to evict them.  A review of community polices will probably be in order to now include the prohibition of animal sacrifices within the apartment community.