Things to consider when moving from homeowner to renter

The new reality for many Arizonans is that home ownership is shrinking, and more people are renting. In reflection of that change, DEScriber is offering a new column on Arizona Rental Rights. 

It will provide up-to-date information for everyone who rents an apartment, house or even a mobile home. It will contain topical subjects to help our state employees, family and friends, and will also provide valuable information for individuals who serve as managers or landlords.  
 The columns will be written by Andrew Hull, a Phoenix attorney who specializes in Tenant/Landlord law, and David Peterson a 21-year employee of DES in the Disability Determinations Services Administration. Mr. Petersen has a background issues affecting both tenants and landlords. 

Both are co-authors of Arizona Rental Rights: A Guide Book for Tenants, Landlords and Mobile Home Owners.

trailerThe biggest change people encounter when moving from homeowner to renter is coming to a realization: They are now subject to the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

You can obtain a copy of the Landlord and Tenant Act online from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.  The Act basically dictates the rights and remedies available to both sides in a rental agreement.  

Someone who is a first-time tenant may not be completely aware of these laws. Failure to comply with the law could result in legal action that would jeopardize their lease agreement, their right to tenancy, and possibly their credit rating.

For example: 

  • Any notices regarding rental property or lease agreements must be spelled out in writing.
  • They must be either hand-delivered or sent to the landlord by certified or registered mail.  Verbal notification will not be recognized in a court of law.
  • If you have repair issues, you cannot simply refuse to pay your rent, and you cannot simply fix the repair yourself and deduct it from your rent payments – unless you properly notify the landlord, as spelled out above.

 If a landlord is properly notified but fails to make the repairs, tenants have certain remedies. They can:

  • Terminate the lease and move out.
  • Hire a licensed and bonded contractor to make the repairs and then deduct a certain amount from their next month’s rent
  • File a lawsuit to recover the diminished rental value if a landlord does not properly make needed repairs that affect health, safety and other essential services.

 Another important issue involves security deposits that most landlords require from a new tenant:

  • They cannot exceed 1 1/2 times the monthly rental value.
  • Tenants can’t use that deposit as “payment” for their last month’s rent. Deposits are there for the landlord to use as compensation for damages beyond normal wear and tear at the termination of the tenancy.
  • For this reason tenants should document the condition of property when they move in, both in writing and with photos.  This should also be done at the end of the lease, when they move out.

Please keep in mind: Even if you don’t the law you still must abide by it. Therefore it is important that you get a copy of material that addresses your rights and remedies.