Question: My landlord comes to my house unannounced very often. Since January he has been here every day. He brings his son and they work on cars in the backyard from morning until eleven o'clock at night sometimes. The lease says he has access to the shed. My landlord says that because the lease says he has access to the shed, he is justified. He also enters my house when nobody is home/ What should I do?
Generally, landlords have the right to enter their property in order to inspect it, make necessary or agreed upon repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or to show the residence to a prospective or actual buyer or prospective tenants. However, the landlord is not to abuse the right to access the residence or use it as a means of harassment of the tenant. (A.R.S. § 33-1343). Only in emergencies, can the landlord enter the residence without notice or consent of the tenant.
If there is no emergency, the landlord must give the tenant at least two days’ notice of intent to enter and the landlord may only enter at reasonable times. If the landlord abuses the right to access, makes an unlawful entry, a lawful entry in an unreasonable manner, or makes repeated demands for entry that are otherwise lawful but which have the effect of unreasonably harassing the tenant, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement or obtain an injunction, which is a court order to prevent the landlord from entering without giving notice to the tenant. Sometimes, a tenant may recover monetary damages not less than an amount equal to one month’s rent in court. (A.R.S. § 33-1376).
While the law provides options for dealing with an abusive landlord and requires going to court, it is always good to try to work things out without having to resort to legal options. One approach would be to write a letter to the landlord reminding him or her that two days’ notice is required before entering the residence, except in emergencies, and that the time of entry must be reasonable and for the purposes listed in A.R.S. § 33-1343. (Those reasons are listed in the first sentence of the first paragraph, above). If necessary, it might be helpful to include that failure to follow the law by entering unlawfully will cause the landlord to be subject to penalties under Arizona Revised Statutes § 33-1376. When sending letters like this to a landlord, it is important to keep a copy and to send it via certified mail with return receipt requested, so that there is a record of when the letter was received by the landlord. It is also a good idea to keep the letter on a positive note. Keep all copies of any letters just in case it is needed later on. Hopefully a letter will alert the landlord to change his/her behavior and respect the privacy of the tenant. If not, there are the legal options discussed above.
The tenant may seek an injunction against harassment by the landlord if the behavior falls within the legal definition of harassment. Generally, the conduct must take place over an extended period of time and not be a single isolated incident. Forms for filing this type of action can be picked up at the courthouses at the following addresses: Downtown Phoenix: 101 West Jefferson, 1st Floor (East Court Building) in the Law Library Southeast (Mesa): 222 East Javelina, 1st Floor (Southeast Court Complex) in the Law Library. For additional information on the Arizona Residential Landlord/Tenant Law, visit the Arizona Supreme Court online. For information on renting in general, government programs and assistance, and fair housing laws, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development online.
April 16, 2007