Question: Our landlord overlooked a 4% increase in rent over the past two years and has issued an invoice for the past amount. Keep in mind he has issued invoices each month in an amount which we paid. Is the landlord allowed to charge an amt greater than the monthly invoices (ratification).
Your question covers two areas of law, contracts and real estate. The contract issue is whether a landlord can bill for a rent increase that was previously agreed upon but overlooked in monthly invoices. The answer depends on many factors including the language of any written rental agreement.
Arizona Revised Statute § 33-1314 does not require a written rental agreement but states in the absence of any written agreement the tenant shall pay fair value for the dwelling unit. Ratification is a legal doctrine that means parties confirmed a prior agreement by their conduct. This may or may not apply depending on your specific circumstances, the language in the contract, and prior dealings with the landlord. In any case involving a contract in dispute it is best to have an attorney review the specific documentation and communications between the parties.
The real estate issue which would be of concern to any tenant facing this problem is whether a landlord can seek a forcible detainer action and evict a tenant for a partial rent payment. The answer is no. Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1371 states that landlords do not have to accept partial payments but if they do they cannot terminate the rental agreement for the unpaid portion of rent. It is important to note that this only waives the landlord's right to terminate the lease (the landlord gives up the right to end the lease) and does not affect any future rent due. While the tenant is safe from eviction, he or she may still be required to pay the unpaid rent amount (in this case the 4% difference) if in fact it is determined to be part of the agreement. This again raises contractual law questions that are best answered by an attorney reviewing the specific circumstances in your case.
October 17, 2006