Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities Article


Small Claims Court Process

What do you do if your landlord does not meet his or her obligations, or you disagree with the landlord's list of damages?

If your landlord does not provide you with an itemization of the charges against your security deposit within fourteen days, refuses to allow a move-out inspection where you may be present, or you disagree with the list of damages that the landlord claims you owe, you may FILE A CLAIM IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT.

In order to file a claim in small claims court, you must go to the Justice Court in the area in which your former apartment complex is located and obtain the proper forms from the clerk. The courts do charge a filing fee for bringing an action in small claims court, but this fee can be deferred if you can demonstrate that you lack the resources to pay the fee. Anyone who is eligible for Community Legal Services' assistance should be eligible for the fee deferral in small claims court. Ask the clerk for the fee deferral forms, and fill them out and return them to the court. The clerk should be able to explain the procedure for filing a claim in small claims court, and answer your questions concerning the paperwork required. A hearing will then be set where both sides will appear before the judge and tell their story.

What do you say at the hearing in small claims court, and what do you need to bring with you?

If your landlord failed to return your security deposit, and did not provide you with an itemization of any damages or other amounts owed:

If your landlord failed to return your security deposit, and did not provide you with an itemization of damages or other amounts owed, you are entitled to the return of your security deposit, PLUS twice the amount of your security deposit as damages. A.R.S. §33-1321(E). For example, assume your security deposit was $200, you would be entitled to your $200 security deposit back, plus $400 (which is 2 x $200, the amount of the security deposit). Therefore, the Court should enter judgment in your favor for $600.00.

When you go to court, tell the judge:

1.      How much you paid as a security deposit. (Bring your lease or any receipts you may have to prove this.)

2.      That you requested an itemization of the damages and other charges to be deducted from the security deposit. Bring a copy of the letter you mailed requesting the itemization. A sample letter "Request for Return of Security Deposit" is available in this article.

3.      That your landlord never provided you with such an itemization, as required by Arizona law. (A.R.S. §33-1321(D))

4.      That Arizona law provides that you may recover your security deposit, plus damages in an amount equal to twice your security deposit. The Arizona statute that provides for these damages is A.R.S. §33-1321 (included in this article). In addition, in its decision in Schaefer v. Murphey, included in this article, the Arizona Supreme Court interpreted this statute to allow the tenant to recover twice the amount of her security deposit as damages for the landlord's failure to supply her with an itemized statement of damages -- even though the tenant owed the landlord more than the amount of her security deposit for unpaid rent. A copy of this case is also included in this article. Be sure to show the judge both a copy of the statute, and a copy of the Murphey case.

If your landlord did not allow you to be present at a move-out inspection after your request that you be informed of when the move-out inspection would occur, and your landlord failed to return part or all of your security deposit:

When you go to court, tell the judge:

1.      How much you paid as a security deposit. (Bring your lease to prove this.)

2.      That you requested that your landlord conduct a move-out inspection, and that you be permitted to be present for the inspection. (Bring a copy of the letter you mailed requesting the inspection.)

3.      That your landlord never responded to your request for a move-out inspection, as required by A.R.S. §33-1321(C).

4.      That as a result, you have no way of defending yourself against your landlord's allegations of damages, and therefore, fairness dictates that your landlord should have to return your security deposit.

If you disagree with the charges that your landlord deducted from your security deposit:

If you disagree with the charges that your landlord deducted from your security deposit, you may sue your landlord in small claims court for the return of all or part of your security deposit. Your landlord will then have to prove that you are legally responsible for each of the charges identified. To counter your landlord's evidence, it would be helpful, if possible, for you to bring pictures of your apartment from before you moved out showing that the apartment was left in good condition, and witnesses who have been to your apartment and can tell the judge about its condition based upon personal experience.

Udated 5/2006

Attached Document
.pdf Small Claims Court Process


Comments:

On 6/14/07
Amanda said
My landlord claims they never got last months rent and gave me a notice of 5 days to vacate. it is not from the court just has their name on it. Is this legal??

On 11/30/06
Lisa said
I have sent a certified letter to my past landlord....what do I do if they dont reply within the 10 day period?

On 10/6/06
todd said
my landlord provided me with an itemized list, which i disputed. i sent my dispute letter certified mail and it's been over 30 days now, and i still havent heard back from them.

On 8/7/06
S said
We have a dispute over the disposition of the deposit. The landlord has not responded in the last 30 days. Can I go for 2x the amount on this too? If so, it is over $2500.00 - so I need an attorney?

QUESTIONS

  • My ex wife is late on rent. The attorney fee is $450.00 , is this considered "reasonable"? My understanding is she is being charged for the filing and un-filing with the court for an eviction. Additionally, she was not able to pay her rent and late fees at one point because the website they require her to pay through didn't have the updated information... The website listed a total amount due, but wouldn't accept the payment. This caused her to be several more days late while the office figured out the issue. This increased late fees and attorney fees. Is this acceptable? Or reasonable?
  • I've rented a home that has 3 bedrooms, when inspecting the house the a.c. was not on so I was not aware that one of the bedrooms has little airflow. A.c. guy said ductwork need to be done. This a 6month old child's room. Landlord said it's too expensive to do the duct work. What are my rights about this? Can I be refunded my last 2 months rent because the do not want to do the duct work?
  • Four people in household. One roommate has a severe drinking problem that is a safety concern (mostly because they tend to stumble into things) that is becoming expensive. The rest of us have told them repeatedly to stop drinking and not bring alcohol into the household, and they're doing it anyway. All four of us are on the lease, and all four of us contribute to bills and rent. What are our options for removing our roommate who won't stop drinking, and does anyone have suggestions for some kind of service we can send them to for professional help?
  • I recently found a lot of black mold in a permanent cupboard that I've never used in my bathroom. What are the responsibilities of the landlord to eradicate this?
  • I rented an apartment that is totaly infested with roaches landlord sprays for roaches which brings out even more. They r on all living room furniture, ceilings, bed. I have asthma and this is really affecting my health
  • My daughter and I leased an apartment 2 weeks ago. The police served an arrest warrant on my daughter's friend who was visiting our apartment yesterday by forcing entry into the apartment and also conducting a search of the entire apartment. The police told me this was in reference to an ongoing criminal case against this person. I am concerned that we will be evicted even though we had no idea that her friend had a warrant for his arrest and do not have any idea why it was served at our place of residence. Should I speak with the management to proactively avoid any type of repercussions?
  • Is having a working phone line (I ordered phone service but there are no phone jacks in my house) considered an essential utility?
  • There was a major issue with the plumbing and it backed up into my house. This is caused by a sagging pipe and the main line needs to be repaired. The owner is now trying to charge me for the work that was already done even though nothing was found blocking besides the pipe issues. Is this legal??
  • We are currently living in a mobile home and are being invaded by rats. Two months of the last five months we cannot use our heat or AC unit due to rat feces and them trying to nest in the vents. We have a dead rat smell in the home and my daughter is currently sleeping on the couch because of the smell. We have given a 10 day and it is past that time frame. We do not have a deposit to move. What can we do?
  • my apartmetns complex recently change management, I have been there for almost 3 yrs never had a problem now they are saying that I have to get rid f my plant, my electrical grill and charcoal grill which I know that im not suppose to use on my balcony, i use it 10 feet away from there which they say its allowed it does not say anywhere on my lease that I cannot have that on my patio balcony now they are saying that i have to get rid of them or they will do it for me is this allow?

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