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

  • I rented a house from my brother and sister in-law a few years ago, without a written rental agreement. Over the course of the rental period I mentioned to my brother to purchase a home waranty for the three properties that they own, including the one that I was in. At the time of rental, they were a happily married couple and since that time, they have separated. I am moving out of their home and purchasing my own home. Now my sister in law wants me to pay the cost of replacing a shower due to water damage in the walls. Am I liable?
  • Who do I file a complaint with if I have not received my security deposit or any statments within 14 days?
  • what is a sufficient temperature for heating in an apartment rental?
  • My landlord has not paid property taxes this year and is behind on the morgage pymts. The house is not in foreclosure yet. Does he still have the right to evict me for non-pymnt. ?
  • how soon should appliance be repaired refrigerator not working
  • Is it legal for the property manager to charge potential tenants an application fee then deny them from taking over the lease and then use the application fees or credit a tenants account?
  • Is the landlord responsible for trash and sewer in the state of AZ?
  • I have 4 months l on my 12 month apartment lease. I am getting married in 1 week. Can I break my lease early and receive my deposit back because of my change in marital status and moving into my new husbands home?
  • If I can't get a hold of my tenant in regards to late rent am I allowed to call her work number in an attempt to collect late rent?
  • My tenants have two months left on their lease. They have moved out and my home is empty. They have made and given keys to cleaners and repair people without my knowledge or permission. Is this legal? Can I have the locks changed even though they are still paying rent?

STORIES

  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • I just helped my mother, age 89, deal with her Medicare HMO. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .

LegalLEARN

YOUR FEEDBACK IS NEEDED

FIND LEGAL HELP

  • Please select your county of residence below.

    County:
     

OTHER LEGAL RESOURCES

  • State Bar of Arizona
    www.azbar.org
  • Maricopa County Bar
    www.maricopabar.org
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    www.pimacountybar.org
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    800-799-7233
  • Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
    866-553-0893
  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program
    Link

ORGANIZATIONS