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

  • Does my landlord have the right to tell me who can come to my house
  • Im rent an apartment for my son who is in school. His normal electric bill has been 54-59 dollars a month. His AC started having problems and the apartments handyman looked at it and said it was fine but in 2 1/2 months he ran up an $892.00 eletric bill. The manager finaly had a real repair man in and fixed it. Now the bill is back to normal. But they refuse to pay the bill. They just continue to tell us they dont reinburse for electrical. I cant pay the bill all at one time and now the electric company said they are going to turn off the power if not paid in full by June 29th. What can I do??
  • im 4mo into a 1yr lease. weve had constant plumbing problems since moving in. now i just receive a 30day notice from landlord saying we have to move out so the whole plumbing can be replaced. i still have over half my lease left. do they owe me moving expences for making me move out early?
  • Is my landlord required to provide screens for the windows in the apartment?
  • I am renting a unit and am under section 8... I just found out that I had bed bugs... I called my management and told them about it. They said that I had to pay for the pest control people to come out and spray .. I also found out that one of the other units had bed bugs less then a year ago.. shouldn't they have to pay or have someone check all the other units???
  • On 3/18/2014 we had a kitchen fire with major damage to the stove, micro hood, wall cabinets, countertop and smoke damage to the dining area. The completion of the project was delayed by the owner and the property management company. The owner took 3 weeks just to select a top color and then chose the existing one. The project was completed on 7/04/2014. All this time we were without the use of a stove, wall cabinets and vent hood. A demand letter for rent adjustment was denied and the rent was raised. Please advise if small claim court is my only option, thank you. M Gomez-4806502309
  • My landlord allowed people to live temporarily on the property in a mobile home. The mobile home was broken into so she installed cameras to protect my house and the barn that sits on the property. The cameras were installed with the use of my personal wifi. During this epidemic of the coronavirus I have been unable to work or pay my wifi bill. So the landlord purchased her own wifi and had it installed in the barn. She removed the cameras from my home and says now I must secure it myself. Is this legal?
  • Is it lawful to lease an apt and just use for storage, literally like a storage unit,and not dwell in the unit
  • My apartment has recently been bought out by new management. They have renovated the community entirely as well as apartments when people move out, they have requested me to vacate when my lease is up, or stay on for double my rent. Question, if they are gutting my apt entirely, how should I leave the unit when I leave to ensure I get my deposit? I’m obviously going to clean, but, how thorough do I need to be? Everything is being replaced, from doors, flooring, appliances, countertops, cabinets.. etc.
  • Can a landlord raise my rent and switch my lease from a year-to-year to a month-to-month before the original lease is up?

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