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 landlord was intoxicated and assaulted me yesterday. I called the police and they came over, the cops asked if I wanted to press charges I said no, which I now regret. The officer asked if things would be ok if I left for the night and returned tomorrow. I stated yes and went to a motel for the night. When I returned home this afternoon he shows up with the police and a restraining order. I just paid him a months rent on July 1st, which he won't give back part off. Can I now press charges a day or two after and can I sue him for the rent I was screwed out of? He assaulted me... Help!!
  • I put a deposit down on a rental and upon getting the keyes for 12 hours, was allergic to the house-I. I never signed the lease. I informed the owner in writing that I could not live there, and never signed the lease. He is keeping my deposit and saying it is binding because I took the key. Can I get my deposit back if I never signed the lease? He sent me a counter offer to the lease asking for more rent and deposits, and it was never executed.
  • So my landlord is selling his place its now sold do they have to honer our lease can they raise our rent
  • I have to move. My husband died and I can't afford to pay rent anymore, but I will be breaking my lease. Will i still get my deposit back?
  • Can a landlord ask for, 1st and last months rent along with a security deposit?
  • if the landlord keeps the deposit for cleaning and repairs do they have to show a recipt as well as the list of all repairs
  • Does my landlord have the right to use my water for his livestock
  • My apartment is taking over by Roaches and I mean it's an infestation. I have tried buying everything and my landlord won't Spray and hire and Extermination Company what are my rights? Thanks in advance
  • I am a landlord for a home in Queen Creek. I've been notified by 2 neighbors that the tenants in my home have 5+ dogs that are a barking nuisance and are conducting a breeding business. The rental contract only discloses 3 dogs and no breeding was ever mentioned. I want to know what my liability is as a landlord if the dogs get out and bite a neighbor. Am I required to maintain a tight fenced yard? Is the continual barking nuisance my concern or should I tell neighbors to call animal control?
  • I texted my landlord that the air conditioner wasn't working and the temp in the home kept rising to which his response was that he wanted to break the lease and have us out by the end of the month. I pay rent on time and even before its due can the landlord do this without even giving me time to find a new home

STORIES

  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • 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. . .

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