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

  • Am I required to provide fire extinguishers for tenants?
  • The apartment above mine had a toilet over flow. it leaked through my ceiling and damaged my daughters bed all her toys and clothes, my kitchen table, my wood furniture, went through the cabinets and wet all my dishes and cups (I cant use them after they have had toilet water on them) my couches and the ceiling has water pockets and carpet was mushy and soaked my linen closet was all wet and damaged everything I had in there. can I get out of my lease without paying? Are the Apartments responsible for my belongings or the tenants above me responsible or am I just screwed? my apt stinks!
  • My lease ended on a Sunday. I contacted landlord on Monday to set up walk-through. I was told I needed to return the keys prior to scheduling a walk-though. I returned the keys on Tues. Now Landlord is charging me 2 days additional rent for not returning the keys. Is he allowed to do this?
  • My dishwasher stopped turning on just prior to stay at home orders. With respect to maintenance men, & requests from the complex to only submit emergency requests, I didn’t report. However, my garbage disposal has subsequently stopped working & will not drain, leaving water growing increasingly murky & smelly in the sink. Property managers, assistant managers, & online portal request managers have ignored my requests for resolution for over a week now. What can I do?
  • If there have been multiple vehicle break-ins and I am moving because I don't feel safe, can I leave without penalty? My lease asks for a 60 day notice, this just happened no way for me to give a notice. Also my lease is up September 9. I read that it's AZ state law, that if a tenant feels unsafe they may leave. I am moving because I literally can't sleep because my car was broken into and I have a small child.
  • What article says that a landlord can not shut off utilities
  • HI, I am deaf, and I am living in an apartment. Do we have the right to tell the Landlord not to let anyone come in without our permission cause they walk in when i shower or standing in kitchen with my boxers on, or sleeping... they got no right to come in without calling or texting me if i am home or not. Do i have the right tell them NO entrance? I was raped by a maintenance when i was in my 20’s so i do not like anyone coming in while i am sleeping or showering or standing in kitchen in my boxers. This maintenance just opened the door and i freaked out.
  • So my landlord is evicting me due to my tone of voice is that legal or not she said she felt she was threatened for raising my voice
  • I put down a $300 deposit for my little dog . And when my lease ended I moved out I asked for my security deposit and I was told the pet deposit was nonrefundable I cannot get it back And he took $300 out of my security deposit because I had let a dumped kitten in front of my house stay in my yard for several weeks and when I moved I took iit with me. I didn’t even waant a kitten I just didn’t want to leave it there for him to do something to it. Is .it lawful for him to do that?
  • My husband and I let someone move in with us and rent a room. We had no contact. The verbal agreement was that he would pay $400/month. He would pay $200 every two weeks. He wasshort $50 and promised to pay it in 2 more weeks. When the two weeks came, he left saying he'd be back on Tuesday. That was two and a half weeks ago. He is not responding to pho the calls or messages. He left his belongings here and his vehicle. What can we do about his stuff?

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