Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities Article


Tenant Self-Help Repairs

Do you rent an apartment, a condo, a townhouse, a house, a mobile home, or a mobile home park lot space here in Arizona? If so, your landlord is required by law to ensure that it remains in good condition throughout the term of your rental agreement.

Unfortunately, landlords do not always ensure that their tenants’ rented apartments, condos, townhouses, houses, mobile homes, and mobile home park lot spaces remain in good condition. Sometimes, landlords neglect to make required repairs, even after their tenants have submitted a written request.

An Arizona tenant whose landlord is not making required repairs has various options. This article addresses just one of them: the tenant’s right to make “self-help” repairs if and when their landlord ignores their prior request.

IMPORTANT NOTE: “Self-help” repairs are not repairs made by the tenant themselves but instead repairs made by an independent licensed professional at the tenant’s request.

If you would like to learn more about a tenant’s other options, all of which require the tenant to notify their landlord of the problem in need of repair, providing the landlord with an opportunity to make the requested repairs before the tenant does anything else, you may wish to consult the Arizona landlord/tenant act that applies to your specific situation:

• The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ARLTA) describes the rights and responsibilities of tenants who are living in a rented apartment, condo, townhouse, house, or mobile home where both the mobile home and the lot space are owned by the same person.

• The Arizona Mobile Home Parks Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (Mobile Home Park Act) describes the rights and responsibilities of tenants who are living in a mobile home that they own but are renting a lot space in a mobile home park.

Both Acts are in Title 33 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.). The ARLTA is Chapter 10 and the Mobile Home Park Act is Chapter 11. A.R.S. Title 33 is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/arsDetail/?title=33.

Summaries of some of the rights and responsibilities described in both Acts are provided elsewhere on this website under “Housing”: .

The discussion that follows is for informational purposes only. If you would like legal advice, there are links to free and low-cost legal services elsewhere on this website: .

What sorts of maintenance must landlords provide?

Under the ARLTA, the landlord must do each of the following:

1. Comply with the requirements of applicable building codes materially affecting health and safety as prescribed in section 9-1303.

A.R.S. § 9-1303, which addresses sanitation and ventilation issues, structural hazards, fire hazards, and other conditions that may impact the health and safety of tenants, is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/ars/9/01303.htm

2. Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.

3. Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.

4. Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by [the landlord].

5. Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish and other waste incidental to the occupancy of the dwelling unit and arrange for their removal.

6. Supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times, reasonable heat and reasonable air-conditioning or cooling where such units are installed and offered, when required by seasonal weather conditions, except where the building that includes the dwelling unit is not required by law to be equipped for that purpose or the dwelling unit is so constructed that heat, air-conditioning, cooling or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility connection.

The above provisions are in A.R.S. § 33-1324, which is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01324.htm.

Under the Mobile Home Park Act, the landlord must do each of the following:

1. Comply with the requirements of all applicable city, county and state codes materially affecting health and safety.

2. Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.

3. Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.

4. Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all swimming pool, shower, bathhouse, electrical, plumbing and sanitary facilities, including the recreational hall or meeting facilities supplied or required to be supplied or maintained by the landlord.

5. Provide for removal of garbage, rubbish and other waste incidental to the occupancy of the mobile home space.

6. Furnish outlets for electric, water and sewer services. The landlord shall also furnish a prospective tenant with information concerning the type, size and power rating of all electrical, water and sewer connections.

The above provisions are in A.R.S. § 33-1434, which is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01434.htm

When must landlords make repairs?

Under both the ARLTA and the Mobile Home Park Act, landlords are required to “maintain fit premises.” Therefore, they must make whatever repairs are necessary to meet the requirements stated above – unless (depending on the specific circumstances involved) the problem in need of repair was caused or made significantly worse by the tenant.

Just as landlords are required to ensure that their tenants’ rented apartments, condos, townhouses, houses, mobile homes, and mobile home park lot spaces remain in good condition, so too are tenants. Although tenants are not required to make repairs, they are required to do their part to make repairs as unnecessary as possible.

As a general rule, tenants must “exercise diligence to maintain the premises in as good condition as when [THEY] took possession, ordinary wear and tear excepted.”

The above provision is in A.R.S. § 33-321, which is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/viewDocument/?docName=http://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/00321.htm.

Under the ARLTA, the tenant must:

1. Comply with all obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building codes materially affecting health and safety.

2. Keep that part of the premises that he occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit.

3. Dispose from his dwelling unit all ashes, rubbish, garbage and other waste in a clean and safe manner.

4. Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits.

5. Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises.

6. Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so.

The tenant also must “promptly notify the landlord in writing of any situation or occurrence that requires the landlord to provide maintenance or make repairs or otherwise requires the landlord to take action as prescribed in section 33-1324.”

The above provisions are in A.R.S. § 33-1341, which is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01341.htm.

Under the Mobile Home Park Act, the tenant must “exercise diligence to maintain that part of the premises that the tenant has rented in as good condition as when the tenant took possession” and:

1. Comply with all obligations primarily imposed on tenants by applicable provisions of city, county and state codes materially affecting health and safety.

2. Keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permits.

3. Dispose from the tenant’s mobile home space all rubbish, garbage and other waste in a clean and safe manner as prescribed by park rules.

4. Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so.

The above provisions are in A.R.S. § 33-1451, which is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01451.htm.

A tenant whose rented apartment, condo, townhouse, house, mobile home, or mobile home park lot space is need of repair should notify their landlord in writing as soon as they notice the problem.

When and how may tenants make “self-help” repairs?

Regardless of whether the ARLTA or the Mobile Home Park Act applies, a tenant whose landlord is not making required repairs and who wishes to arrange on their own to have the repairs made at the landlord’s expense should carefully follow the required procedure.

The first step is to notify the landlord in writing, identifying as specifically as possible the nature of the problem that needs to be fixed and requesting that the problem be fixed as soon as reasonably possible.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: A tenant may not have repairs made on their own without first providing their landlord with a reasonable opportunity to make the repairs in response to the tenant’s written request.

Procedure under the ARLTA

NOTE: Under the ARLTA, a tenant may only have repairs made at the landlord’s expense at a cost of up to no more than 1/2 of the monthly rent. (So, for example, if the tenant’s monthly rent is $1,000, then any repairs that the tenant has made at the landlord’s expense may not cost more than $500.)

A tenant to whom the ARLTA applies may notify the landlord in writing that if the problem is not fixed within 10 days after the landlord receives the tenant’s written notice (or sooner, if the problem constitutes an emergency), then the tenant will have the repairs made at the landlord’s expense.

If the landlord does not make the requested repairs within 10 days after being notified by the tenant of the tenant’s intention to make the repairs at the landlord’s expense, then the tenant may hire an independent licensed professional to make the repairs.

If an independent licensed professional makes the repairs, then the tenant should obtain both (1) an itemized statement (the bill for the repairs) and (2) a signed waiver of lien from the independent licensed professional, for the tenant to submit to the landlord.

After submitting the itemized statement and waiver of lien to the landlord, the tenant may deduct from the tenant’s next monthly rent payment the actual and reasonable cost of the repairs that were made.

Because the cost of making the repairs must be “reasonable,” the tenant should obtain (and keep for their records) several estimates before they choose someone to make the repairs.

This is what the ARLTA says about “self-help” repairs:

A. If the landlord fails to comply with section 33-1324, and the reasonable cost of compliance is less than three hundred dollars, or an amount equal to one-half of the monthly rent, whichever amount is greater, the tenant . . . may notify the landlord of the tenant’s intention to correct the condition at the landlord’s expense. After being notified by the tenant in writing, if the landlord fails to comply within ten days or as promptly thereafter as conditions require in case of emergency, the tenant may cause the work to be done by a licensed contractor and, after submitting to the landlord an itemized statement and a waiver of lien, deduct from his rent the actual and reasonable cost of the work, not exceeding the amount specified in this subsection.

B. A tenant may not repair at the landlord’s expense if the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent act or omission of the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family or other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent or if the condition repaired does not constitute a breach of the fit and habitable condition of the premises.

The above provisions are in A.R.S. § 33-1363, which is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/viewDocument/?docName=http://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01363.htm.

Procedure under the Mobile Home Park Act

A tenant to whom the Mobile Home Park Act applies may notify the landlord in writing that if the problem is not fixed within 20 days after the landlord receives the tenant’s written notice (or sooner, if the problem constitutes an emergency), then the tenant will have the repairs made at the landlord’s expense.

If the landlord does not make the requested repairs within 20 days after being notified by the tenant of the tenant’s intention to make the repairs at the landlord’s expense, then the tenant may hire an independent licensed professional to make the repairs.

If an independent licensed professional makes the repairs, then the tenant should obtain both (1) an itemized statement (the bill for the repairs) and (2) a signed waiver of lien from the independent licensed professional, for the tenant to submit to the landlord.

After submitting the itemized statement and waiver of lien to the landlord, the tenant may deduct from the tenant’s next monthly rent payment the actual and reasonable cost of the repairs that were made.

Because the cost of making the repairs must be “reasonable,” the tenant should obtain (and keep for their records) several estimates before they choose someone to make the repairs.

NOTE: Unlike the ARLTA, the Mobile Home Park Act does not specify a limit to the cost of repairs.

This is what the Mobile Home Park Act says:

A. If the landlord fails to comply with section 33-1434, the tenant . . . notify the landlord of his intention to correct the condition at the landlord’s expense. After being notified by the tenant in writing, if the landlord fails to comply within twenty days or as promptly thereafter as conditions require in case of emergency, the tenant may cause the work to be done by a licensed contractor and, after submitting to the landlord an itemized statement and a waiver of lien, deduct from his rent the actual and reasonable cost of the work.

B. A tenant may not repair at the landlord’s expense if the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent act or omission of the tenant, a member of his family or other person on the premises with his consent.

The above provisions are in A.R.S. § 33-1473, which is available online here: https://www.azleg.gov/viewDocument/?docName=http://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01473.htm.

The non-profit Southwest Fair Housing Council offers free downloadable sample forms for “self-help” repairs on its website: http://swfhc.com/landlord-tenant-resource-center-free-forms-for-tenants. The available sample forms include a form for making the original request for repairs, a form for submitting a reduced monthly rent payment reflecting a deduction for the cost of repairs, and a waiver of lien form.

Sources and further reading

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) Title 33 (“Property”): https://www.azleg.gov/arsDetail/?title=33

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 33-1324 (“Landlord to Maintain Fit Premises”): https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01324.htm

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 33-1341 (“Tenant to Maintain Dwelling Unit”): https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01341.htm

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 33-1363 (“Self-Help for Minor Defects”): https://www.azleg.gov/viewDocument/?docName=http://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01363.htm

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 33-1434 (“Landlord to Maintain Fit Premises”): https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01434.htm

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 33-1451 (“Tenant to Maintain Dwelling Unit...”): https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01451.htm

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 33-1473 (“Self-Help for Minor Defects”): https://www.azleg.gov/viewDocument/?docName=http://www.azleg.gov/ars/33/01473.htm


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QUESTIONS

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