General Housing Information Article


Legal Tips for Tenants

I. MOVING IN AND LIVING IN A RENTAL HOME

Before signing a lease, look at your finances. Do not move into a home that you cannot afford.

Read your lease and all related documents before signing so you are not surprised later to find that you have done something that is prohibited or triggers additional fees or deposits.

Keep a copy of your lease.

Document the condition of the home when you move in. Fill out any move-in condition checklist provided by your landlord and keep a copy. If possible, take pictures of anything that was broken, old, or dirty when you moved in.

Get receipts for all rent payments, especially payments made using cash or money orders. It can take weeks to verify that a money order was cashed, at a cost of $15 or more per order.

Keep the home clean and free of clutter so that moving around the home is safe. Clean up after your children and pets both inside and out.

Promptly notify your landlord of any maintenance issues in writing. Keep a copy. If something wears out or breaks due to age or “normal wear and tear,” ask that it be replaced. If you do nothing, your landlord may try to charge you for replacement after you move.

Communicate with your landlord in writing, or send a written letter confirming verbal
communication. This is especially important when telling your landlord about any problems, or if your landlord promises to do something that is contrary to your lease (such as waiving late fees).

Keep copies for your records. Avoid text messaging as it can be difficult to verify later, especially if your phone is lost or broken.

If you have disputes with the neighbors, write down exactly what happened and note the dates and times. If police were called, obtain copies of the incident reports for your records.

Report major maintenance problems that may be health and safety violations to the County Health Department or City Code Enforcement. Seek legal advice if your landlord does not fix these issues immediately.

II. MOVING OUT

You must provide written notice (usually at least 30 days) to your landlord prior to moving, or you can be charged an additional month’s rent – even if you are moving at the end of your lease term.

Keep a copy of your notice.

Empty and clean the home when you move out. It should be in the same condition as when you
moved in, or the landlord can deduct the reasonable cost of cleaning/repairing the home from your deposit and sue you for any amount not covered by the deposit.

Reasonable cleaning and repair costs will seem excessive, so you should do everything you can to avoid them.

In particular:
Start packing and cleaning early. Moving always takes longer than planned.

The home should be completely empty when you turn in the keys. Anything you
don’t have time to move should be donated to charity or thrown away rather than
left behind.

YOU CAN’T COME BACK LATER TO FIX THINGS.

Remove any stickers and decals from the wall. Scrub or paint over any marks left
on the wall from scuffs or children drawing on the walls.

Any hole larger than the tip of a thumbtack should be filled in with spackel so that it
will not show up when painted over.

Replace any burnt out light bulbs. Repair or replace anything you, your family, or
guests broke during your stay, including light bulbs and light covers, mirrors, blinds,
window screens, light switch and outlet covers, doors and door frames, and
cabinets.

Do anything else specifically required by your lease, such as painting or shampooing
carpets.

If there is not enough time to finish cleaning before your original vacate deadline,
ask the landlord for extra time to finish cleaning. If your landlord requires payment
of additional rent, ask to pay a prorated amount rather than an entire month.

Document the condition of the home when you are finished moving. You should either
request a move-out inspection or take pictures.

Include a recent newspaper or magazine cover in at least one photo from every room to demonstrate the date the photos were taken.

Return the keys to your landlord when you are finished moving out. If this is not done, you can be charged additional rent.

Provide your new address so your landlord can return your deposit and contact you about any additional issues.

After you return the keys, your landlord has 14 days to send you a list of cleaning and repair charges along with what is left of your security deposit after subtracting these charges.

GETTING LEGAL ADVICE

See SALA’s Arizona Residential Renter’s Guide for more detailed advice about specific types of
problems.

Seek legal advice right away from SALA or elsewhere if you have a problem that is not resolved easily, especially if the home is not liveable or you expect an eviction. When seeking legal advice, bring copies of all of the following:
 
  •   Copies of your lease and any correspondence to and from your landlord.
  •   Contact information for your landlord.
  •   Any police reports about disputes with your landlord, neighbors, or anyone living with you.
  •   Any reports issued by the County Health Department or other agencies about health and safety problems.
  •  Any picture or other evidence you have documenting any unresolved maintenance problems.
  •  Receipts or cancelled checks for your most recent rent payment. *Acceptance of rent after serving an eviction notice often delays or waives the landlord’s right to evict.

Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • I recently went to court and got my case kicked out for the reason i sent the 5 day notice via certified mail and didn't wait 10 days to file a forcible detainer?... i waited 7 days?. the judge said it is 5 days for serving it by hand but 10 if it is done certified mail? is this right? thanks
  • If a seller provides a counteroffer on a property, does the seller have to approve the offer in writing or in a new contract?
  • On 12/30, I entered into a lease in which it was discussed, agreed to, and I signed the addendum added regarding having a satellite dish on the property. It states that in compliance with FEDERAL Communication Commission, I had that right. On 1/3, Rey C of Satellite compny came out to help me exercise my right and was told by management that he couldn't install my dish, because they are issuing a notice to all residents that they need to have dishes removed. I was assessed fees for early termination of $360, and move in fee of $199. This blatantly a breach of contract, and violates federal law. Help
  • my mother n law owns the house cause we could not get it and she put in her name but never left I live in with her son whom I am married to and she lives her to on other side of house me and her don't get along she had had me removed by the police 5 times but I come back the next day I lived here 16 years pay rent and bills in my name do I have any right to her kicking me out can I stop her. she says she gonna have me removed all the time. its getting old and I tired of her threats. what can I do??? she makes it hard for me and my husband.
  • years ago i signed over my home to my sister because I was told that if I owned a home I wasn't able to receive AHCCCS. I want to retrieve my home and have mortgage back in my name. Can this be done if my sister won't agree to changing the mortgage
  • I live in a building that supposed to be subsidized based on your income now they’re charging me 50% of their income for 50% is $24,000 a year I don’t make $24,000 a year can they legally do this and if not how do I go about filing a complaint because I’m looking at our buildings income guidelines and for them to charge me 24 I’m sorry 50% of rent monthly you have to meet $24,000 a year I don’t make that yearly can they legally do this and if not then what do I need to do about this
  • Can a son sign over his house to his father if he can no longer afford to make the payments?
  • Can an HOA stop or fine a person for using a motorcycle stating that we are creating noise pollution? The motorcycle is my main form of transportation to work. I didn't see anything about use of a motorcycle during certain hours.
  • my question is: reguarding "earnest deposits" and when they are not refundable/ also what does it mean when you have "first right of refusal to rent a specific property/,
  • We have been complaining about roach problem for 6 months. We had pest control come and sprayed again and again to no avail. We pay rent but living in roach infested apartment with our kids is becoming nuisance since they are everywhere. What can we do? They are sending another pest control person in few days. Help

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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

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