Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

questions & answers

Question: My landlord entered us into a lease with the knowledge that the home was INFESTED with termites. The neighbor pointed them out and told us he informed her before our occupancy. We immediately verbally requested she send a professional not only to inspect the safety of the homes structure, but to treat the problem. She ignored our request. We then turned in a written request and she immediately sent someone unannounced to spray for them. We still want an inspection. The damn things are dropping through our ceiling and our porch literally is falling apart. What can we do now?

Answer: Under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (A.R.S. Title 33 Chapter 10), all landlords are required to “maintain fit premises” (A.R.S. 33-1324), which means that they must (among other things) “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition” and “comply with the requirements of applicable building codes materially affecting health and safety.” The conditions that Arizona law describes as “materially affecting health and safety” include (among others) “infestation of insects, vermin, or rodents”; “structural hazards”; “hazardous or unsanitary premises”; “inadequate maintenance”; and “unhealthy conditions, including any condition as defined in the building code that results in the failure to maintain minimum standards of sanitation, health or safety”; (A.R.S. 9-1303). A severe terminate problem certainly might qualify. Especially when a tenant’s health and safety are at stake, the tenant should be able to arrange an inspection, with or without the landlord’s approval. The bigger question may be whether or not the landlord will be required to pay for it. Especially when landlord takes other steps (such as spraying), the answer to this question is not always clear. What the law says is that when a landlord is in serious breach of the landlord’s obligations under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and therefore in “material noncompliance” with the rental agreement, the tenant has several options. For example, if, after the landlord has received written notice – in the form of a signed and dated letter from the tenant – describing the problem in detail and requesting that the problem be fixed as soon as possible, the landlord still fails to comply, then the tenant may (1) deliver (or send by registered mail) to the landlord a second letter specifying the acts and omissions constituting the breach and stating that the rental agreement will terminate on a date not less than ten days after receipt of this notice if the breach is not remedied within those ten days (A.R.S. 33-1361) or (2) if the breach can be remedied for less than $300 or an amount equal to one-half of the monthly rent (whichever is greater), deliver (or send by registered mail) to the landlord a second letter specifying the acts and omissions constituting the breach and notifying the landlord of the tenant’s intention to remedy the breach at the landlord’s expense (by having the work done by a licensed contractor and, after submitting to the landlord an itemized statement and a waiver of lien, deducting from the tenant’s next rent payment the actual and reasonable cost of the work) if the landlord fails to do so with ten days (A.R.S. 33-1363). Sometimes what works is a letter informing the landlord that the spraying did not succeed in fixing the problem and that if the landlord does not hire a professional to conduct an inspection as requested, and as consistent with the landlord’s obligations, then the tenant will explore the tenant’s legal options.

QUESTIONS

  • My landlord entered us into a lease with the knowledge that the home was INFESTED with termites. The neighbor pointed them out and told us he informed her before our occupancy. We immediately verbally requested she send a professional not only to inspect the safety of the homes structure, but to treat the problem. She ignored our request. We then turned in a written request and she immediately sent someone unannounced to spray for them. We still want an inspection. The damn things are dropping through our ceiling and our porch literally is falling apart. What can we do now?

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