Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

questions & answers

Question: when we moved into our rental the bathrooms were covered in black mold, and within the first month, we are now being infested with bedbugs... what rights do we have and can we get out of our contract where the conditions are so horific?

Answer: As to the bedbugs, the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (A.R.S. Title 33 Chapter 10) only prohibits landlords from knowingly renting out dwellings that are already infested with bedbugs (A.R.S. 33-1319). So, for example, it does not specifically require landlords to pay to exterminate bedbugs discovered during the course of a tenancy. Landlords are, however, required to “do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition” (A.R.S. 33-1324). (Tenants are under their own obligation to keep their rental units clean and safe (A.R.S. 33-1341).) As to the mold, if it appeared during your tenancy (or has grown worse since before you moved in), then the landlord may argue that you are partly responsible. Regardless, except in emergency situations, before a tenant may attempt to terminate a rental agreement on the basis that the landlord has failed to “maintain fit premises” (A.R.S. 33-1324), the tenant must first provide the landlord with formal written notice, by delivering to the landlord – either by hand or by certified mail – a signed and dated letter describing the problem in detail and requesting that the landlord fix it as soon as possible. (It is always recommended that the tenant keep careful records of all their correspondence with their landlord and also take time-stamped photos and/or video to serve as a documentary record of the problem) If, after a reasonable period of time has passed since the landlord received the tenant’s letter, the landlord does nothing to fix the problem, the tenant will want to be able to prove (to a court of law, if necessary) that the problem was a serious one. The most important thing is for the tenant to be able to show that the tenant tried to resolve the problem with the landlord and that breaking the lease was a last resort.) If, after a reasonable period of time, the landlord does nothing to fix the problem, and the tenant believes that, by failing to act, the landlord is in violation of the landlord’s duty to “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition” (A.R.S. 33-1324),” then the tenant may deliver to the landlord written notice identifying the problem and stating that if the problem is not fixed within 10 days after the landlord receives this notice then the rental agreement will terminate. However, if a landlord fails to comply with the landlord’s obligations in way that affects or threatens to materially affect the health and safety of the tenant, then the tenant may deliver to the landlord written notice identifying the problem and stating that if the problem is not fixed within 5 days after the landlord receives this notice then the rental agreement will terminate (A.R.S. 33-1361). Conditions materially affecting health and safety include, among other things, inadequate sanitation, ventilation, or space requirements, hazardous or unsanitary premises, inadequate maintenance, unhealthy conditions (A.R.S. 9-1303). It is up to the tenant to determine whether or not a court is likely to side with them if the landlord decides to sue. If you would like specific legal advice, there are links to organizations offering free or low-cost legal services on this website, and the LegalLEARN Helpline toll-free telephone number is 1-866-637-5341.

QUESTIONS

  • when we moved into our rental the bathrooms were covered in black mold, and within the first month, we are now being infested with bedbugs... what rights do we have and can we get out of our contract where the conditions are so horific?

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