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

  • Live in a 55 plus community bought MH. Main water pipe busted and has flooded the whole crawl space. Who pays for the cost? Who pays for damages to home?
  • Is it the landlord's responsibility to spray for bugs/spiders, even if in our lease it says it's our responsibility?
  • My Landlord is charging me late fees because I owe late fees. Can they do that? They charge $10 a day for late fees and I only pay $579. in rent. I know that they take out late fees first with any money you give them so they keep you behind so they can keep charging you late fees. How can that be legal?
  • The lease for my apartment ended on the 31st of the month. The office assistance told me to turn in my key on the 1st before 5pm. I did as told when I turned in the key on 1st at 3pm they said i will be charged for additional month’s rent due to the extra day i stayed in the apartment not charged for the one day but charged a whole extra $699 rent. They implied that i should have turned the key in the drop box before the office opened and were “sorry” for mis-communication. They directly told me the 1st before 5pm.
  • We are renting our townhouse in another city in Arizona. We signed a 1 year lease with our tenant. The lease currently came up for renewal. Our tenant wanted to go month to month. We were not willing to do so, but said we were willing to shorten the new lease to 6 months. The tenant said (on the phone) that that would work for her. We drafted a renewal page, mailed it to her to sign. we included a prepaid, self addressed envelope. It has been several weeks, we have not received the signed renewal agreement yet We have called several times and she does not answer/return calls What should we do
  • Our lease has no provision in regarding pest control and landlord being able to charge for pest control services if infestation is found. Our landlord is trying to do this to residents who are mostly SMI or disabled who only means is a monthly check and being on sec 8 or home inc. They don't understand they have rights and are afraid of being evicted as this is what they've been told. I know Residents whohave requested pest service and not received due to not being put on list for service and apts that have bug problems or infestations are being rented then tenants blamed for. What can we do
  • Can I post bill an apartment manager for repair services I paid for which the managers neglected to provide?
  • My boyfriend and I paid our rent 435 + 48 late fees for the prior month leaving us a balance of 65 dollars in late fees for this month. I seen AZ law states that a 10% total rent is the most that can be charged for late fees. Per the rental agreement, the only mention of late fees 25.00 + 5.00 daily late fees until for any portion of rent that is not paid. There is no section devoted to late fees as required by AZ law. I was wondering can a landlord charge late fees on the months late fees?
  • My husband and I have been living atapartments for 9/10 months now and we have a 9 month baby, we have always been kind of suspicious of mold because all of the walls look like chunks of them have been replaced, the celing has water spots, its just a mess. So on 8/10/13 my husband was feeling the wall in our bedroom where him and I and also my son sleep and when he felt by the base board the wall kind of just broke so he pulled out the drywal and it is just caked in mold. Black chunks of mold all over. So now it is exposed and we can not bring our baby home, nor can we be home what can we do?
  • My question is if someone who has bedbugs dies can the landlord keep their deposit

STORIES

LegalLEARN

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

ORGANIZATIONS