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

  • My husband and I let someone move in with us and rent a room. We had no contact. The verbal agreement was that he would pay $400/month. He would pay $200 every two weeks. He wasshort $50 and promised to pay it in 2 more weeks. When the two weeks came, he left saying he'd be back on Tuesday. That was two and a half weeks ago. He is not responding to pho the calls or messages. He left his belongings here and his vehicle. What can we do about his stuff?
  • If we are moving into a house and the Tenant did not clean after they left and we are cleaning it. do we have to pay a deposit.
  • The downstairs neighbor keeps complaining to us & the office that we are making loud noises at night. We continually tell them its not us. We told the complaining neighbor to call the police or on-site security next time so there will be an 3rd party witness. She didn’t. She came up and complained to us again and we told her everyone but 1 person was sleeping and to call the on-site security. She went to the office and complained. Each time she complains they call/contact us as if we are guilty even though we aren’t. At what point does it become harassment by both accusing parties?
  • My dishwasher stopped turning on just prior to stay at home orders. With respect to maintenance men, & requests from the complex to only submit emergency requests, I didn’t report. However, my garbage disposal has subsequently stopped working & will not drain, leaving water growing increasingly murky & smelly in the sink. Property managers, assistant managers, & online portal request managers have ignored my requests for resolution for over a week now. What can I do?
  • How long do I have to live with an ant infestation while they "try" to remedy it. This will be the 3rd months rent paid still having the problem.
  • landlord requested for us to look for another home to move in because they were going to move back into home and we still had 9 months left on lease, so can the landlord hold any of our security deposit or do they need to refund all of it?
  • 3/31 Lease on rental home ended. 3/18 Move-out inspection done with owner. No finding except 3 bulbs needed. Owner stated he would mail check next week. 3/20 Rec'd signed inspection list for 3 bulbs. 3/20 Utilities shut off. 3/22 Rec'd email from owner stating I was obligated to keep utilities on until 3/31. And that he was going to do work on the house. He suggested I give him an amount to deduct for utilities till 3/31. And if not I can refute deductions upon receipt of deposit. Need direction in the event I pursue legal action.
  • Is a landlord required to pay the water bill on a rental property?
  • how can i get help with my land lord trying to charge me for the patio roof for leaking when soon as I seen it I told him about it? I have pics and emails from when I first told them about it in April 2015 and now its Nov 2015 and they just doing something about it?
  • We are landlords. Our tenants reported an outside water leak to us which we had completely fixed within 4 hours of being reported to us. Tenants are asking if we are responsible for any of their high water bill. Bill is 2-3x regular amount. In lease, it is specified that tenant pays all utilities.

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