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

  • Is it worth it to file small claims for deposit that has not been returned, with the landlord living in another state and to also have additional charges for not sending letter why deposit wasn't refunded and for entering residence without prior knowledge or permission? How do I start the process?
  • A girl was staying with me for 2 months and I never drafted a lease, she threatened the domain of my home as far as personal property is concerned and was completely insubordinate whether it be cleanliness, punctuality so on and so forth. In the end I kicked her out. What legal right if any is in her favor? To my understanding she was never a legal tenant so I would think almost next to none.
  • My fiancé and I moved out of our apartment at the end of December 2013 and just not received a cleaning fee. It's been a year and 5 months. After we moved out we went back 2 months and asked if we owed money and they said no. Now we get cleaning fee year and a half later. Can they do that? Isn't there like time frame they have to bill me? Please help me thanks.
  • We notified landlord we are terminating our lease that is effective through September 08. We actually vacated the house June 11. We asked landlord to find another tenant that could move in before out lease is up so we can get out of our lease early. Landlord said they were looking for new tenant but then said they wanted their friends to move in Jan. 09. They are playing with our money now by not looking for a new tenant. Can they do that?
  • Is it a breach of contract if apartment says they have ac when really its a chiller.
  • I assigned a 30 day reservation to rent a unit from a person who later was discovered is not the owner or the tenant on the lease. When I contacted the owner and the management the 30 day reservation is against the rules of the facility. We also received made up fines from the person lying that they were generated from the homeowners association when I spoke to the homeowners association there was no such fine ever levied how much is the satiation call the police and has a police report from this particular person being fraudulent. Where do we go for help to get our deposit back. Is this person even our landlord
  • So, my landlord and I discussed my closing out my current lease at the end of it, but agreed to resigning it with a new roommate. He agreed we have until May 1 to get all of our paperwork submitted to him, but when sent to him before May 1, he said someone else was in the process of signing a lease. Is this allowed since Im the current resident and we had already discussed resigning a lease after it ends at the end of June 2017?
  • HI, I am deaf, and I am living in an apartment. Do we have the right to tell the Landlord not to let anyone come in without our permission cause they walk in when i shower or standing in kitchen with my boxers on, or sleeping... they got no right to come in without calling or texting me if i am home or not. Do i have the right tell them NO entrance? I was raped by a maintenance when i was in my 20’s so i do not like anyone coming in while i am sleeping or showering or standing in kitchen in my boxers. This maintenance just opened the door and i freaked out.
  • Hello I recently moved in my apartment on 8/15 at that time my air conditioning was not working blows out warm air. I notified the office they sent a technician over the same day. I told him my air doesn't work he TOLD me it does and changed the air filter. Which it did not. I contacted the leasing office again around 8/31. They called me left a message to speak with maintenance. I called back TWICE never got a response. My air did not get fixed until 9/16! And my electric is now shut off because I cannot pay a 850 dollar bill. Should the leasing office accommodate me for these times?
  • I have been offered a position in ND and my wife will be caring for her grandmother in ND. My lease is not up til Feb but we really need to move now. Can I break my lease? I rent an apt. How much notice is required? My lease says 60 days.

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