Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

questions & answers

Question: Can the landlord turn off our electricity if its in his name when I have a special needs child?

Answer: No. A landlord may not under any circumstances shut off the power to a rented premises without first formally obtaining an eviction of the affected tenant(s) through the civil court process. To do so is unlawful. Under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (A.R.S. Title 33 Chapter 10), if a landlord fails to supply running water, gas and/or electrical service, or fails to provide reasonable amounts of hot water, heat, cooling, or air-conditioning (where such units are installed and offered), or any other essential service, then the tenant may provide written notice to the landlord identifying the problem and informing the landlord that he is in breach of the rental agreement (A.R.S. § 33-1364). Sending this formal signed and dated letter to landlord – delivered either by hand or by certified mail – is an important first step, regardless of whether you want to leave or stay. If, after a reasonable period of time, the landlord does nothing to fix the problem, and it is affecting or threatening to affect the health and safety of the tenant(s), then a tenant who wishes to terminate the rental agreement may deliver to the landlord written notice 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). If, after a reasonable period of time, the landlord still has not restored the essential service, then a tenant who wishes to continue to reside in the dwelling has three options: Option One: The tenant may arrange for the required utilities on her own and deduct the cost of those utilities from the tenant’s next monthly rent payment. Option Two: The tenant may file a claim in court to recover damages based on the decreased fair rental value of the dwelling. Option Three: The tenant may find “reasonable substitute housing” (an inexpensive motel, for example) until the landlord restores the essential service. What this means is that when the tenant pays his/her rent for the following month, the tenant may pay a “prorated” amount. (So, for example, if the monthly rent is $900 (or $30/day), and the tenant is forced to stay in a motel for 5 days, then the tenant may reduce the next month’s rent payment by $150.) If the cost of this substitute housing exceeds the amount of the tenant’s rent for the period, then the tenant also may recover up to 25% (but no more) of the additional expense from the landlord. There are links to organizations offering free or low-cost legal services on this website if you would like specific legal advice.

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  • State Bar of Arizona
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