Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

questions & answers

Question: How long does a landlord have to fix hot water?

Answer: Under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, a landlord is required by law to (among other things) “comply with the requirements of applicable building codes materially affecting health and safety” (which under A.R.S. 9-1303 includes conditions in which there is a “lack of hot or running water”); “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition”; “maintain in good and safe working order and condition all ... plumbing ... heating ... and other facilities and appliances ... supplied or required to be supplied by him”; and “supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times” (A.R.S. 33-1324). A tenant whose rented dwelling does not have hot water is responsible first and foremost for providing the landlord with formal written notice of the problem – ideally in a signed and dated letter (keeping a copy for the tenant’s own records) – describing the problem in detail and requesting that it be fixed as soon as reasonably possible. The law does not give the landlord a specific period of time. If, even after that letter has been received, the landlord still fails to repair the problem and the tenant wishes to continue to rent the dwelling, then, under A.R.S. 33-1364, ONLY IF THE LANDLORD HAS ACTED EITHER *DELIBERATELY OR NEGLIGENTLY* in failing to supply hot water, the tenant may send a second letter to the landlord notifying the landlord of the continued seriousness of the problem and do any of the following: 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 (A.R.S. 33-1364). These options apply only if the landlord has acted either deliberately or negligently after what the law describes only as a “reasonable” period of time. And under no circumstances may the tenant simply withhold all or part of their rent from the landlord – unless the landlord gives written permission to do so.

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