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I Want Out!

by Arizona Tenants Association

Note:

The terms "landlord" and "owner" and "agent"may be used and applied interchangeably for the purposes of this article, unless indicated otherwise.

There are numerous legal delineations under which a residential tenant may leave his rental dwelling. They fall into two broad categories: to temporarily vacate, versus to declare the rental agreement terminated and find permanent housing elsewhere. Following is a brief synopsis of the various approaches; detailed guidelines are, or will be, separately available.

Temporarily Vacate or Secure Substitute Housing,
without Terminating

1)

If there is a fire or casualty, such as a flood, that substantially impairs your enjoyment of the dwelling unit, you may partially vacate the dwelling areas rendered unusable and pay a rent that is proportionally reduced. ARS 33-1 366(A)(2).

2)

If there is a fire or casualty that substantially impairs your enjoyment of the dwelling unit and the amount rendered unusable is the entire dwelling, you can fully vacate the premises, making the argument that the rent is wholly reduced.
ARS 33-1 366(A)(2).

3)

When a landlord fails to provide an essential service (such as heating, cooling, water, hot water, electricity, and gas), you may procure substitute housing and not pay rent for the period of the noncompliance. ARS 33-1364(A)(3).

4)

When an owner fails to provide an essential service (such as heating, cooling, water, hot water, electricity, and gas), you may procure substitute housing and, in addition to being excused from paying rent for the period of the noncompliance, also recover the cost of the substitute housing. ARS 33-1364(F).

Terminate the Rental Agreement and Permanently Vacate

1)
Should the owner unlawfully exclude you from the premises, or interrupt/diminish essential services, you may terminate the rental agreement. ARS 33-1374 and 33-1367.
2)
Should the landlord make an unlawful entry to the premises, or a lawful entry in an unreasonable manner, or make repeated demands for entry otherwise lawful but which serves to harass you, you may terminate the rental agreement. ARS 33-1343 and 33-1376.
3)
If there is a fire or casualty that substantially impairs your enjoyment of the dwelling unit, you may immediately vacate and terminate. ARS 33-1366(A)(1).
4)
If there is an incident or series of incidents, including but not necessarily limited to a criminal act that threatens your safety and security, then you can assert that it is impossible for you to perform under your contract, and immediately vacate. Based on common law contract defense.
5)
If you have just taken possession or are about to take possession of the premises, should the landlord fraudulently entice you to enter into a rental agreement with false promises and expectations about the conditions of the dwelling unit, including its availability, you can declare the contract null and void from the very beginning. Based on common law contract theory.
6)
If the landlord failed to deliver possession of the premises and fails to remedy (e.g. no keys provided, or someone is still occupying), you can terminate the rental agreement. ARS 33-1362(A)(1).
7)
If the landlord constructively fails to deliver possession of the premises which he fails to remedy (you just moved in, and from the very beginning there are noncompliances with ARS 33-1324), you can terminate the rental agreement. ARS 33-1362(B).
8)
If there is a noncompliance by the owner with the rental agreement or a material falsification of written information provided to you, which he fails to remedy in ten days, you may terminate in ten days or more. ARS 33-1361(A)
9)
If there is a health and safety noncompliance by the owner with ARS 33-1324, which he fails to remedy in five days, you may terminate in five days or more. ARS 33-1361(A).

Terminating and vacating is one of the least risky remedies available to a tenant. The most likely negative result is loss of security deposit and additional claims. Steps must be taken to prevent the owner/agent from withholding your security deposit or making additional claims upon you.

Expect to have your assertions and actions challenged, and be prepared to meet the challenge. Commonly, an owner's preferred choice is to send the claims to collections. Even so, you can usually protect yourself from the consequences of termination if you follow every step suggested by ATA. Most landlords are reluctant to resort to court action for damages alone, because such cases take much longer and cost more to litigate than evictions.

It is usually beneficial to give notice in more than one manner. Understand that follow-up correspondence beyond the initial notice is almost always required.

Timeliness is crucial. Never leave an issue hanging.

Corroborating evidence and witnesses should be gathered.

Never proceed on trust or goodwill towards an owner/agent. Avoid conversations and side deals with the owner. Sign nothing. Understand that you are engaged in an adversarial relationship, in which the landlord is an experienced professional. Act legally and with circumspection.