Risks of Exercising
Your Rights in Arizona
by Arizona Tenants Association
Landlords can be arrogant and abusive. The
laws are difficult to comprehend and act under. The courts are
biased against tenants, and rarely award full attorney's fees
to tenants who prevail (although such fees are usually awarded
to landlords who are victors in their cases).
If you exercise your statutory rights, there
is a good chance you will be challenged by your landlord/agent.
Anticipate going to court and having to defend yourself. What
then? Depending on your justice court jurisdiction, two tactics
the tenants association often recommends are to seek a change
ofjudge and to demand a jury trial. But these strategies are
fraught with dangers.
First, in order to secure a change of judge
you must ask for it before there is any substantive ruling.
As for the jury trial, it must be demanded upon vour first
appearance. Failure to abide by these requirements could
well mean you have waived the rights to these options.
The other approach is the jury trial. This
is an expensive option, to be utilized when you believe that
it is the only way to get a fair trial (which is pretty often).
It could well cost you $1,000 or more in attorney's fees to
litigate. If you win, you probably won't get your full attorney's
fees awarded, leaving you hanging out to dry unless other damages
are also awarded. And if you lose, you face the prospect of
owing the other side's total attorney's fees and court costs,
not to mention the financial judgement.
In light of all this, what is a tenant to do?
Proceed according to your rights, seeking ajury
trial. If you determine that attorney's costs for a jury trial
are prohibitive, waive the jury trial. This must be done twenty-four
hours before the trial date. You still should be represented
by an attorney in order to have a decent record on which to
appeal should you lose.
Proceed according to your rights, seeking a
jury trial. Keep the jury trial and pay for an attorney. Make
the case to which you are entitled. It will cost a lot, but
at least you have the possibility of a fair trial, or the closest
Proceed according to your rights and, if challenged
in court, pay under protest to avoid an eviction ("resuming
that the landlord will reciprocate by dismissing the case).
Thereupon, sue the owner and possibly the management company
for your resulting damages in the appropriate jurisdiction.
At least you will not be evicted, and you may have a friendlier
court setting. The problem is, the new court may agree with
the argument that your previous payment constituted a settlement
or waiver of your new claim. The other consideration that makes
this option problematic is the likelihood that, despite your
current intentions, you will never get around to initiating
such an action.
Understand that you may be able to exercise
your rights without being challenged. Great. The tenants association
can assist you in preparing the necessary paper trail. However,
you must be prepared, both emotionally and financially, for
the consequences of a challenge by your landlord. Know your
rights and be prepared.