Most tenants that sign a lease intend to stay for the entire period it’ll be active. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Your Arizona tenant may end up breaking a lease agreement for a number of reasons.
So, as a landlord, what are you to do when that happens? Normally, the first course of action most landlords would take is to penalize their tenants. After all, a lease is a contractually binding agreement. The penalty would be to hold the tenant liable for all remaining rent under the lease.
That being said, there are some reasons for breaking a lease that can be legally justifiable. In such cases, a tenant would need to provide you with proper notice in order to break the agreement.
Legally Unjustified Reasons for Breaking a Lease Agreement in Arizona
While a tenant may have a good reason for moving out before the end of their lease, they need to have legal cause if they wish to avoid penalties. The following are some reasons that are legally unjustified in the state of Arizona:
- Moving into the new home
- Relocating to another town for a new job or school
- Upgrading or downsizing
- Moving in with a partner
- Moving to get closer to family
In such cases, the law wouldn’t be on your tenant’s side. You’d be within your right as a landlord to penalize them for violating the agreement.
Legally Justified Reasons for Breaking a Lease Agreement in Arizona
The following are the handful of scenarios where a tenant would have legal cause to break their lease without penalty:
Your Tenant is Starting Active Military Duty
Active service members who have to be relocated due to a military assignment can break their lease legally. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects them against any form of penalties from their landlord.
The protection by the action starts from the date the servicemember enters active duty and ends 30 to 90 days after getting discharged.
There are a couple of requirements that the tenant must meet prior to moving out. First, the tenant must be able to prove that they didn’t sign the lease after entering active duty. Next, they must prove that the military assignment is going to last 90 days or more. And finally, they must accompany the deployment letters with a written notice.
Once all requirements have been met, the lease will terminate 30 days after the next rent period begins.
The Rental Lease Includes an Early Termination Clause
For a tenant without a legally justified reason, an early termination clause is their best bet for avoiding penalties. If you include an early termination clause in the lease or rental agreement, a tenant may only need to provide you with proper written notice and pay a certain fee to end the agreement.
The Unit Doesn’t Meet Arizona’s Safety and Health Codes
Every state requires that rental properties meet certain basic health and safety codes. Arizona isn’t any different. A landlord has a responsibility to maintain their rental units.
So, what happens if a landlord isn’t able to meet those standards? In this case, a court would probably rule that your tenant has been “constructively evicted.” This means that they would no longer have any obligations under the lease.
And besides moving out, your tenant would also have other options to pursue. One option would be to withhold rent. Specifically, your tenant may be able to do so if you, as the landlord, deliberately or negligently fail to supply essential services, such as air conditioning or cooling, or running water.
Also, your Arizona tenant may be able to exercise their right to “Repair & Deduct.” But to exercise this right, the cost must be less than $300 or half a month’s rent, whichever is greater.
Your Tenant is a Domestic Violence Victim
Just like some other states, Arizona tenants who are victims of domestic violence have special rental provisions.
Landlords have a right to verify a tenant’s claim of domestic violence. With the proof, your tenant can terminate their lease. Landlords are also required to change the locks once requested by a domestic violence victim.
A Landlord Repeatedly Harasses their Tenant
It’s illegal for Arizona landlords to harass or retaliate against tenants who exercise their rights.
A landlord cannot, for instance, refuse to renew a lease, evict a tenant, or raise the rent on a tenant for doing any of the following:
- Exercising their legal right. For example, forming or joining a tenants’ union to push for their rights.
- Filing an official complaint with a relevant government agency about a health or a safety code violation.
- Withholding rent for the poor condition at their rented premises.
A Landlord Violates their Tenant’s Right to Privacy
Tenants have a basic right to privacy in their rental homes. A landlord will have to access the rental unit for time-to-time. As the landlord, you can enter your tenant’s rented premises for the following valid reasons:
- In case of an emergency
- To make required repairs to a rental unit
- To inspect the unit
- Pursuant to a court order
- To show the rental property to prospective buyers, tenants, or contractors
- If you have reasonable cause to believe the tenant has abandoned the premises
Besides having a legal reason to enter the property, you must also notify your tenant 48 hours prior to the entry. However, cases of emergency are an exception.
An Arizona Landlord’s Responsibility to Find New Renters
Arizona state law requires a landlord to “mitigate damages” by taking reasonable steps to re-rent their units. You cannot just wait until the lease ends and then sue your tenant for all the rent due, you must make reasonable efforts to find a replacement tenant.
As an Arizona landlord, it’s important that you understand who a tenant has a legal cause to break the lease. You should also remain up-to-date on other rental laws such as landlord-tenant law, security deposit law, the Fair Housing Act, and rent increase policies.
If you are seeking assistance in managing your rentals reach out to the experts at Property Plus USA today!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for legal advice from an expert. If you have still have questions, please get in touch with a qualified attorney for legal advice or an experienced property management company.