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I have been renting a home since June. I was looking over my lease and realized that my landlord did not follow proper procedure (as outlined in the contract) by not giving us a copy of the lease and leaving several blank spaces. I recently read A.R.S. Section 33-1332(E) which states that a landlord must provide tenants with a signed copy of the lease with no blank spaces. Noncompliance with this subsection shall be deemed a material noncompliance of the rental agreement. If my landlord did not comply with this section, am I able to terminate the lease and move out?

Response by Carlton C. Casler. Yes, but you must first give the landlord a notice and an opportunity to cure the noncompliance. What you have described is a “material noncompliance,” which is subject to a ten day notice. Send the notice via certified mail or hand-deliver it.

Can I terminate a lease do to job transfer of 160 miles away?
Response by Carlton C. Casler: No. There is no law in Arizona that permits a tenant to terminate a lease early because of job transfer or to take a new job, except in the case of a tenant in the military that receives Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders. Such a right could, however, be included in the lease, but that would be uncommon.

If you give notice ahead of time that you are going to need to break lease due to unemployment and illness preventing re-employment, can the landlord lock you out or confiscate your property before you vacate the property?

Response by Carlton C. Casler: Assuming this is a residential lease, under NO circumstances is a residential landlord able to "lock out" a tenant. If the tenant has "abandoned" the property, the landlord may follow the procedure in ARS Sec. 33-1370 and then change the locks. If the tenant gives the landlord the keys AND possession of the rental unit, then the landlord may change the locks. After entry of judgment by a court AND execution of a Writ of Restitution, the landlord may change the locks. If an existing tenant requests that the locks be changed (for security reasons or some other reason) AND if the landlord agrees, then landlord may change the locks, but the landlord must give the tenant a new key. Other than these circumstances, the landlord cannot change the locks and/or "lock out" a residential tenant. A residential landlord cannot seize the tenant's personal property as full or partial payment of rent, although, under certain circumstances and only after following a very specific procedure, a landlord may auction personal property left by a tenant after an eviction or after abandonment.

If a tenant loses their job and can't work to pay ongoing rent due to illness (and has to vacate and move elsewhere as a result), can they legally break the lease. If tenant files bankruptcy could the debt due to breaking lease be excused . . . would it be considered unsecured debt?

Response by Carlton C. Casler: Unless a specific provision is included in the rental agreement, a tenant cannot lawfully terminate the lease because of illness or loss of employment. Unpaid rent is normally considered unsecured debt. In a no-asset Chapter 7, that debt will likely be discharged; in a Chapter 13, the landlord will likely be included in the bankruptcy plan with other unsecured creditors.

Can a tenant terminate a lease if they have purchased another residence during the time of the lease?

Response by Carlton C. Casler: No. The LL/T Act does not allow a tenant to terminate a lease because the tenant purchased a house, because of a job transfer, poor health, or any other similar reason. The ONLY basis for terminating a residential lease because of a house purchase is if the written lease included a provision that allows the tenant to terminate the lease for that reason.

If the owner of a property is doing a short sale are the tenants required to coninue to pay rent since this means that the owner is no longer paaying the mortgage and the bank is taking a pay off and can the deposit be at risk?

Response by Carlton C. Casler. Yes, you must continue to pay rent. Failure to pay rent exposes you to eviction for nonpayment of rent. Although the owner is not making the payments, the owner is still the owner and is still entitled to collect rent during the time he owns the property. Your rental agreement may provide that the owner's failure to make the property loan payments is a default by the owner, but your remedy is to send a notice of material noncompliance, not to simply stop paying the rent. Yes, your deposits are potentially at risk, but the court will not take any action or allow you to take any action based on what may or may not happen sometime in the future.

My tenants are only 2 months in to a 3 year lease and they have given me a 2 week notice due to job loss. What are my options?

Answer by Carlton Casler: As you may have already discerned from other blog posts, a "job loss" or "job transfer" are NOT legal grounds to get out of a lease early (unless, of course, you specifically wrote that into the lease agreement). The tenants have (or soon will) breach the lease by vacating before the end of the lease term. You MUST mitigate your damages, which means you must make "reasonable" efforts to re-rent the property (i.e., put up a sign, run an ad, list with a broker or whatever you normally do to rent the property). Once you re-rent the property, your damages can be calculated with certainty. You can sue the tenants for all the rent you did not receive before you re-rented the property AND all the expenses you incurred to re-rent the property (i.e., ad costs, commissions, rent concessions, etc.). Once you know the amount you can lawfully seek, you will need to decide whether it is "worth your while" to find and then sue the former tenants. If they have bad credit, no money and lots of other debt, you may just drive them into bankruptcy. If, on the other hand, one or both of the tenants is employed (or becomes employed by the time you re-rent the property), it may be worth the time and expense to sue the tenants and get a judgment. I (or others) may make "recommendations," but only you are able to decide whether it is worth you while to pursue the former tenants.

Can a tenant terminate a lease if the property manager/landlord listed on the lease is not listed on the title?

Answer by Carlton C. Casler: An "agent" for the landlord may enter into a lease on the landlord's behalf. The lease should be signed "by Mr. Agent, on behalf of Mr. Landlord." Although the agent has signed, it is the landlord who is bound by the lease. Property managers commonly sign on behalf of the landlord via a general or special power of attorney. The "owner" of the property may or may not be the landlord. For example, the owner may rent to a tenant, who, in turn, sub-lets the property to a sub-tenant. Clearly, the tenant is not the owner, but the tenant is permitted (as long as permitted by the lease with the owner) and legally entitled to sublet to a sub-tenant. If, however, someone enters into a lease as the landlord and that person is not the owner AND does not have the owner's authority to enter into a lease, then that "landlord" has committed fraud and, to the extent a lease exists at all, the tenant may immediately terminate the lease.

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