Tenants Advocates & Association
written by Ken Volk
for Effective Tenancy
All communications with your landlord/manager/agent must be in writing. If
he or she contacts you verbally, explain that you conveyed your thoughts in
writing in order to make a record of actions, and wish that he or she extends
the same courtesy to you. Say nothing more.
Any unavoidable conversations with your landlord/agent must be corroborated
by a written record. This will help substantiate your assertions and interpretation
if the matter ever goes to court. To do so you should follow the conversation
with a letter confirming in detail the contents of the conversation. After
you sign your letter, then make a copy of it and mail the original (certified,
return receipt requested) to the landlord/agent. Of course, be sure to first
consult with ATA.
Only send letters by certified, not regular, mail. This is because notices
sent certified mail are deemed received five days after you mail them. Reference
A.R.S. § 33-1313(B). If a letter sent by you to the landlord/agent is returned,
DO NOT OPEN IT. You need to allow a judge that opportunity in order to confirm
that what you said was sent in the letter actually is in there. If you open
the letter you will significantly diminish your proof of having transmitted
the notice or enclosures.
If time is critical, use a process server. This will cost about $25 or $35
for delivery during a weekday, but it is quick and you can obtain an affidavit
attesting to the delivery. Tenants have prevented evictions by delivering
rent or notices by way of process server. (Another alternative, costing about
$15, is delivery by a messenger service.)
It is better to avoid hand-delivery, because then you get into an argument
as to who is lying and who is telling the truth. Should you need to hand-deliver,
communications must be witnessed. Obtain the proper form from ATA which you
should fill out when hand-delivering notices.
If you receive any response from your landlord/agent, contact ATA and see
if you should set up an appointment or take other critical steps.
Never pay rent by dropping it off through a mail or door slot. If you do so,
what proof do you have that you made the payment? None.
When you pay rent, write on the memo line of your check exactly what it is
for, e.g. "September 1998 rent only."
Always obtain a receipt for rent payment, or if that is refused, send it by
certified mail, return receipt requested, with a cover letter. ATA can prepare
a proper cover letter for you, or you can follow one of our model letters.
It is best to pay rent with a personal check. So either open a checking account
if you can, or otherwise have a friend or family member write a check on your
behalf. Not only do you have optimum control with a personal check, but also
the funds are still in your possession until the check is negotiated and clears
If payment by personal check is prohibited or unfeasible, a second best alternative
is to use a bank check or cashiers check from a bank, for which you can issue
a trace or stop payment somewhat quickly. But be aware this is still an insufficient
option because payment generally can be stopped only if the bank/cashiers
check is lost, stolen or destroyed.
Never pay rent with cash or with money orders from stores such as Circle K
or Basha's, etc., unless, of course, you obtain a signed and dated receipt
acknowledging payment from the landlord/agent. Without such a receipt, the
landlord/agent will lie, saying rent was never received, and then attempt
to evict you for nonpayment. And don't expect a justice court judge to accept
your money order receipt as sufficient evidence of payment. In order to avoid
eviction you will have to make a replacement payment and be out twice the
amount you originally tendered. . . or you can kiss your tenancy good-bye.
Meanwhile, it will likely take 6 weeks or longer to conclude a trace or stop-payment
on such a money order.
Do not let the landlord/agent onto your premises unless proper notice has
been provided to you, except, of course, when there is a legitimate emergency.
If the landlord/agent attempts to gain access without notice or continually
bothers you, call the police. You need documentation so you can obtain injunctive
relief to stop further harassment.
On the other hand, if you complained of landlord maintenance noncompliances
you must allow the landlord/agent access to conduct the repair, SO
LONG AS PROPER NOTICE IS GIVEN seeking access at a reasonable time.
If the time sought is unreasonable, you can suggest an imminent alternative
time, but create a record of having quickly done so by way of a faxed
or hand-delivered communication. Be advised, your delay of landlord/ agent
entry may negatively impact upon your ability to proceed with your remedy.
Do Things Right
Many landlords will intentionally mislead tenants, and the law is designed
to confuse tenants. So don't trust anyone or even your own judgment. Contact
ATA first before proceeding with any additional actions, many of which require
specific follow-up correspondence. If the telephone line is busy or nobody
answers, leave a message and also keep trying. We do attempt to return calls,
especially to members.
Understand that ATA runs on a shoestring budget, and our only counselor is
a volunteer who operates under lots of pressure. For these reasons we are
unable to handle activities for you unless you actually make an appointment
and show up. Writing letters for you in your absence is out of the question.
ATA with any suggested site updates, additions
or corrections to this website.
2003-2014 by Kenneth A. Volk. All rights reserved.
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