Now that spring is turning into summer, a swimming pool may some days seem like an essential service. However, many apartment communities tend to ignore their upkeep, with faulty gates that may not keep children out, debris in the water, growth of algae and scum, and even attracting pests such as mosquitoes. On the topic of mosquitoes, they can also breed in any standing water, such as from excess lawn irrigation.
If your dwelling is adjacent to such a source, you may find quite a few mosquitoes entering your dwelling. So despite the fact that the pests are in your dwelling, they also infest the common areas. Under A.R.S. § 33-1324 a landlord must not only abide by building (read: health) codes, but also maintain the common areas clean and safe.
Therefore, the issue becomes manifold, taking into consideration factors such as the issue itself (the mosquitoes) , the source or cause of the problem (pool or standing water), or the points of pest ingress into the dwelling (defective window screens or decayed bug sweep). The landlord has a duty to address all of these elements, and you can hold the landlord accountable in numerous ways. For example, if it is a health issue, the city or county may issue a citation in response to your complaint. Or, under A.R.S. § 33-1361 you can secure injunctive reliefwhereby the court would order the matter corrected – but initiating a court action is usually impractical, costly and risky. Finally, it is possible to lawfully terminate your lease due to a landlord’s breaches, but we do not recommend doing so on the basis of a single complaint. Rather, we would suggest compiling the maximum number of complaints, including physical violations inside and outside your dwelling, as well as common areas. Of course, were the landlord to remedy these, you could not lawfully terminate. If we were doing the case, we would also throw in contractual and legal issues, although it is understandable that this approach might well be beyond your comprehension and capability. ATA has a Break Lease program whereby we handle just about all of the details for you, but of course we must charge for these time-consuming services.
Then there is Arizona’s “self-help” remedy, A.R.S. § 33-1363, designed to allow a tenant to perform a small repair costing no more than half the monthly rent or $299.99, whichever amount is greater, to himself make the repair and deduct the cost from next month’s rent. Sounds simple, but there are rules that apply. A 10-day notice containing specific language must be delivered to the landlord. A licensed contractor must be used. The amount paid would be deducted from the next month’s rent, along with an invoice from the contractor. The contractor must provide a Waiver of Lien that releases the landlord from liability for the cost of the repairs, and this document must be provided along with the reduced rent payment. Typically, tenants who attempt to do this on their own mess it up, and then have spent their own money making repairs for the landlord, essentially as a donation.
Don’t eat the cost due to some oversight. ATA can help you do it right.
First, we have an article in the Tenants Library explaining details about the self-help remedy, entitled Making Repairs To Your Dwelling, at this link http://arizonatenants.com/library_repair.htm. Read it. For ATA members, we have free forms that you can use to give the proper notices in the proper sequence. Or, you can individually purchase the forms for a very small charge. Read about our notices at this link http://arizonatenants.com/simple-notice.htm. Finally, we can help you create custom letters addressing the issue, whereby we would actually sit down with you to address and implement the best strategy. Information on this service can be found at this link http://arizonatenants.com/letter.htm.
Although the landlord-tenant act is designed to help tenants remedy their issues without having to take the landlord to court, it would be wise to use our expertise to level the playing field. Arizona Tenants Advocates is a membership-driven, Arizona nonprofit organization that is here to go to bat for tenants. If you are having repair problems in your rental house or apartment, visit us on our website, www.arizonatenants.com, or call us at 480-557-8905.
- Ken Volk -
June 6, 2015