Under A.R.S. § 33-1315 of the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, lease provisions that violate the law are unenforceable and considered material noncompliance with the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. But this was not way the tenant advocates wanted the law to read when the Landlord/Tenant Act was first being debated in the legislature. At that time, the tenant advocates wanted the law to require landlords to use specific lease forms which did not contain any illegal provisions. The landlord lobby vehemently opposed, because even though they knew that the law trumps the lease, they also knew that when a tenant is having a problem with his landlord he generally looks to the lease, not the law, as the authority on what his rights are. And so a compromise was forged under which landlords could use whatever lease forms they wanted, but if the tenant complained about a provision that contradicted the law, it would be considered a material noncompliance with the Landlord/Tenant Act and the landlord would have 10 days to rewrite the provision or the tenant could avail himself of one of any number of remedies set forth in A.R.S. § 33-1361, including terminating the lease.
Lease provisions that the landlord lobby wanted to remain in leases ranged from the minor transgressions to the really egregious. Leases routinely have paragraphs that provide that a tenant acknowledges the apartment is in good condition when he assumes occupancy. This provision, if it were enforceable, would essentially relieve the landlord from his obligation to maintain the premises under A.R.S. § 33-1324. There actually are paragraphs in some leases that provide that the tenant must maintain the premises, or certain parts of the premises, or make a co-payment towards repairs. There are provisions in some leases that a tenant must pay a “administrative fee” for the delivery of a notice from the landlord; that tenants are held to the lease even if the landlord is unable to deliver possession of the premises; that the tenant is responsible for pest control; that the tenant waives claims against his landlord even if the landlord is negligent; that the tenant waives his right to a jury trial . . . the list goes on and on. Particularly egregious are the paragraphs concerning the landlord’s rights to withhold security deposits, for example, to assign liquidated damages to specific repairs ($20.00 for a hole in the wall, $50.00 for a dirty refrigerator). Then there are “confession of judgment” paragraphs. These are the most egregious I’ve seen. These provide that the tenant, upon signing the lease, agrees to any judgment the landlord may decide to impose on the tenant for any reason whatsoever. Confession of judgment is strictly prohibited under A.R.S. § 44-143 and other statutes but it is a provision that pops up in leases from time to time.
Here is a link to a sample lease analysis of one that contains numerous illegal provisions. This particular analysis is for a lease written by the Arizona Multihousing Association in March, 2013. The AMA leases are one of the two major lease forms that landlords use in Arizona (the other being the Arizona Association of Realtor leases); between the two of them, they probably comprise 60% of the leases out there. You can see from these examples why landlords want to use leases that contain these provisions, even though they are not enforceable. Additionally, landlords often attach addenda to leases which they write themselves pertaining to specific properties. Those provisions contained in these addenda are often even worse than the ones on standard lease forms. As a tenant, it is extremely important that you understand what your rights are, and that if a lease provision contradicts a right you have under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, the law prevails.