case-law-677940_1280Justice Courts are the jurisdiction in which landlord/tenant issues are resolved, and they are not nice places for tenants to be. Certainly any tenant who has been behind in his rent and as gone to Justice Court has seen how quickly the court moves to evict him: it’s like an assembly line. But Justice Courts are particularly problematic for tenants who have legitimately invoked their rights under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act either by giving notice and then making repairs and deducting the cost of them from the rent under A.R.S. § 33-1363 or paying a reduced rent in specific situations and set forth in A.R.S. § 33-1366. In those situations, if a tenant does not know how to comport himself in Justice Court, he can (and probably will) find himself evicted despite his having followed the law.

If you have invoked a legal procedure under the landlord/tenant act that involves not paying the full rent and the landlord takes you to court, the first thing the judge will ask you will be “Did you pay the rent?” You must say “Yes.” DO NOT say to the judge “No, but . . .” because the judge will not give you a chance to explain; he will immediately pound his gavel and say, “Writ of restitution [meaning eviction order] issued, five day stay” and that will be it.

But if you tell the judge that you did pay the rent then the case will be set for trial, either that day or within a couple of days. At trial the landlord will go first, and he will lay out his version of the facts of the case: that you owe “X” amount of rent. When the judge turns to you, it is at that point that you lay out the proof of the notices you sent the landlord, the proof of service, proof of repairs, and proof of the partial rent payment you did make. If you handle things right, you should be able to prevail, as long as you have your ducks in a row.