In general, a tenant has a right to “cure,” or correct, lease violationS alleged by her landlord.  Thus, if the landlord sends a notice to the tenant that she has a roommate not allowed by the lease, under A.R.S. § 33-1368(A)(2) she has ten days to remove the roommate and retain her tenancy.  Most allegations of lease violations are curable, although the law does provide that if the tenant violates the same lease provision in the same way a second time, she does not get a chance to cure again.

There are, however, some lease violations that are considered “material and irreparable” breaches that are not curable.  Under the same A.R.S. section referenced above, these include illegal discharge of a weapon, homicide, prostitution, criminal street gang activity, drug violations, assault or intimidation, or “a breach of the lease agreement that otherwise jeopardizes the health, safety and welfare of the landlord, the landlord’s agent or another tenant or involving imminent or actual property damage.”

Landlords will often make up claims of violations that comprise “material and irreparable lease breaches” against a tenant with whom they are having problems.  These are usually very stressful to tenants, but my experience is that landlords are so used to having their way that they are often sloppy in their allegations or in how they present these violations.  Very often if a landlord is making a baseless allegation against you (or even one that has merit), if you join Arizona Tenants Union we will be able to figure out a way for you to effectively deal with your problem.

The following situation came to our office today.  Apparently an animal of some sort died in the walls between a tenant and the next apartment over, and caused an infestation of maggots into her apartment through holes in the wall.  The tenant was a very nice, sweet young college student who had been complaining about conditions in the apartment for some time, and when the maggot problem happened she freaked out and her father came to her rescue.  Unfortunately, he may have acted a little aggressively towards the management company (he said that he simply threatened to call an attorney, and that set them off), but they served her with a five day notice for material and irreparable breach of her lease based on her father’s alleged actions.  Then, for good measure, they served her with a 10-day notice the next day to cure the alleged spilled Dr. Pepper which supposedly caused the maggot infestation.  This 10-day notice claimed that it was the second notice of the same type of violations – she was previously given a ten day notice to cure her allegedly littering the complex with cigarette butts (she doesn’t smoke) after she had made a prior complaint – and was therefore non-curable.

The tenant and her father were justifiably very upset.  But when I evaluated the circumstances, I found that they had multiple legal grounds to stand on.  First, as a matter of law, the 5-day notice was meaningless because the landlord subsequently served a ten-day notice.  Therefore, even if the allegation contained in the 5-day notice was found to have merit, the tenancy was reinstated for an additional five days by virtue of the landlord serving a 10-day notice the next day.  So although the landlord thought he was being slick by serving multiple notices, he actually shot himself in the foot with respect to the first notice by effectively reinstating the tenancy with the second.

maggotdAdditionally, the second of the violations was curable.  Even if the preposterous allegation that the tenant spilled Dr. Pepper and that this caused a maggot infestation were true, it was a materially different allegation than that the tenant littered the property with cigarette butts.  It therefore was curable and the tenant was not facing eviction.

Moreover, when I analyzed the lease, I determined that there were no rules and regulations attached to the form.  There was nothing in the lease which prohibited her from littering or from being dirty.  Therefore, there were no violations of her lease in any way, and even if every allegation was true, the landlord still had no grounds to evict her.

There are several points to all of this.  First and foremost, it is important to know that you have one opportunity to cure a violation that is not “material and irreparable.”  For second violations you do not have the right to cure.  But the other important point to this story is that even if you did do wrong, it is up to the landlord to take you to task for it in a proper way.  In this story, even if everything the landlord said the tenant and her father did was true, the landlord still would not be able to evict her because of their own incompetence.  The subtext to this latter point is that it pays to have professional help, such as that which Arizona Tenants Union gives its members: sometimes you can finesse your way out of a situation.  And as a corollary to that, the culture of landlord/tenant relationships in Arizona so favors landlords that they have become sloppy in the way they proceed against tenants, and as a result they sometimes make critical mistakes.

It is precisely this culture of landlord dominance in Arizona that we are trying so hard to change.  And as this story shows, we can actually do so.  With enough tenants who have the same level of sophisticated backing landlords have behind them, as Arizona Tenants Union provides, the landlord/tenant landscape in Arizona can change.  Join Arizona Tenants Union.  Membership dues are $60.00/year which can be paid in $5.00/month installments.  This is our sole source of funding, and as a result, we are accountable to no one but our members.  The more members we have, the stronger we become.  Join us today!