In Arizona, and most other states, a landlord cannot evict an individual for utilizing self-help procedures or in retaliation for exercising their rights. A landlord also cannot evict a tenant for discriminatory reasons. Here is a synopsis of Arizona law on these subjects.
A wrongful self-help eviction occurs when a landlord ignores the rules and laws and takes matters into his or her own hands. A landlord may not evict a tenant from the dwelling unit by:
- Changing the locks
- Removing the tenant’s personal belongings from the rental
- Turning off the tenant’s utilities, including water, electricity, and/or heat, or
- Threatening, intimidating, or physically harming a tenant in an effort to force the tenant to leave the premises.
The only way a landlord can retake possession of a rental unit is by court order or if the dwelling unit is legally “abandoned.” Under Arizona law, a dwelling unit is considered abandoned when the tenant is absent for 7 days without notice, rent has not been paid in 10 days and the tenant’s personal property has been removed from the dwelling unit; or the tenant is absent for 5 days and rent has not been paid for 5 days and the tenant’s property remains in the dwelling unit.
As the name implies, a retaliatory eviction occurs when a landlord evicts a tenant for retaliation. A landlord may not retaliate by filing an eviction action because a tenant exercised a legally protected right. Such rights include:
- Complaining to a governmental agency about a building or housing code violation that materially affects the tenant’s health and safety
- Complaining to the landlord about a lease violation committed by the landlord
- Organizing or becoming a member of a tenant’s union or similar organization
- Filing an action against the landlord
If a landlord files an eviction action within 6 months of a tenant exercising such a legal right, a presumption exists under the law that the landlord’s conduct is retaliatory.
Under federal and state law it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against a current or prospective renter based on a protected class. Gender, race, color, religion, familial status, and disability are some of the protected classifications under these laws. An eviction for discriminatory reasons is therefore illegal and exposes the landlord to liability. Unlawful discrimination is unequal treatment or impact on a person or a group based on a protected class. Unlawful discrimination also includes harassment based on a protected class and retaliation for participating in a protected activity.
Consequences for Illegal Evictions in Arizona
Tenants have the right to file a wrongful eviction claim against a landlord who unlawfully retaliates against the tenant for exercising a legal right or if the eviction was conducted in an illegal manner. In Arizona, if a landlord is found liable for an unlawful eviction, the landlord could be liable for twice the amount of actual damages sustained, the tenant’s attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages if the conduct rises to the level of reprehensibility necessary for a punitive damage award. In addition to the monetary damages awarded by the court, the tenant may also recover possession of the rental unit or terminate the rental agreement and recover the security deposit.
Please contact Lynx Legal with any questions regarding the above, and for all your eviction needs. We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also schedule a telephonic consultation on our website. Our experienced professionals are standing by to answer any questions or complete the intake if you are ready to start a case.