Ending a tenancy in Arizona doesn't have to be as stressful as some people make it to be. As long as both parties follow the terms established in the lease agreement, they will avoid any legal problems that could come around.
However, what if an Arizona tenant breaks the lease early? Arizona law has certain guidelines that explain what tenants can (and can't) do when breaking a lease in the state.
Knowing your rights is essential if you want to protect yourself whenever an Arizona tenant tries to break your rental agreement, which is why we've created this guide.
Keep reading if you want to know more about the guidelines surrounding breaking a lease in Arizona.
The first thing you should know about the topic is that, to break a lease legally, a tenant may have to provide you with notice so that you can prepare. In Arizona, your tenant will have to provide you with a written notice letter, and the time they have to do it will depend on the type of lease.
- Monthly Lease - 30 days or more.
- Weekly Lease - 10 days or more.
There isn't specific information regarding quarterly or yearly leases. Also, tenants aren't required to provide any notice for ending fixed-term leases, as the lease will expire on its set end date.
Breaking a Lease Agreement
Yes. Tenants can break a lease in Arizona as long as they meet one of the requirements we'll explain below:
Every rental unit in Arizona must meet the state's "Safety and Health Codes." Generally speaking, your rental property must be in great condition before a new tenant moves in.
Tenants have the legal right to request repairs from their landlord, as soon as they do it with proper notice. However, if the landlord doesn't fix the problems in time, the tenant may not have to comply with the lease agreement terms anymore, as the landlord already violated them.
Active Military Duty
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act may protect tenants who are currently serving and are relocated. In essence, the SCRA protects active service members from the date they enter active duty until 30-90 days after they get discharged.
Now, breaking a lease in Arizona under this condition requires a particular process. The tenant must deliver the written notice to their landlord as usual, but they also need to prove they will remain on active duty for the next 90 days. Moreover, they need to prove they signed the lease before entering duty.
Tenants must attach a copy of the deployment orders or a signed letter by their commanding officer about the deployment process.
Keep in mind that the tenant may only be able to terminate the lease 30 days after the next rent period begins.
Early Lease Termination Clause
Breaking a lease in Arizona through an early lease termination clause is considered the safest option for both parties. Some lease agreements for a rental property include specific terms and conditions regarding breaking a lease agreement before it ends.
Typically, landlords in Arizona allow tenants to break a lease in Arizona in exchange for a fee, which they will pay as a "penalty." Even though the penalty may not be able to cover all the rent owed sometimes, it may be able to cover some of the expenses the Arizona landlord needs to cover before finding a replacement tenant.
Some tenants may be able to legally break a lease under the argument that their landlord is harassing them or violating their privacy. Some common cases include:
The landlord changed the locks of the property without the tenant's consent, which is illegal in Arizona.
The landlord entered the property without providing the two days of written notice required by Arizona law.
Arizona protects victims of domestic violence if they want to break their lease early. However, they will have to provide proof of status to their landlord first.
If the landlord isn't able to verify the tenant's claims of domestic violence status, they may still ask them to pay a fee for leaving the rental unit.
Tenants may use these additional arguments to break a lease in Arizona, although they may need to get processed and approved by a court first:
- The landlord or property manager didn't disclose any known defects to the property under the "mandatory disclosure" rules.
- The landlord used an illegal contract, making it unenforceable.
- The landlord repeatedly violated the lease agreement.
- The rental unit didn't have any reasonable accommodations to fit a senior citizen or a person with a qualified disability.
There are some arguments tenants may try to use to legally break the lease, although they're not valid on their own. Some of these cases include:
- Moving in with a partner or close to a family member/friend.
- Upsizing or downsizing.
- Relocating for a new school or job.
- Buying a new property.
- Moving someplace else after a divorce.
Delivering a Notice Letter
Arizona allows tenants to send notices through two different methods:
- Delivering the letter in person.
- Mailing the letter via registered/certified mail.
Delivering the notice in any other way may not be considered valid, which may make the tenant pay more fees in the future. It's important to explain those details carefully to prevent any mistakes.
What Are the Penalties
Some of the penalties enforced by Arizona landlords include:
- Withholding part of the security deposit.
- Making the tenant pay for the remainder of the rent.
- Hiring a debt collection agency to make the tenant pay what they owe.
Tenants may be able to minimize the penalties they have to cover by negotiating with their landlord to come to a mutual termination agreement. However, this may not always work.
The best way for an Arizona landlord to enforce penalties if the tenant tries to break the lease is to make a detailed early termination clause for the agreement. As mentioned before, this should outline all the consequences the tenant may experience if they break the lease early.
If the tenant violates the terms of the lease in any way, then you can refer to the original lease agreement as evidence. Then, you can seek help from a legal expert or an experienced property management company if they don't want to comply with the penalties.
Finding a Replacement Tenant
Yes. The state of Arizona requires landlords to make reasonable efforts to re-rent their property if their tenant breaks the lease early. Once the landlord finds a new tenant, the new rent received will be credited to the old one's debt.
In other words, the old tenant will only be liable for the time the property was vacant, which is why in everyone's interest to find a new one as soon as possible.
Subletting the Property
Tenants are allowed to sublet the property as long as you give them permission to. You can include a subletting clause in the original lease if you want to address the topic right away.
If you don't have a subletting clause, the tenant must ask for your permission, and you have the right to either approve or refuse it. Keep in mind that the law states landlords can't refuse subletting requests unreasonably unless they already stated they don't accept subletting in the lease.
Even though there are several scenarios where a tenant may be able to break a lease early, you still have many protective measures you can take to ensure you get compensated fairly for any lost money.
Make sure you create a great residential lease document to prevent any misunderstandings from happening in the future. Also, make sure you study Arizona's landlord-tenant law to have a better idea of what you can do to make your leasing relationship much healthier.