Arizona renters may be able to move out early and avoid paying more rent. Even if renters leave for no apparent reason, landlords must take efforts to reduce their losses.
Breaking the lease is leaving before the end of a fixed-term lease. Tenants who breach a contract are usually responsible for the remaining rent owed unless the landlord rerents the apartment or lets you off the hook. However, there are a few situations in which an Arizona tenant may be permitted to dissolve a contract without future rent responsibility.
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When Is It Legal to Break a Lease in Arizona?
A tenant in Arizona may be permitted to terminate a lease without incurring future rent under the following circumstances.
An Arizona renter who has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault in the apartment has the right to terminate the contract. The tenant must provide the landlord written notice that he or she wishes to be released from the lease or rental arrangement on an agreed-upon date within the following 30 days. One of the following must be included in the notice:
a copy of a protective order issued to the tenant (the landlord can request a receipt or signed statement that the protection order has been submitted for service), or a copy of a written departmental report from a law enforcement agency stating that the tenant reported domestic violence or sexual assault to the agency.
The tenant has the right to terminate the lease only if the circumstances that caused the tenant to be a victim occurred during the 30-day period preceding the tenant’s notification of termination (unless the landlord agrees otherwise). The renter is solely accountable for rent and costs payable till the lease termination date (Ariz. Rev. Stat. 33-1318 (2022).)
Law Enforcement Officer Harassment
A law enforcement officer who is protected by a harassment injunction may breach a lease or rental arrangement in the same way as a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault may (see discussion above). Unless the landlord agrees differently, the injunction must have been granted during the 30-day period before the written termination notice. (Arizona Revised Statutes 33-1318.01 (2022).)
Military Orders Received
Members of the “uniformed services” have the right to terminate their lease under specified conditions, such as receiving an order for permanent change of station or deployment with a military unit. The term “uniformed services” refers to anybody who serves in the armed forces, the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the activated National Guard. A tenant in this case must provide formal notice of termination to their landlord. The wording of the notice and the date of termination are determined by the reason the servicemember is breaking the lease—for example, if the tenant is joining military service, the tenancy will end 30 days after the next rent due date after the notification is given. (50 U.S.C. § 3955 (2022).)
Lease or Rental Agreement Breach by Landlord
If an Arizona landlord violates the lease or rental agreement—or materially lies in writing about the condition or availability of the rental—the tenant can deliver a written notice to the landlord stating the issue and that the tenancy will end on the 11th day if the breach is not remedied within 10 days. If the violation has a serious impact on health and safety, the tenant may send a written notice giving the landlord just five days to remedy the situation. If the landlord fails to fulfill the deadline, the tenant has the option to terminate the lease and leave. In addition, if the violation has a serious impact on health and safety (and the tenant has given the landlord a written five-day notice), the tenant may choose another place to live while the landlord repairs the problem and seek payment from the landlord. (Arizona Revised Statutes 33-1361 (2022).)
Note: Under some conditions, Arizona renters may pay for repairs themselves and subtract the expenses from their rent. However, if a renter decides to do so, they may be barred from breaking the contract. Tenants should never withhold rent or leave due to a landlord’s violation without first contacting an attorney to ensure that they are responding appropriately to the landlord’s noncompliance; otherwise, they risk being evicted and held accountable for all rent. For further information, see Arizona Revised Statutes sections 33-1361, 33-1363, and 33-1364.
Arizona landlords must give renters two days’ notice before accessing the property unless there is an emergency. (Arizona Revised Statutes 33-1343 (2022).) When a landlord enters without permission or makes repeated requests for access that essentially constitute harassment of the tenant, the tenant has the option of seeking a court order to cease the conduct or leaving. The renter is also entitled to at least one month’s rent in damages. (Arizona Revised Statutes 33-1376 (2022).)
In Arizona, it is the landlord’s responsibility to find a new tenant.
Even though a renter has no legal grounds for breaking a contract, the tenant may not be obligated to pay future rent. Under Arizona law, landlords must make reasonable attempts to rerent the unit, regardless of the cause for the tenant’s departure. This is referred to as a landlord’s “responsibility to minimize” damages. The renter will only be liable for the amount of rent owed until the landlord rerents the apartment.
The landlord is not required to reduce the rental standards in order to locate a new tenant; for example, the landlord is not required to accept someone with a terrible credit history just to fill the vacancy. Furthermore, the landlord is not compelled to rent the apartment for less than fair market value or to prioritize renting the unit above other business. Furthermore, the landlord has the right to charge the former renter for reasonable expenditures incurred as a result of the tenant’s early departure, such as the costs of promoting the property.
If, despite the landlord’s best efforts, the landlord is unable to locate a renter who would pay as much as the former tenant, the departed tenant is liable for the difference between the rent stipulated in the lease and the amount paid by the new tenant. If the security deposit is insufficient to pay all rent and expenditures, the landlord may sue the former renter to reclaim the shortfall.
When a landlord fails to make a reasonable attempt to rerent, the lease is presumed to have ended on the day the landlord received notice that the tenant had departed, and the renter is not liable for any more rent.
(Arizona Revised Statutes 33-1370 (2022).)
How Tenants Can Reduce Their Financial Liability When Breaking a Lease
There are greater choices than just moving out and hope the landlord finds a new renter promptly when a tenant wishes to terminate a contract without legal grounds. Many times, it is in both the landlord’s and the tenant’s best interests to reach an agreement on an early termination.
Tenants should give their landlord as much notice as possible by drafting a heartfelt letter explaining why they need to leave early. When a tenant moves out, they may offer to assist the landlord in finding a suitable replacement—someone with outstanding credit and great references—to sign a lease. When a replacement renter is set up, landlords are often prepared to cooperate with tenants who need to move out early.